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Historically Black leadership

March 5, 2021, 8:05 PM UTC

While Harvard hangs onto painful images of the past, HBCU grads are taking center stage at a time when the world needs them most. As hate crimes against AAPI Americans continue, the restaurant community provides some relief.

But first, here’s your equity-themed week in review, in Haiku.

In this sea so wide,
we are not all in the same
boat: We are in the

same storm. Some ride it
out in luxury, others
without an oar. And

plenty are left to
drown. What would it mean to face
the wind together?

A common sky, an
equal chance to reach the shore?
The water is 

and dark and deep, and
not everyone has a boat
in this roiling sea

Wishing you a weekend filled with smooth waters and blue skies. (Haiku inspired by Damian Barr.)

Ellen McGirt

On point

Food industry steps up to protect restaurant employees, denounce AAPI hate, and feed people Jason Wang, the Xian Famous Foods CEO, has had to curtail hours at his popular restaurant chain to protect employees from late night attacks. Other purveyors and Los Angeles-based culinary stars raised $50,000 on Clubhouse to support AAPI-owned food businesses and address food insecurity. "We've seen how much particularly Asian restaurants have struggled during the pandemic," said Crystal Coser, an LA-based caterer, who co-moderated the room.

What do Roz Brewer, Stacey Abrams, and Kamala Harris have in common? I know you knew the answer — they all attended HBCUs. But they’re also part of an important pattern of mature, executive excellence emerging from these schools. Brewer, the new CEO of the $140 billion Walgreen Boots Alliance, has been clear on the value of her Spelman education from the beginning. “I’ve taken some of the most unique roles in my career because I knew I could make change happen,” Brewer told Fortune in late January. “A constant change agent is just who we are when we finish at an HBCU.” She’s not alone. “Brewer’s belief in the role historically Black institutions play in developing talent helps explain why, during a period of extreme turmoil, a growing group of HBCU graduates are breaking new ground in their professional fields,” explains my colleague Beth Kowitt, in this must read and share piece. Enjoy.

Judge rules daguerreotypes of an enslaved father and daughter belong to Harvard, not descendants The images are familiar and deeply poignant, but a woman who claims to be the descendant of the two individuals named Renty and Delia are not entitled to the images, a Massachusetts judge has ruled. “Fully acknowledging the continuing impact slavery has had in the United States, the law, as it currently stands, does not confer a property interest to the subject of a photograph regardless of how objectionable the photograph’s origins may be,” said the judge. Tamara Lanier, who plans to appeal the decision, says the decision “completely missed the humanistic aspect of this, where we’re talking about the patriarch of a family, a subject of bedtime stories, whose legacy is still denied to these people.”
New York Times


On Background

The model minority in the time of pandemic Michael Kraus and Eunice Eun, both from Yale’s School of Management, argue persuasively that the anti-Asian racism that has been unleashed by COVID-19 is symptomatic of deeper issues associated with the model minority myth. In a culture that prizes whiteness, progress is the real myth. “Racial equality, even for seemingly high-status model minority groups is not something that unfolds automatically with the passage of time,” they write. Further, the stereotypes associated with high-status AAPI demographics — good at math, polite, hard-working, strong family values — encourage people to overestimate the degree to which individuals of Asian descent are thriving. Until something goes wrong. Embedded in the model minority framing is the idea of “foreignness.” “This foreignness component, when paired with a foreign viral contaminant spreading to people across the U.S. and the world, heightens bigotry and racism toward Asian communities,” they say.
Yale School of Management

We are just a small part of a big, beautiful universe What if the mantra of business and tech was not to move fast and break things, but to slow down and understand them? This is one of the underlying themes of "To Scale: The Solar System," a beautiful seven-minute video shot by filmmakers Wylie Overstreet and Alex Gorosh. “Every single picture we ever see of the solar system is not to scale,” begins Overstreet. If you plotted our sun and neighboring planets on a piece of paper, like most school kids do, you wouldn’t be able to see anything at all: The heavenly bodies would be microscopic. Instead, every photo, every image, every rendering is not only wrong, it gives us an oversized idea of our own place in galaxy. If you held up a blue marble and called it Earth, you’d need seven miles of empty land to draw an accurate representation of the solar system. Which is exactly what they did in the Black Rock Desert in Nevada. In a delicious irony, it’s the home of the annual Silicon Valley fixation known as the Burning Man festival. Enjoy the big picture.
To Scale: The Solar System

You think you know how to adapt, but you don’t That’s the takeaway from this now timeless piece from Diane Coutu, most famous for her HBR piece, “How Resilience Works.” In this follow-up, she explores an unfamiliar definition of mindfulness: the power to detect—and act on—even weak signals of impending danger. (If you look at danger as a proxy for some sort of opportunity, then her ideas get even more interesting.) In business cultures that fear failure, or perhaps define it narrowly, weak signals of impending danger are quashed before they can be assessed, planned for, or innovated into. Original thinkers, with diverse resumes are invaluable. “That’s why I place a lot of trust in executives who are generalists,” she says. “People who study liberal arts tend to get exposed to a wider variety and greater richness of values than people normally get in professional schools.” Here’s looking at you, history majors/art history minors.



raceAhead is edited by David Z. Morris

Today's mood board

Two Morehouse College students look out from the window of a university building to watch the funeral procession for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Atlanta, GA, April 1968.

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