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Minnesota Nice – Is it Really All That Nice?

When we were kids our parents told us to “be nice” and “play nice.” Nice was the same as doing the right thing. No one would complain about someone who was too nice. If you were extremely nice someone might even say “aww you are so sweet and nice.” You might even get recommended to others as the nice guy or nice girl. You were rewarded for being nice.

As a young kid growing up in Detroit, I was also taught another side of nice. I was taught by my dad and grandmother to be leery of adults that are “too nice for no reason.” I was also taught that if an adult was too nice they may want something in return of their niceness. They may have something they are hiding from you. The reason for hiding something could be that they want to pretend like they have your best interest at heart when in fact they don’t. My grandmother concluded my lesson by saying that people being nice for no reason sometimes avoid the truth, avoid confrontation and sometimes are just being nice to get something from you. Being nice was not always a good thing.

Minnesota Nice

When I arrived in Minnesota in 1992, I was presented with Minnesota Nice. People smiled at me. They cheerfully said hello. They invited me to lunch and coffee, but not so much dinner and never their home. They told me they were glad I am working with them and invited me to old Irish bars and taverns for drinks, although I did not drink alcohol and was obviously not Irish. They were Minnesota Nice and proud of it. I knew that some of the nice had to be because I was the only black or brown person in the room, in the company or in the professional community. The Minnesota Nice was specifically directed at me, but was it a good thing to be nice or was it what my grandma warned me about?

Is Minnesota Nice, Not So Nice? Does it depend on your understanding of cultural proficiency or cultural humility. Does it depend on whether you are a person of color, Indigenous person or from an underrepresented group? Is Minnesota Nice having a negative effect on Inclusion and Equity.

Minnesota Nice – Intent vs. Impact

Let me start with this premise. I do not believe Minnesota Nice or those that embrace Minnesota Nice are evil or have an opposition to Inclusion and Equity. Some people who engage in Minnesota Nice believe that it is a great thing for all Minnesotans. They do not have an intent to do harm. However, I do believe that those who adopt Minnesota Nice as their go-to engagement strategy do not take the time to listen to those who receive their Minnesota Niceness and determine the impact of their actions or words.

My grandmother always said actions speak louder than words. You can say all the right things, but your actions demonstrate how you really feel. She always said believe people and how they treat you. When it comes to Minnesota Nice in communities of color, indigenous people, people with disabilities and LGBTQ communities, Minnesota Nice can be seen as a passive aggressive way of dealing with issues. The Niceness avoids confrontation and conflict and still keeps the status quo. A status quo that results in continued disparities and racial inequality. One example of Minnesota Nice is the adoption of Conversations about Race and Equity. These conversations have been described in many ways and had many “experts” deliver the message or facilitate discussion. As my friend St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter describes this term, expert means someone from out of town. These conversations have great intent to make change, but the Minnesota Nice portion of these conversations lead to only more and more conversations. Never Action and never sustainable changes. The intent is good, but the impact has never had long lasting impact. Conversations are not bad, but they must be accompanied by concrete action steps that sometimes cause pain and discomfort.

The People of Color, LGBTQ, Indigenous People and People with Disabilities Dilemma

It’s is now 2019. By now Minnesota Nice should have led to substantial changes in Minnesota as it relates to Equity. In a state that aggressively practices Minnesota Nice, we should not lead the nation in racial disparities or unequal and inequitable outcomes for other populations. However, we continue to lead the nation in these categories. Can we blame this on Minnesota Nice? Let’s take a look. A good friend recently made a FB post and she said that she would adopt some of these behaviors in her upcoming posts: 1) not make anyone feel uncomfortable or less than; 2) keep her (true) opinions to herself; 3) tiptoe (and not speak directly) about challenging conversations or issues; 4) not ask thought provoking (or controversial) questions: and 5) not ruffle any feathers and remain extremely neutral. Under closer examination of these behaviors my friend summarized very well the problematic nature of Minnesota Nice.

Minnesota Nice may at times avoid activities, conversations or actions that make people feel uncomfortable. This may mean failing to take a stance on discrimination, police brutality, institutional racism, etc. The comfort gained by inaction is in fact a passive aggressive action that causes more discomfort to marginalized communities than being direct. Minnesota Nice also manifest itself around keeping true opinions secret and avoiding challenging conversations or issues. On more than on occasion, I have heard many communities of color and disability communities make this statement, “I wish people would really tell me how they feel about race/disability, because if they did we could address the real issues.” Minnesota Nice does not promote direct expression because it could lead to loud and passionate conversations where people show emotion, pain and other non Minnesotan characteristics. These actions would of course make people feel uncomfortable and incapable of addressing honest solutions. Being afraid to rock the boat has a direct correlation with Minnesota Nice.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said it best, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” Minnesota Nice can be a passive aggressive silence that further disconnects communities of color, indigenous communities, disability communities, LGBTQ communities and others. Minnesota Nice can show up in the veil of friendship and leave with a deafening silence on issues of policing, racial disparities, and outright bias and discrimination. Sometimes being Too Nice is just talking about it instead of doing something about it. Sometimes when actions occur pain or raw emotion may need to be seen before a change happens. Sometimes Minnesota Nice gets in the way.

Conclusion

If you are from Minnesota it is ok to be nice. You can use good manners, be courteous and be respectful to everyone. This type of behavior is encouraged. It is also encouraged to acknowledge when Minnesota Nice becomes Minnesota Ice and passively and aggressively excludes and marginalizes populations of people who don’t think or act like Minnesotans. Minnesota Nice at times must be replaced by authentic conversations and actions that push, challenge, cause angst and pain and hurt. These actions must be authentic and allow space for others to communicate in a way that is not all that Minnesotan and of course not Minnesota n-ICE!

JB

My Conversation with Henry Bailey

Tonight I stopped by Subway to order dinner for daughter and I. Tonight is movie night and she loves Subway. In particular, she loves a six inch Turkey on flatbread with American cheese and mayo. She also likes pickles and salami on the side. Henry Bailey took my order at Subway. He always takes good care of of my daughter and remembers her name and order every-time we visit. Henry and I got a chance to “chop it up” tonight. (those not familiar with phrase “chop it up” please expand your friend base and learn more). I asked Henry if he is looking forward to hopefully not wearing a mask in a few more months. He and I both said YES! I told Henry I was just at a DeLasalle Islanders JV game and that the players are now wearing masks. We started talking about basketball. I told Henry that I go and watch DeLasalle JV games sometimes because “my guy” is the head coach for the JV. He tells me he use to play with Alan Anderson, who played at DeLasalle, on touring teams. I then asked Henry did he know my guy DC who is the coach of the JV squad. He said YES! He let me know they he used to play with and against DC on many teams. We connected over something in common. I even told him Henry that way back in the day I played ball in Detroit with BJ Armstrong and that I was pretty good. :). I told him my boys and I even won the Gus Macker in ‘94 here in St. Paul. He seemed impressed or he made me feel like he was. 🙂

Henry and I kept talking as he made my daughter’s sandwich and my salad bowl (trying to eat healthy). He said that he stopped playing ball awhile ago in order to follow his passion. Henry said that he is a chef and was trained at culinary school. Henry is starting a food truck and it will be ready to go by August. Henry is going to make some special sandwiches for his truck and he beamed with joy as he talked about his food truck. I told Henry that in my current job at Children’s Minnesota, I can set him up to be a vendor at our hospitals and clinics. He was excited. He said he is looking forward to having his own business and making great food. Henry checked me out and I gave him a a monetary tip. I also asked him if he knew Coach McKenzie, Coach Jamil and others. Of course he said yes. Henry told me to tell my daughter hello and he said he looks forward to seeing us again.

I ask that you Meet and Chop It Up with a Henry in your life. While you may be rushing to sign up for Antiracism training, joining the Minnesota Business Coalition for Racial Equity, donating to racial equity and social justice groups and trying to eliminate years or racism and oppression quickly, I suggest you slow down long enough to meet a Henry. I need you to talk to someone and get to know their dreams. I need you to find something in common and develop a relationship with someone not in your circle. I need you to commit to networking and not to just benefit you, but also benefit others as well. I need you to focus less on reading and learning about racism and what not to do. I need you to focus more on what you can do and find a Henry in your life.


“People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Let’s communicate and build community together. Stay tuned for Henry Bailey’s food truck and my investment in his future. Who are you getting to know and investing in? Let’s communicate, partner and make a real difference.

#JB

#equityactions

Black History Month 2021 – Don’t Just Celebrate, Do Something!

“When you control a man’s thinking you do not have to worry about his actions”

The Miseducation of the American Negro – Carter G. Woodson (1933)

Dear Black History Month Connoisseurs:

Black History Month 2021 will not be a traditional Black history month celebration. In fact, this blog post is not your traditional Black history month story. Times have changed and the need for a new way of looking at Black History month is necessary. I am here to offer a new way to celebrate Black History this year. I hope you join me.

Negro History Week

Carter G. Woodson founded Negro History Week in 1926. The week in February was selected because it was the birthday week of President Abraham Lincoln and Fredrick Douglas. Negro History Week became Black History in 1970 when it was celebrated by students at Kent State University. Since that time February of each year is celebrated as Black History Month. Editor’s note: Black History takes place in February and every month throughout the year.

Black History 2021

Black History Month in 2020 occurred right before the Covid19 pandemic and right after the tragic deaths of Kobe and Gianna Bryant and several other parents and children in a terrible helicopter crash. In addition to those events, we experienced the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other incidents of police brutality. We also experienced civil unrest throughout the world because of these incidents. We experienced the murder of Ahmaud Arbery and the shooting of Jacob Blake. We experienced the endorsement and acceptance of white supremacy groups in the United States. We experienced the disproportionate health impact Covid19 is having on Black and Latino communities and the economic impact Covid19 is having on Black, Latino, Asian and Native owned businesses and employment. Many of us also saw that we live in a divided country as exhibited in 2020 by many of the aforementioned incidents, and also the Capitol insurrection of January 6, 2021. Some of us knew that this division has long existed and some us are are realizing this for the first time.

Black History 2021 will be different. As always, I suggest we learn about the history of the holiday and also appreciate that Black History started long before slavery. Let me repeat that for some, BLACK HISTORY STARTED LONG BEFORE SLAVERY! The birth of civilization occurred in Africa and is the actual beginning of Black History and World History. These tenets should always be learned and shared widely. In 2021, I plan to resist the urge to return to the “new normal” of Black History month. I refuse to just have speeches, panels, virtual meetings, food celebrations and pledges this year. I resist the urge to write a poem or make a sign with BLM for Black History Month. I resist the urge to make our collective Black ERGs in corporate America bear the burden of educating the world on all things Black during the month of February. Instead, I have prepared the following list to illustrate how you can spend Black History Month in 2021. The theme is simple – Don’t just celebrate, “Do Something.”

Black History Month 2021 Action Plan

1. From February 1, 2021 to February 1. 2022, you will personally (and also hold your employer responsible) increase by 100% the amount of money spent with Black owned businesses. If you live in Minnesota, please use this resource to locate Black owned businesses. https://www.mnblackchamber.org/. The statement, “I can’t find Black owned businesses ” should not be used as an excuse in 2021. Don’t just celebrate, “Do Something.”

2. From February 1, 2021 to February 1, 2022, you will hold your employer accountable to increase Black board members by at least 100% if your board has one Black board member and only adds one more that would be an 100% increase. That is not enough. In that case, a 200% or 300% increase should be considered. Don’t just celebrate, “Do Something.”

3. From February 1, 2021 to February 1, 2022, you will hold your employer accountable to increase Black executive leadership. Your company should set a hiring goal for all open executive positions and work intentionally to meet that goal. Don’t just celebrate, “Do Something.”

4. From February 1, 2021 to February 1, 2022, you will hold your employer accountable to increase by at least 100% the amount of money invested in Black owned banks, venture capital firms and money managers. Companies with millions and billions of dollars collected from the spending of the Black. community, should at the very least invest monies derived from these investments in Black owned financial institutions or with Black money managers. Don’t just celebrate, “Do Something.”

5. From January 1, 2021 to February 1, 2022, you will hold your employer’s executive leadership accountable for the acts of sponsoring, endorsing and mentoring high potential Black leaders in the company. Please note that there is a difference between sponsoring, endorsing and mentoring. All executives who commit to this work must be held accountable. Don’t just celebrate, “Do Something.”

6. From February 1, 2021 to February 1, 2022, you will hold your employer accountable for increasing by 100% financial sponsorship of community organizations and community events that support the Black community. Community partnerships cannot be achieved without financial investment in the community. Don’t just celebrate, “Do Something.”

7. From February 1, 2021 to February 1, 2022, you will hold your employer accountable to increase by 100% the corporate spend with Black media. Black media is best teller of the community’s stories. Don’t just celebrate, “Do Something.”

Do Something for Black History Month

Many organizations will have traditional celebrations during Black History Month. In addition to those traditional recognition events, I encourage you to try something different and “Do Something” sustainable and measurable that will not only last a month, but that can last a lifetime and make systemic changes.

Editorial note: This blog post is applicable for Asian Heritage month, PRIDE month, Latino Heritage month, Native American Heritage month, Disability Employment Awareness month and Muslim Heritage celebrations as well as others.

#equityactions

JB

Racism in Healthcare is Inhumane – Let’s Fix It!

“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Happy Birthday Dr. King. We thank you for all you have done to fight injustices in the world. When we celebrate your birthday, we often search for quotes of love, hope and inspiration from you. We often seek your words to bring people together in order to fight for justice and end racism. Today, I am not searching for those loving or hopeful words. Today, I want to reflect on the words, the system and the reality that began to kill you before your assassination. This is the silent killer of racism.

Dr. King, you were assassinated on April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee. You were murdered because of the violence caused by racism. Your autopsy established that you died from gunshot wounds caused by an assassin’s bullets. Your autopsy also revealed something we don’t often talk about. You were 39 years old when you were murdered. However, the autopsy of your heart revealed that you had the heart of a 60 year old. Stress had taken a major toll on your heart. Stress always has a cause and in your case it was clear that that racism was the cause of your stress.

Here are a few of the things you endured, Dr. King, before your death:

House bombing by white supremacists;

Assassination attempts;

Momma King slain by a bullet;

You were spit on by people because you were Black;

You were cursed at by people because you were Black; and

You were jailed by people because you were Black;

You see, Dr. King, you died from a bullet, but you were slowly being killed by racism. Your heart autopsy demonstrated this. The ironic thing about the silent killer of racism is that when you went to the hospital to get treatment, the healthcare system added to the racism and inhumanity and made it worse for you. The silent killer got a boost from healthcare.

Dr. King, you received inadequate and racist healthcare because you were Black. In 2021, this systemic racism has not changed and we have to do better.

MLK 2021 Vision

Injustice, inhumanity and racism in healthcare continues to cause racial inequalities. In order to realize the vision of social justice, I am sure you want us to address racism in medicine. In 2021, rather than offer a MLK quote on hope, we in healthcare will commit to your vision and be measured by our actions when MLK Day 2022 rolls around. This is what we are willing to do in the next year:

1. Treat Black and Brown patients and families with respect and dignity and when that does not happen we will hold people accountable for their disrespectful actions and take affirmative steps to dismantle and replace the system that consistently produces a lack of respect and dignity for these families;

2. Retain and treat fairly Black and Brown employees and also provide these employees with equitable opportunities to achieve success in the workplace.

3. Recruit and retain more Black and Brown medical assistants, nurses, doctors and medical staff to treat patients and families.

4. Partner with Black and Brown organizations to co-develop and co-design health equity solutions for Black and Brown patients and families. We will also invest in Black and Brown businesses within the community in order to create positive economic impact in the community and for the people we serve.

5. Measure health disparities and more importantly implement solutions to change the disparities and provide equitable care. Measurement without corrective action is inhumane and unjust and we will not engage in that behavior.

Dr. King, I know you are looking for something different in 2021. I know you want to see our actions match our words. In healthcare, housing, employment, economic development and community partnerships we will make a measurable difference by the time we say Happy Birthday in 2022. We are committed to being the change we seek in this country. We are also committed to holding each other accountable. This is our birthday present for you Dr. King. Happy Birthday Dr. King.

JB

#FadetoBlack

You can’t change what you refuse to confront – Calling out white supremacy

The events of Wednesday, January 6, 2020 will forever be embedded in the history of America. We will never forget where we were, what we felt and what we saw and heard. The events of January 6 are indelibly embedded in in our minds, body and soul. As a result, there will be mental, physical and spiritual impact on our souls as we address the impact of this day. If we are to change the impact of this devastating day, it can only happen if we honestly confront the things we say we want to change. We must face white supremacy.

Reverend Elijah McDavid is the Pastor of Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In a recent sermon, he spoke these prophetic words. He said, “you can’t change what you refuse to tell the truth about.” In part, his sermon spoke about how in order to address the impact of the racial violence, bigotry, terrorism and evilness of the events on Wednesday, January 6, America must be honest about who we are. In the words of Pastor McDavid, self realization and truth must happen in order for change to occur. Thank you Pastor McDavid for your inspiration.

A Change Gon’ Come

America is a country founded on racial violence. Taking of land from Native Americans, slavery of Africans brought forcibly to America, rapes, lynchings, murders, anti-semitism and sexism are the foundations of what we call America. I will spare you the details of the tragic history of this nation, however I encourage you to review other posts in my blog and also review the history of America so you can learn more. Before we assume we can change this country and end white supremacy, white privilege and racial violence, we must acknowledge this is who we are. America is built on the foundation of white supremacy and in order to dismantle it, we must acknowledge it.

We are who we thought we are

Dennis Green is a former football coach in the National Football League. He was one of the first Black head coaches in the NFL and was very successful during stints with the Arizona Cardinals, Oakland/LA/Las Vegas Raiders and the Minnesota Vikings. During one of his games, where he suffered a tough loss, coach Green was asked at a press conference about the other team, his response to the question was, “they are who we thought they were.” He then banged the podium and left the room. Coach Green’s simple statement was clear. The team they faced was the team they believed they were going to face. It was not a fantasy team. It was not a team they were unfamiliar with. It was a team they should have been prepared to face. White supremacy is a team we should know and be prepared to face.

The insurgence, domestic terrorism and violence that occurred on Wednesday, January 6, 2021 is who we thought we were as a nation. For the last several years, there have been many signs, play calls and coaching strategies that clearly show that America is Team white Supremacy. It is not popular to say, but if you live in America, you play on Team white Supremacy. Sometimes you are in the starting lineup, sometimes you are a substitute, sometimes you are blocking, tackling and even catching the white supremacy ball. The point is that although you may not consider yourself apart of the kickoff team that invaded the Capitol on January 6, 2021, you are still on the team and you have benefited from that team and what they delivered on that day. Being on the team means that you are accountable for the actions of all of your team members. You cannot say that “I would never do such a thing” like my teammates. You and your team are who we think you are. Systemic racism is built on the foundation of white supremacy. If you are not a person of color or Native American you play on Team white supremacy.

Confront your team strengths and weaknesses

If you are on Team white Supremacy you must do an analysis of where you are strong and where you are weak. What plays have worked for years and have led to consistent scoring for your team. For example, if you have consistently been able to run a play called blue lives matter until they don’t, you have to take advantage of that play. This play is simple. It means police and law enforcement are valued and supported until they disagree with me. If disagreement happens, we then run a reverse and let them know they (police) don’t matter as much and that violence against police is permitted. This play is sometimes disguised as white privilege, because if you are on team white supremacy and you run it, it always seems to turn out well. You always score on this play and there is no interference from politics, police, the justice system or community. This play does not work as well for teams that play on Team Black Lives Matter. Only team white privilege can benefit from this play call.

Calling an audible

If we change the play of white supremacy, we must first acknowledge that it exists. One of my favorite movies is The Devil’s Advocate. The movie features Keanu Reeves and Al Pacino. The movie describes the relationship with a law firm partner (Pacino) and his associate protege (Reeves). Pacino mentors Reeves by testing his character and integrity. Pacino offers him money, fame, and adoration if he is willing to sell his soul to the devil and give up his wife, family (mother) and friends. If he gives them up, he can have it all. Reeves can give up who he is and gain eternal life.

Similar to the devil in the Devil’s Advocate, white supremacy shows up in a very deceiving manner. It does not always show up with obvious red horns and confederate flags. It does not always show up with pitch forks and nooses. It does not always show up with a long red tail or pipe bombs and zip ties. Sometimes the devil shows up like Pacino. A corporate executive, a public servant, an educator, or a CEO. The devil shows up in disguise and you would never guess he meant to harm you. White supremacy not only shows up in disguise, just like the devil, it is protected from harm. Remember the devil was an angel that fell from Heaven and received permission from God to tempt the flock including God’s only son, Jesus. The devil was not restrained or limited in his actions and in fact his actions through acts of deceit looked similar to miracles of God. I guess we should not be surprised when acts of white supremacy look normal and remind us of the the status quo. White supremacy can resemble domestic terrorism and having no restrictions on movement even when you have weapons and commit acts of violence. White supremacy can resemble ignoring the rules and consequences of a fair election and not being held accountable for misleading others. White supremacy can resemble, no consequences, no accountability and the ability to do whatever, whenever and however you want to. Team white supremacy and team white privilege go hand in hand.

Say it’s name

If we are to change and call an audible to white supremacy, we must acknowledge that the the devil (white supremacy) exists and that before we can change it, we must admit that it benefits everyone, who is not a person of color or Native American. We must confront white supremacy and be willing to kill/change it by any means necessary.

JB

#FadetoBlack

Strictly Business!

In 1988, the rap group EPMD (Eric and Parrish Making Dollars) released the album Strictly Business. Strictly Business was EPMD’s best selling album. As I reflect on my formal education and what it has taught me, I often remember how hip hop lyrics also taught me a lot and helped my social and professional growth. A verse I learned much from Strictly Business was spit (lyrics performed) by Parrish, and it goes a little something like this.


“And all due respect, when I say mic check
Let a sucker slide once — then I break his neck;
So when I say jump, you reply, “How high?”
Because I’m takin’ no prisoners, so don’t play hero and die;
You’re just a soldier.. and I’m a Green Beret
I do not think twice about the MC’s I slay;
So if you want to battle, I highly recommend this:
Bring your dog, mom, and dad.. because I’m Strictly Business!”

Parrish, EPMD, Strictly Business

During the summer of 1988, I was a rising senior at Morehouse College. That particular summer, like all summers in college, I returned home to Detroit and worked at Chrysler Corporation. Unlike some of my friends that had office internships in marketing, finance or law, my summer job was in the stamping plant. The stamping plant helped prepare quarter panels for building Dodge Ram trucks. My shift was from 12:00 am – 8:00 am and we worked 7 days a week. The money was good, but it was a hard and long summer. By the time everyone is heading to the party, I had to get ready to go to work. When everyone got up to start their day, I was sleeping. I made a lot of money with overtime that summer, but did not have much of a social life. The lack of social interaction gave me time to think and dissect rap lyrics like Strictly Business. :).

The beat and chorus to Strictly Business is set to the song “I Shot the Sheriff “ by Bob Marley. The beat is melodic and makes you want to bounce. In addition to bouncing, the song made me think about working at the stamping plant that summer and realizing that it was not the life for me. A stamping plant is hot, the machines are large and dangerous, and the line never stops. You are moving heavy steel which is sharp to the touch. I have a cut on my arm to this day to prove it. The protective gear was not very protective and the late hours/early mornings made this one of the most dangerous jobs I have ever had. I never wanted to go back to work at the stamping plan after graduation. This job made me want to stay in school and graduate in order to get a “good job” as some of my fellow co-workers would say. They said stay in school and do not make this a career. They were good men and women and gave me great advice for the future. They also said use your mind and focus on business. I listened and became a college and law school graduate. I focused on my business, my strictly business.

Listening to Parrish’s verse on Strictly Business taught me a few lessons about business and how I could use those lessons to assist me and uplift others. Parrish taught me how to handle my business. Here are some of those lessons learned:

1. Be respectful, be prepared and don’t miss an opportunity.

“And all due respect, when I say mic check
Let a sucker slide once — then I break his neck”

When you are ready to solicit business, gain clients, or promote yourself, you must always present yourself with integrity, confidence and honesty. This will demonstrate respect for your work and the clients you seek You must also double check your preparation and make sure you are more than ready. Always do a “mic check” to make sure all of your ideas, promises and solutions will work. Make sure your “mic sounds nice” and that you can be heard clearly. Lastly, make sure that you never miss an opportunity or let someone overlook you. Let no opportunity slide by. Always shoot your best shot and don’t let others out work you.

2. When you are up against a trouble meet it squarely face to face.

“So when I say jump, you reply, “How high?”
Because I’m takin’ no prisoners, so don’t play hero and die”

When you are faced with a daunting business opportunity that stretches you to your limit or makes you question your ability to get the work done, don’t give up. Instead, step back and give yourself a running start to jump over that hurdle. Mediate on how high you need to jump and prepare for positive results. Never doubt your skills, talents and abilities, just jump. Make sure your jump is planned, you have practiced in your mind and that you have reckless abandon to make your jump successful. You will not be a hero, but you will instead give it your all and have a plan to address barriers and not fail. Failure might occur, but poor planning and preparation assure it.

3. I am the best! I will bring my best work! No one will outwork me! I am the master or my fate and the captain of my soul.

“You’re just a soldier.. and I’m a Green Beret
I do not think twice about the MC’s I slay”

You are the expert of your work. You know more than anyone else about what you want to accomplish. You are not an average soldier or common person. You have trained and prepared your mind, body and soul for this moment. You are the Green Beret. You are the highly skilled assassin that will seek out and capture all the business that is for you. When you win a contract, don’t apologize for it. Do not undervalue your worth by undercharging. Do not feel bad for anyone, but instead show humility and at the same time exhibit pride and confidence in your work. Master your craft, feed your soul and be the best.

4. Bring your “A” Game

“So if you want to battle, I highly recommend this: Bring your dog, mom, and dad.. because I’m Strictly Business”

The first opportunity is the last opportunity and the last opportunity is the best opportunity to do your best. When you are set up for success, never be mediocre. If you are recommended for a contract, a job, a board position or a meeting with the CEO, bring it all so you can leave an amazing impression. That meeting or opportunity is not only for you. The opportunity is for all those who poured into you. Your parents, your teachers, your mentors, your sponsors, your detractors, your prayer Warriors, your admirers and your haters. When you seize that opportunity these folks help you bring your best. Use all that you have to get all you deserve and when you get it, do it well. Most importantly and above all, give the next opportunity to someone else so they can bring it too.

“Cause when I am in action, there is no time for maxin’ or relaxin’ — just reactin’ and subtracting.”

Make your next opportunity Strictly Business!

JB

#equityactions

Revelations 2020

The history of a people is their humanity. History makes everyone human. If you take away the history of a people, you take away their humanity. You take away their humanness. When you take away their humanness and humanity, you take away any kindness, caring, love, compassion and feeling for those people. When you eliminate or erase a people’s history, you eliminate their humanity and treat them as though they are not human.

Mahmoud El Kati

As we begin the New Year of 2021, I want you to ask yourself what has been revealed to you in 2020? Have revelations unveiled the history and humanity of Black People. If not, what will you do in 2021 to make that happen.

Alvin Ailey created the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater in 1958. The theater has spawned several decades and has brought the world an amazing composition of ballet/dance using African-American spirituals, song-sermons, gospel songs and holy blues. One of Ailey’s greatest compositions is Revelations and in this piece he “explores the places of deepest grief and holiest joy in the soul of Black people.” In Revelations, Ailey shares the history of Black people. He tells my story and makes us human. https://www.alvinailey.org/performances/repertory/revelations.

Ailey does not spend time in Revelations telling the story of what it means to be Black. Instead, he reveals the dance, the music and the love of a people through song, dance and ministry. He reveals the humanity of my people and blesses us with the beauty of our spirit, love and kinship. Imagine if Ailey never created this work or if no one ever saw it. No one would know the brilliance of Black people and no one would believe in their humanity.

Booker T. Washington and WEB Dubois are brilliant and eloquent pillars in American history. Imagine if no one revealed their brilliance or limited their history to just Black history. What if their ideas were never a part of history. Imagine if the words and works of Carter G. Woodson, Ida B. Wells, Roy Wilkins, Mary McLeod Bethune, Dorothy Height, the Harlem Renaissance, Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin, Zora Neale Hurston, Alice Walker and others were never revealed, or better yet revealed as only a monolithic list of works that are of limited use. If this history was eliminated or suppressed there would be no history of a people and their humanity would be ignored.

Further imagine if the history or excellence of Black people was not only suppressed or ignored, but the African history of excellence that existed before 1619 was eliminated or ignored. Imagine if the only mention of the Continent of Africa (not a country) was as a source for slavery and ignored the political, economic and ecosystems of a nation. Imagine if the history and excellence of royal kings and queens was ignored or better yet viewed as a minuscule portion of world history. If all of these things happened, which they did, the history of a people would be eliminated and their humanity would not exist. These people would not be human in the eyes of the world.

The world wants to continue to problem solve for racial equity after the murder of George Floyd. Corporate America plans to implement social justice strategies, eliminate systemic racism, provide anti racism training, fund Black businesses, increase the number of Black board members and executive leaders, and much more. I think they want to accomplish all of this before the anniversary of George Floyd’s death – May 25, 2021. These are very ambitious goals and many seem attainable. However, if any changes will sustain a movement and not merely a moment, they must acknowledge and incorporate the history of Black people in the solution that brings forth their humanity. You must know who I am before you can claim to care about who I will become. You cannot be an ally at the table for change without knowing the impact of how your elimination of my history eliminated your respect for my humanity. I have to be viewed and treated as a human being for this change to be a movement.

Racial Equity Change

There have been many coalitions, partnerships, think tanks, courageous conversations, task forces and racial equity work groups formed since the murder of George Floyd. Many of these groups have made statements, developed strategies and promised to do better in 2021. Part of that change has to be grounded in learning history and grounding solutions in the foundation of that history. Here are a few suggestions for making that happen.

1. Allies have lined up to support social change in the Black community. Allies can be armed with money, ideas and strategies, however many are not aligned with the history of Black people. Many allies in Minnesota cannot tell you about some of the people named in this article. They cannot tell you about the philosophies of WEB Dubois and Booker T. Washington, they cannot tell you about the importance of the Harlem Renaissance or the economic vibrancy of Black Wall Street in Tulsa. My first suggestion is for allies supporting this work to learn the history of the Black people mentioned in this article and the history and experiences of those you seek to assist. Once you learn that history you can then see the humanity of a people and better partner for success.

2. Black Elders are a great asset to building a foundation for system change. Speaking with noted elders in your particular community and listening to their thoughts and ideas for change is a must. Many companies are hiring outside consultants and experts in anti-racism in order to find a magic bullet for change. These companies are also having people who were responsible for creating the problem of systemic racism solely trying to create the solution or merely relying upon a small group of employees who have been subjected to systemic racism (your ERGs) to solve the problem. In Minnesota, engaging elders like Mahmoud El Kati and Dr. Josie Johnson is a must for learning history, creating humanity and providing sustainable solutions. Companies must listen and learn history.

3. “We must align all of our solutions for Black people.” This is a common phrase used by many companies seeking racial equity solutions. These companies have made statements or have started to design and implement racial equity solutions after the murder of George Floyd. The common theme is to align these solutions and not duplicate efforts. This theme translates to companies saying, “we are not going to fund and partner with multiple organizations in the Black community.” Companies say they need black organizations to “align and work together.” Imagine if we held this truth to be self evident in the American economic system. We would have no need for the NASDQ stock exchange because it is not aligned with the NYSE. We would have no need for Bank of America because US Bank is fulfilling all the banking needs of the world. These banks are not aligned, they are just committed to providing financial solutions. Just as it is not necessary to eliminate a stock exchange system or rival banks, it is just as unnecessary for Black led organizations or Black led economic chambers or business organizations to eliminate one another or “become aligned” as we work towards sustainable long term solutions for the Black community. 400 plus years of racism, systemic oppression, economic destruction and social and political exclusion call for multiple solutions. Some groups may be aligned and some may not. Non alignment is no excuse for not investing in every possible solution for Black economic, social and political advancement. If you know the history of oppression of Black people, you know it is going to take multiple solutions and organizations to create change.

4. Dr. Benjamin E. Mays said it best, “not failure, but low aim is a sin.” History may tell us that we have not done a good job in reducing disparities for Black people, especially in Minnesota. Minnesota continues to have some of the worst disparities between Black and white populations in health, education, employment, economic development housing and social injustices caused by policing. It is plausible to suggest that because these disparities are so large, we must only strive for small incremental gains or decreases in these categories. If history tells us anything, it tells us when expectations are low outcomes will be low and change will never be sustained. No one ever dreamed of the elimination of segregated schools in 1954, no one ever dreamed of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, no one ever dreamed of lawsuits for eliminating discrimination and increasing diversity in higher education. No one dreamed of it, except those who believed and acted towards change. They did not set small goals to pacify others, instead they set ambitious goals that some did not believe they could achieve. They chose goals that could rewrite history and make Black people human. All companies that signed up for change after the murder of George Floyd must set high expectations and goals for success. If companies do not set double digit goals for long term change it is not humane enough for a movement, it is mere lip service for a moment.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions. The road towards elimination of racial inequities is paved with excuses and the acceptance of poor outcomes. If we are to use history to create humanity for Black people, we must make sure all of those who are offering to be allies in this work learn history, and apply solutions consistent with history for proposed future outcomes. The spoken word and the written word of elders and those who have done this work will make it easier to work towards the humanity of Black people and a movement that is much more than a moment in time.

JB

#equityactions

Step Up Your Game (DEI) – We are watching and keeping score

“Noticing that a lot of the Diversity and Inclusion work doesn’t include Diversity!”

Larry McKenzie, Coach

Larry McKenzie is a multi year high school boys state basketball champion coach. He currently coaches at North High School im Minneapolis, Minnesota. Coach McKenzie’s recent post about what is lacking in the profession of diversity and inclusion prompted me to write this article. Rather than respond to Coach’s post with a laundry list of acts arguing that I’m better than that, and that is not how I do this work, I decided to resist the urge to protect my ego. Instead, I reached out and asked Coach and others what can we and I do better in order to get better results.

The profession of Diversity and Inclusion is under fire. Many companies have maintained diversity, equity and inclusion offices for many years, yet there have not been transformative results. In fact, some DEI outcomes are worse now than they were several years ago. In addition, in many instances the composition of DEI departments are not racially or ethnically diverse or equitable. Many of these departments also do not center on, or focus on those they are supposedly trying to help. The profession of DEI is under fire. My profession is under fire. I am under fire. We must do better, so we can all do better.

Part of making DEI better is admitting that we have failed. We must acknowledge shortcomings and missteps and reflect on what needs to be done differently to achieve better results. Another major part of getting better results is listening to those impacted by the work and taking constructive feedback to heart as we dismantle and reconstruct a system in order to provide equity and inclusion solutions. Those that are impacted by diversity and inclusion must be hired and retained to build a new system. They know many of the answers because they have been on the short end of not receiving the promised outcomes from DEI. They know we need to do better. Coach McKenzie and his friends know what we should do and here are some of those ideas:

1. Hire Black and Brown people to lead the DEI work inside of companies;

2. Hire Black and Brown consultants to provide DEI and racial equity training for employees;

3. Recruit Black and Brown Board Members;

4. Hire Black and Brown interns and teach them the DEI profession. Also teach them other careers and provide them guaranteed jobs once they successfully complete their education;

5. Hire more Black and Brown people on executive leadership teams of companies and provide them equitable pay;

6. Create satellite offices in Black and Brown neighborhoods and hire people from the community for jobs in these offices;

7. Set aggressive goals to spend money with Black and Brown businesses; and

8. Measure, measure, measure and hold people accountable for DEI and racial equity results or lack thereof.

I want to thank Coach McKenzie for assisting the DEI players with a modification of the playbook. I appreciate his commentary and suggestions that we must do better in the DEI space. As we continue to transform DEI, racial equity and anti-racism work, we must hold everyone accountable, measure progress, record success and failure and change the playbook if the plays are not working. We must do better, so all of us can do better.

JB

George Floyd 33

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

I am a man of faith. I am a man of God. I am a man who believes that God gave his Son, Jesus, so that I as a sinful person can have eternal life in spite of my sins. I have been granted Grace and Mercy because of Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice. Jesus sacrificed his life at the age of 33.

George Floyd was murdered on May 25, 2020. Mr. Floyd’s life was taken from him by four Minneapolis Police Officer. It was not a willing sacrifice, it was a senseless murder of a man who allegedly committed the crime of forgery by passing a $20 bill at a neighborhood store. Because of George Floyd’s death, we have been granted Grace and Mercy and the opportunity to have a new life in spite of our sins. George Floyd sacrificed his life for us. Let me explain.

Over the last few weeks, I have been feeling the pain of being a Black man. I have experienced sadness, fear, pain, sorrow, anger, confusion, Hope, hopelessness, etc. I have wondered why did George Floyd die such a violent death for all the world to see. Why was there such a senseless loss of life when he asked to be saved and asked for his mother to save him while on the hard pavement for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. Why did George Floyd have to die in the Twin Cities I have called home for the last 28 years. I do not have an answer to this question, but I know George Floyd’s death/murder was a sacrifice for systemic change in the the world.

George’s life, similar to the son of God, was a sacrifice to save the world. Jesus died on the cross so that all sins would be forgiven and we will have everlasting life. I believe George died on 38th and Chicago in Minneapolis so that all sins would be exposed to the world and we will for the rest of our lives work to expose and end racism. Just like Jesus, George’s death was brutal and violent. It was senseless and cruel. Although he pled for his life to be spared it was not.

Three days after Jesus was killed on the cross, he rose again from the dead so that we would have everlasting life. Although George is not coming back from the dead, he is rejoicing in heaven. On the third day after his death his spirit rose and his memory and soul sparked civil protest not only in Minneapolis but throughout the world. Protests that keep going and invoking changes that will never allow us to be the same again.

We can be resurrected, we can be saved, we can change the world.

#GeorgeFloyd33

JB

*written the week of George Floyd’s death.

Excuse me, would you like to be seated?

No thank you. I don’t want a seat at the table! I am not rude, nor am I unappreciative of your invite. I just think your invite to sit at the table is too late. Let me explain.

I want you to be with me when we: 1) co-locate the spot to find the materials to build the table (Bad materials make bad tables.); 2) design the framework for the table (Bad table design makes for bad or unintended table outcomes/results.); 3) correct the mistakes we will make when we start building the table (Scientists require many tests/trials before they are confident to move forward with their solutions. An educated guess requires re-education before you sometimes have to guess again.); 4) sandpaper the wood (If you make the wood for the table smooth before I get there, I won’t appreciate the rough spots you sandpapered away before I arrived. I also won’t appreciate the rough spots we find together in case there are more along the way.); 5) layout the plan/framework to build the table (Poor planning leads to poor performance and unintended outcomes/results. The need for the table may have changed since we designed the framework earlier in the process.); 6) build the table together (Joint work is co-work. I don’t need you telling me how to build the table if you are not actually willing to build it yourself.); 7) determine if the table is still relevant for the purpose we built it (The table is finished, but the desired outcomes may be different since it took so long to build the table. We may NEED a BIGGER and MORE INCLUSIVE table.); 8) arrange the seats for the table (Where and when seating takes place is important. Some people may need to be excused from the table as well.); and 9) finally sit down at the table to get the work done. (We need the right tools at the table when we sit down so we can keep building. If you spent all of our money on the table, the table is just window dressing and not a work table.)

I don’t want a seat at the table!

#FadetoBlack #equityactions

JB

How Do Black Lives Matter?

I can soon learn to do it,
If you let me see it done,
I can watch your hands in motion,
But your tongue too fast may run,
And the lectures you deliver,
May be very fine and true,
but I’d rather get my lesson,
By observing what you do,
For I may misunderstand you,
and the fine advice you give,
But there’s no misunderstanding,
How you act and how you live.

Live Your Creed
Langston Hughes

Today I am hosting a garage sale. This is actually a forced garage sale. No payments by cash or credit card will be accepted. Only payments accepted will be IOU payments. The terms of accepting IOUs is different than most garage sales, however you will see the importance of these valuable IOU transactions. IOU = Action.

All Black Lives Matter paraphernalia must go. We are requiring Black Lives Matter signs, t-shirts, buttons, masks, hats, chapstick, corporate displays, on field/court logos, license plate holders. blankets, water bottles, swim caps and Facebook/IG frames to be sold immediately! If there are paraphernalia that has not been listed above it still must be sold. This includes items labeled BLM, Say Their Names, No Justice No Peace, Economic Justice, Prosecute the Police, etc. EVERYTHING MUST GO!

Some of you have asked why the forced sale of all of these classic items? Well, I am glad you asked. Let me explain. It appears that Black Lives Matter items have lost their meaning. The market has been saturated and it seems everyone has something that says Black Lives Matter or BLM. While most products would be excited for a saturated market, BLM and Black Lives Matter products diminish in value as they become apparel adjectives and not apparel verbs. As they have become more viewable and less actionable, the value of these once valued products after the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor is now gone. EVERYTHING MUST GO!

Although EVERYTHING MUST GO, the Black Lives Matter/BLM buy back program is in effective during the mandatory sale. The sale of BLM and Black Lives Matter items is required, however if you would like to keep your paraphernalia during this time you can request a buy back certificate. The buy back certificate is non-negotiable and non-transferable. The buy back certificate must be redeemed in person and the certificate requires ACTION. The certificate redeemer must answer the question, How do Black Lives Matter? The answer to the question must be accompanied by personal words and personal ACTIONS! The words to the answer the question are less important than the actions. Let me explain.

The Larsens

The Larsen family has been summoned to bring their Black Lives Matter and BLM materials to the auction for sale. They have lawn signs bumper stickers, masks, t-shirts and other items. Mr. Larsen is a senior VP at a large international company. Mrs. Larsen is a board member of a well funded private school where their children attend high school. In order to keep their cherished BLM/Black Lives Matters items, the Larsen family have asked to use their buy back certificate and answer the question How do Black Lives Matter? Some of the questions posed to the family to use their certificate include the following:

Mr. Larsen

How do Black Lives Matter when your company has no Black people on their board of directors or on their CEO’s senior leadership team and you have not spoken up about this issue to your company?

How do Black Lives Matter when your company has never recruited students from an HBCU (Historically Black College and University) and has never had a Black intern in the last 25 years and you have not spoken up about it?

How do Black Lives Matter when you have no Black neighbors within a 10 mile radius of your home and no Black friends? Have you have done anything to change this?

Ms. Larsen

How do Black Lives Matter when for the last 10 years your volunteer political and non-profit fundraisers have never included a Black person in the audience and none have been invited except for the former President of the United States?

How do Black Lives Matter when some of your best friends have called the police on Black people driving through your neighborhood, using your public parks and shopping in your local stores and you have never had a conversation with them about their racist behavior and they are still your friends?

How do Black Lives Matter when you and your family have never spent any money with a Black owned business or hired a Black owned contractor for any work or services for any of the numerous organizations where you serve on the board of directors?

The Larsen Kids

How Do Black Lives Matter when the only time you see Black kids is when you go and march at a protest?

How do Black Lives Matter when your friends have consistently made derogatory comments about Black and African kids and you have never said anything to them and yet they remain your friends?

How do Black Lives Matter when you have never asked your Black friends how they want to matter, how they want you to show up for them and what you can do to end systemic racism, including reading and learning on your own.

Are You a Member of the Larsen Family?

What are you going to do? The Larsen family could be your family. The Larsen family could be your philanthropic organization. The Larsen family could be your corporation. The Larsen family could be your church. The Larsen Family could be your anti-racist book club. The Larsen family could be your CEO statement about George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. The Larsen Family could be your multi-billion dollar sports organization with Black Lives Matter on the court or end zone, but with no, or very few, Black people in ownership, executive leadership, head coach positions or general manager positions. The Larsen family could be you. The Larsen family is you.

Are you merely wearing BLM and Black Lives Matter paraphernalia or are you demonstrating through YOUR ACTIONS, HOW BLACK LIVES MATTER. Are you merely calling yourself an ally or social justice supporter, or can someone look at your actions and see that you really mean it. Where are your receipts that show the results of your actions?

Are you abandoning anti-racist, racial trauma, inclusion and diversity training because of a Presidential executive order that calls such trainings unpatriotic and anti-American, or are you standing up for equity, inclusion and justice and doing these trainings anyway because they are needed to address and dismantle systemic racism.

Are you admiring the problem of small Black businesses going out of business because of Covid19 and damages from civil unrest, or are you intentionally investing in those businesses.

Are you watching CEOs make statements about not being able to find Black talent to hire and therefore implying that causes the lack of diversity in hiring at his organization? Are you letting these type of statements go, or are you making a statement against those ill informed comments and also showing through your actions that Black talent is not only available, but being hired by and working at your company.

Are you living your best Black Lives Matter Life? Black Lives Matter/BLM is an Action Apparel Line. If you wear it, you will be asked How Black Lives Matter and what are you doing to make sure they matter. You may be asked for your receipts to show not only your purchase of paraphernalia, but also receipts that show your actions to end white supremacy, invest in anti-racism actions, invest in hiring and retaining Black people and investing in Black owned businesses. If no receipts are available for your anti racist actions, you may want to ask yourself, what does Black Lives Matter mean to you and how do others know it and see it in your actions.

JB

#FadetoBlack