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Dwayne Wade on Black executive leadership: ‘We need to see a visual image of something to know that we can accomplish it’

December 3, 2021, 9:13 PM UTC

Big tech is back, and socially distanced! Also: A victory for disability advocates in Boston, Netflix keeps a big promise, a breakthrough for responsible AI, we need to talk about intimate partner violence, and Ursula Burns made me cry. For real! All that and: Jonathan Vanian shares the inside scoop at Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech.

But first, here’s your Barbados retires the Queen week-in-review, in Haiku.

She is now someone
else’s Majesty! As the
clock struck twelve, with full

pomp and circumstance
someone else’s flag slowly
lowered down. A three

hundred and ninety
six year journey to a new
republic, a new

voyage, a new dream,
a first-ever President
to lead the way home

with sweet Rihanna
for now and forever: Their
one and only queen.

You’ll always be royalty to us, dear readers. Have a good one.

Ellen McGirt

In brief

Some of the biggest barriers facing people of color who are trying to distinguish themselves in business involve the lack of representation in the executive ranks and the cloying display of performative allyship at some companies.

Attendees at this year’s Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech conference held this week in Half Moon Bay, Calif. got the chance to discuss these issues in detail. Since the tragic killing of George Floyd by police in the summer of 2020, the topic of diversity and inclusion has increasingly permeated the business and tech industry, but major hurdles still remain for people of color.

  • Improving representation at the executive level
    Although the majority of NBA players may be people of color, most of the league’s owners are white. NBA legend Dwyane Wade is trying to change that, and said during a panel that he is hoping that his experience buying an ownership stake in the Utah Jazz opens up the minds of “more former players who are Black” to see themselves on the “ownership side.”


    “We need to see a visual image of something to know that we can accomplish it,” Wade said, mentioning that he was inspired by other legends like Michael Jordan and Grant Hill who became team owners.


    Indeed, to see someone who looks like you sitting at the same seat as management can be inspiring. Maybe the NBA isn’t that different from office work after all, aside from the intense physical training and extreme pressure.


    “I want be a visual image for the next generation of people coming out,” Wade said. “This game ends at a very early age in your life; there’s so much more you can do.”


  • Leaving a financial legacy for the next generation
    Michael Render, who performs under the stage name “Killer Mike,” talkedabout the importance of providing financial access to Black and Brown communities that have traditionally been overlooked. He’s hoping that the Greenwood banking app he co-founded with former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young and executive Ryan Glover helps people of color build “generational wealth” for their families.

    Via the help of partner Coastal Community Bank, Greenwood aims to make it easier for people of color to access various financial services from the comfort of an app.


    “A phone in the hand of Black children on my side of Atlanta [makes it easy to open an] account, and instead of those children having to go to the liquor store to cash a check, those kids will be able to do that in their phone,” said Render.


    He added: “African Americans can participate in the economic system in this country, and we can prosper and my prosperity does not have to be a compare and contrast,”


    “I may not make up the entire wealth gap in the time that I'm alive, but what I do know is that much like our grandparents left us 25 acres in Tuskegee that [results] in residual income every January to this day. I know that I can leave something for my children that will allow him to close that gap.”


  • Stop the performance
    Anarghya Vardhana, a partner at the venture capital firm Maveron, talked about the problems that can occur when companies are two-faced about societal issues like diversity. If their rhetoric about supporting people of color doesn’t match their actions, their customers will likely call them out publicly.

    “Consumers are so smart and have so much access to information,” said Vardhana, “They can see through any of the fakeness and B.S. that companies may put forth.”

Jonathan Vanian 

On point

People with disabilities win a victory in Boston It’s the result of a long-standing civil rights campaign to upgrade Boston streets to make them fully accessible for people who need mobility devices like wheelchairs or scooters to get around. It will be the first time, ever, that the city has met ADA requirements. A new consent decree will require Boston to install or upgrade some 1,630 curb ramps per year until all they’re up to standard. Advocates know they’re facing an uphill battle despite the victory, including snow management, or in some cases, figuring out who actually owns the sidewalks. But enough is enough, says Colleen Flanagan, who has broken her arm after falling trying to navigate an uneven curb. “But the fear of what could have happened and the anger of like — it’s 31 years after the American with Disabilities Act, and the public sidewalk really almost just ruined my life ... It makes it seem like you're not wanted in that neighborhood.”

Timnit Gebru has a new institute The A.I. researcher became famous for the wrong thing—for being fired by her employer, Google, for critiquing the company’s A.I. work on certain language models. Now, the trailblazing scientist, who should be famous for her work for helping to identify bias in facial recognition software, is launching Distributed Artificial Intelligence Research Institute (DAIR), an organization dedicated to creating a positive vision for A.I. technologies, while documenting the harms that can and might cause. “I’ve been frustrated for a long time about the incentive structures that we have in place and how none of them seem to be appropriate for the kind of work I want to do,” Gebru said. Check out her funders.
Washington Post

Ursula Burns made me cry Well, not exactly. But anyone who has spent any time working in or thinking about the deadly outcomes of a segregated society will recognize the moment of stunning insight I had while reading the former Xerox chief’s recent memoir, Where You Are Is Not Who You Are. It is very much the story of a trailblazing CEO—the first Black woman ever to lead a Fortune 500 company—and her next, great act. But it quickly became a deep longing for all the people like Burns, like me—maybe like you—who didn’t make it. I brought it all up in my most recent conversation with her. Read it and weep with me?

Promises, promises…kept Last spring, Netflix made a bold and unusual pledge: To commit 2% of its cash back to Black banks serving Black communities, in a bid to address the racial wealth gap through fair and affordable loans and other banking services. (They were not alone. See also: Paypal.) The commitment ended up around $100 million, though the number will rise with the company’s cash position. Today, the company has announced that the pledge has been kept and the cash as been distributed. I’m looking forward to reporting on all these efforts going forward. Until then, Netflix has you covered with a new web series that will explore the impacts of these investments in the lives of real communities.
Netflix Banking on Us


This edition of raceAhead was edited by Wandy Felicita Ortiz.

On background

We need to talk about intimate partner violence, again Almost all of the men who have committed some version of public violence—from mass shootings to the man who drove his car through the protesters in Charlottesville—had a history of intimate partner violence that was known to others, including law enforcement. “Time and time again, spasms of violence in public places have been followed by investigations into the attackers and suspects. Many of those probes have unearthed reports of violence or threatening behavior against women in their lives,” says Mark Berman in the Washington Post. (It’s a public health issue and a workplace issue, as I wrote about in detail way back in 2017.) Police also believe that Darrell Brooks, the man who drove his truck through a parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin, had a similarly violent past. It is such a clear predictor of future violence, and yet, violent men are rarely stopped. This story, about a five-year quest to bring a murderer to justice in Maine, can help explain why.
New York Times

Traveling while Black This is a slightly different take on the familiar set of difficulties that African Americans may face while traveling abroad. In this poignant piece, the traveler in question is faced with the pain of acknowledging the diaspora. ‘Where are you really from?’ hits differently when it is a person who knows their African roots asks the question. “You definitely feel some kind of way,” says business owner Chantay Jordan. “I mean I recognize that it’s not our [Black Americans] fault that we don’t know, but you have to do your due diligence.”
Travel Noire

Mood board

RaceAhead-Rihanna Barbados National Hero
RiRi: National hero, make-up mogul, and Fenty Savage...and musical song bird. She can do it all. Rihanna, if you're reading this, please drop another album.😩
Randy Brooks—AFP/Getty Images

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