Rihanna becomes a billion dollar founder, we don’t trust nobody no more, and it’s a strange and beautiful Lunar New Year.
But first, here’s your cat video week in review, in Haiku.
I am not a cat!
But I played one on Zoom, at
least I did that one
time when I made the
people laugh and laugh until
they found out I was
not a good lawyer.
All cat videos are not
Lesson learned. But if
anyone else wants to spread
a wee bit of joy
or maybe you’re just
bad at your job? Then you should
try being a cat.
Take all the cat naps you need this long weekend.
A very warm raceAhead welcome to our new editor, David Z. Morris! He is not a cat, but he is an extraordinary journalist and collaborator. Here is his official bio, which barely does him justice: David joined Fortune as a staff writer in 2019, and has contributed to the Atlantic, Slate, and other outlets. Pre-journalism, he was an academic sociologist focused on the history and legacy of racist ideology, particularly in Japan. He has taught on related subjects at the University of Iowa, the University of South Florida, and Tokyo University of the Arts. Follow him on Twitter at @davidzmorris.
A list of Black leaders you should know Black History Month has a new urgency this year, part of the reckoning on race that has become an essential part of the post-COVID “building back better” conversation. Working with the National Black Chamber of Commerce, Business Insider has published a list of ten Black professionals leading the work on race and equity across various industries. Though most names are familiar to raceAhead readers, one name should stand jump out right away: André Blackman, the founder and CEO of Onboard Health, a community and recruitment firm helping build a more inclusive health care industry. Blackman appeared on Fortune’s 40 Under 40 for Health list this year.
Rihanna’s fashion tragedy turns out to be a billion dollar breakthrough With news that the mega-star’s high-end fashion brand with LVMH, Fenty Maison, is abruptly shuttering after just two years, it seemed that her foray into fashion might be a bust. Instead, Fenty X Savage, her super-sexy line of lingerie made for every body, has taken center stage. Yesterday, the company announced a $115 million Series B round from L Catterton, a private equity firm connected to LVMH. The funding brings Savage’s valuation to more than $1 billion.
One casualty of working from home: Trust While this piece doesn’t mention race specifically, the implications of its insights hang in the air. Researchers Mark Mortensen and Heidi K. Gardner spent the last eight months researching the WFH experience at dozens of companies in a variety of sectors. It all seemed good, at first. But now, there is new “recognition that trust in their organizations — in individuals, relationships, and the organization — is fundamentally at risk.” A thought-provoking read — particularly the science around trust — but also if you read between the lines for specific experiences of underrepresented talent in the workplace.
A strange and beautiful New Year If you only have time for one extra-curricular read, make time for this poignant essay from Vanessa Hua, a writer and novelist focusing on immigration and identity. It’s a brief snapshot into how she’s experiencing a COVID-defined Lunar New Year, filled with tender memories, now re-shaped by social distance. “I miss the bustle of preparations as I shop for crisp red envelopes, into which I stuff lucky money,” she says. But some preparations for a fresh start feel on point. “I empty the trash and sweep the floor, getting rid of the bad luck, which 2020 provided in terrible abundance.” She tells the story of the Jade Emperor and the great race to heaven that explains what each animal sign in the Asian zodiac mean. “The sneaky rat is gone and the hardworking and honest ox now reigns,” she says. “Though I’m usually not so superstitious, I’ve been thinking about how such beliefs originate out of a desire to protect ourselves from danger.” Let’s hope so.
New York Times
When mind games mean chess Harlin Pierce, 24, is a singer, songwriter, visual artist and writer currently incarcerated in the Jim Ferguson Unit, in Texas. In this piece for The Marshall Project’s “Life Inside” series, in partnership with The Daily Beast, Pierce explains what happened when activities — including board games — were banned to promote social distancing. “Social distancing policies limit our access to recreation yards, the dayroom, classes and phones. Some days we spend roughly 23 hours in our 6-by-10 cells,” he says. Chess had experienced a surge of popularity thanks to the Netflix hit “The Queen’s Gambit,” so losing the chance to play it was a blow. Then Pierce and his chess partner Wally took the notion of “virtual” to a whole new level. It saved them both. “At the heart of our mental chess game lies a profound lesson: The difference between being content or distraught is a matter of perspective.”
The Marshall Project
The lost culinary history of African Americans I thought I knew a lot about a lot of things after four years on the race beat, but I absolutely had never heard of Duchess ‘Charity’ Quamino, the “Pastry Queen of Rhode Island.” And I lived in Rhode Island for years! Quamino, originally from Ghana, had been enslaved in Newport, Rhode Island cooking for an elite family, and eventually went on to become a culinary entrepreneur — as did a man named Cuffy Cockroach, famous for his turtle soups. Click through for more history.
The other man in the famous Woolworth counter sit-in photo The photo associated with the Greensboro, North Carolina protest on February 1, 1960 is now iconic: Four young Black men sitting a “whites-only” counter, looking unflinchingly into the camera. But there was another young Black man in the picture. His name is Charles Bess, and he was the busboy. In this wonderful dispatch from The Bitter Southerner, he talks about what it was like to work in the Jim Crow South. “Woolworth was kind of a hard place to work because sometimes the manager would get on you a lot, but she didn’t bother me too much because I did my job,” he says. But because he did his job so well, he was allowed out of the kitchen to be seen by white customers. And that’s the only reason he became a witness to history. Eventually, when the lunch counter was integrated, that same manager made sure that Black employees were the first people they served. “I love meatloaf,” Bess says. “I also had some green beans, maybe a potato salad with it.”
The Bitter Southerner
This edition of raceAhead is edited by David Z. Morris
Today's mood board
Chick Corea (second from right) performing with Herbie Hancock in 1970. Corea, who passed away on Tuesday at age 79, was a key figure in the development of jazz fusion. Most notably, Corea contributed spacey electric keyboard to Miles Davis' Bitches' Brew, very likely the most important jazz album recorded after 1965.
(Related: If you're braced for some righteous profanity, check out Dick Gregory's scathing assessment of the recent Miles biopic by Don Cheadle.)