Say His Name (George Floyd) – We Have Not Done Enough!

On May 25, 2020, George Floyd was murdered by four Minneapolis Police Officers. The murder of George Floyd caused the world to view, digest, reflect upon and never erase the image of this heinous crime. It was captured on video for 9:29. The thing about a murder is that you cannot take it back and you cannot do enough to make it go away. It does not go away. Nothing is never enough to make it go away. As we approach May 25, 2021, I want to answer this question for you so you will not have to ask anyone else. The question is, have we have done enough since the murder of George Floyd? The answer is simple, “No, we have not done enough.”

What can do to make it right after a murder? Is civil unrest enough? Is the termination of so called “bad apples” enough? Is a conviction enough? Is a tough sentence enough? Is the promise of police reform enough? Is it enough to promise to dismantle a racist system? What is enough? Nothing is enough, and we have not done enough since the murder of George Floyd.

Many people will ask you over the next few weeks how are you going to honor or memorialize George Floyd as we approach May 25, 2021. Some will host a listening session. Some will feature a keynote speaker. Some will host a prayer vigil. Some will host a healing circle. Some will plan a policy discussion on police reform. Some will make another statement. Some will do an inventory of their diversity, equity and inclusion work.

Some will ask Black people what they should do. Some will ask Black people what they should do. Some will ask Black people what they should do.

Asking Black people what to do may not always be the best solution. People that have been severely traumatized by racism should not always be asked to solve the problem of racism.

We have not done enough to end racism before, during or after the murder of George Floyd. We can’t do enough to make it right by May 25, 2021. We must acknowledge systemic change cannot happen in a year. Systems change will take time, action and accountability. We must acknowledge that racism will not end in a year. Ending racism will take time, action and accountability. We must commit to the work. We must do the work. We must hold statement makers (me included) accountable. We must get results.

On May 25, 2021, I’m going to acknowledge the wrongful murder of George Floyd seen by the world. I am going to pray for the victims of police and community violence. I will do something to end systems that promote racial inequality. On May 25, 2021, I will continue to fight for equity.

What will you do? How long will you do it? Will it be transformative and not performative? Will it help change, disrupt or dismantle an inequitable system?

JB

America is a Racist Country!

President Joe Biden acknowledges the existence of systemic racism and white supremacy in America and the negative impact both have had, and are having, on our country. United States Senators Lindsey Graham and Mitch McConnell state that systemic racism does not exist in America. United States Senator Tim Scott stated recently that America is not a racist country and Vice President Kamala Harris also indicated recently that America is not a racist country, although she also acknowledges that “we need to speak truth about the history of racism and the current existence of racism in this country.” Are you as confused as I am with these very political responses? Well, let me just put this issue to rest, America is a Racist Country and I have the receipts to prove it. Let me show you in 10 easy steps. There are more than 10 steps, but I will let you research the others on your own.

1. America is a stolen land. Before it became the United States of America, this land was discovered and occupied by Native Americans. The land was taken, no stolen, from Native Americans because of their race and they were murdered and imprisoned so that America could exist on what once was Native land. America was founded, no stolen, as as act of racism.

2. America is a land built by stolen people. In 1619, and by some accounts before 1619, slaves (human beings) were purchased and stolen from Africa then taken to America in slave ships. Many died during the savage Middle Passage, and those that didn’t were brutally enslaved, raped, murdered and treated worst than animals from 1619 – 1865. 1865 or Juneteenth, as we call it now, did not end the brutal treatment, it just changed the name. The foundation of America was built on racism.

3. America created and enforced slave codes, ignored the freedoms of the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments for Black people, and lynched Black people regularly through celebrated lynchings at family picnics with kids and grandparents. America also created a policing system built by and for the Klu Klux Klan that enforced racist ideology. America showcased its racism for all of the world to see as it built a racist nation.

4. America created a military system that recruited and deployed soldiers based up their race. Black soldiers could not room with white soldiers; Black soldiers could not use the same restrooms as white soldiers; Black soldiers could not fight in the same battalions as white soldiers and when they returned home from war, Black soldiers could not get jobs, buy homes, eat at restaurants or attend schools because of their race. America has consistently withheld opportunities from Black Americans because of their race.

5. America has a rich history of racism. The 3/5 clause stated that Black people are not fully a person when all men were supposedly created equal. Many court cases have enforced raciam in this country as well. The cases have held: slaves are property that can be transported to free states and still not be free; free slaves have no rights to own property or to vote; private companies, that do not engage in interstate commerce, can freely discriminate against people based on race; Asian American citizens can be held in illegal war campus because of their race; housing deeds can restrict the transfer of property on the basis of race; housing loans can be restricted based upon race; and education can be offered in a discriminatory and racist manner as long as it is separate and supposedly equal. There are many more legal cases that reveal the legal foundation of racism that built America.

6. America has a whole history we call the civil rights movement that is the product of racism. Black people were beaten by police for peacefully walking across bridges in Alabama. Black people were attacked by dogs and tortured by water hoses because they wanted the right to vote. Black people were spat on and had hot coffee poured on them because they wanted to eat at the same counter as white people. Black People and others were assassinated because they fought for the civil rights of others. Racism in America necessitated an entire movement for civil rights.

7. Police have continued to kill unarmed Black people and the justice system has not consistently held officers accountable for these killings. Policing in America is impacted by systemic racism.

8. Asian American families cannot enjoy the freedoms of life in America without being violently abused and assaulted because of their race. Asian Americans (collectively) are also unjustly branded as the cause of a deadly virus because of their race.

9. Black, Latinos, Asians and Native Americans are not adequately represented in the C suites of American corporations. Systemic racism has caused this to occur.

10. Racism is a public health issue, yet healthcare disparities, economic disparities, education disparities, employment disparities, housing disparities, criminal justice system disparities and all other types of racial disparities exist because of racism. I guess racism is not really a public health issue we want to address.

My receipts add up. The history is undisputed. The record is clear. The impact of racism in America on Black, Latino, Asian and Native American communities is evident.

America is a racist country built on the foundations of colonialism, racism, genocide, lynchings, segregation, anti-immigration, white supremacy and systemic inequality. If we are to address the public health issue of racism and dismantle the systems that created and enable it, we must admit the obvious – We are racist country, but we don’t have to continue to be. We can change it. We must change it. We will change it.

The first step towards Truth and Reconciliation is…………

TRUTH!

JB

Their Deepest IRRATIONAL Fear of a Black Man – This is America!

One of my favorite poems is Our Deepest Fear by Marianne Williamson. This poem speaks to me as a Black Man. Although not written for me, it allows me to reflect on my fears and the fears others have of me. Fears of a Black Man. Let me correct that, Irrational Fears of a Black Man. After the senseless killing of Daunte Wright by a Brooklyn Center police officer on Sunday, April 11, 2021, I was devastated. I was speechless. I was numb. I was distraught. I was incoherent. I was angry. However, I was not in disbelief. I was there when Jamar was killed by police. I was there when Philando was killed by police. I was there when George Floyd was killed by police and now I am here as Daunte Wright is killed by police. The state of Minnesota and the deepest fear of Minnesota police officers and the public safety system is not that they are inadequate. Their deepest IRRATIONAL fear is of an unarmed Black Man. In my reflection on Daunte’s death, George’s death, Philando’s death and Jamar’s death, I have taken the liberty to slightly modify the poem Our Deepest Fear by Marianne Williamson. It is now entitled – Their Deepest IRRATIONAL Fear of a Black Man – This is America!

Their Deepest IRRATIONAL Fear of a Black Man – This is America!

Their deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Their deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness, our brilliance, not our brawn, and our commitment to our people that most frightens them.

They ask us who are we to be brilliant, handsome, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are we not to be?
We are children of God. We deserve to be treated as human beings. We deserve to live. We deserve to be fathers, brothers and friends. We don’t deserve to die.

Our playing small does not serve the world, nor does it protect us from police violence. We can raise our hands and say don’t shoot, we can be in our homes, in our cars, and in our neighborhoods and yet it does not matter. We are not safe. We are feared. We are your deepest IRRATIONAL fear.


There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking and it does not keep us safe from police officers. Some say if you just act calm, you will be ok. This is not true. Some say if you don’t ask questions, you will be ok. This is not true. Some say if you are not aggressive, you will be ok. This is not true. You fear us. We are your deepest IRRATIONAL fear.


We won’t feel insecure around you, but we will fear for our safety. You have guns, and yet you fear us. We can’t trust you not to kill us and when you do kill us, you want to talk about looting and civil unrest. You never want to talk about murder. You never talk about Black Lives taken. You are our deepest fear. We are afraid of you.

It’s not just in some of us;
It’s in everyone. Our light is what you fear. Our strength is what you fear. Your fear is IRRATIONAL Your fear costs us our lives.

As we let our own light shine,
we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
We want to be liberated from your fear of us,
Our presence automatically liberates others, yet your IRRATIONAL fear causes our death.

We are Kings and decedents of Royalty. We are meant to shine as children and men do.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. We deserve to be treated with humanity, respect and dignity.

We are Kings. We have names. We have families. We have friends. We deserve to be treated like Royalty. We deserve to live. Our names are Jamar, Philando, George and Daunte. We will not let out lives be taken in vain. We will hold you accountable to dismantle the system that took our lives. We will hold you responsible to make sure you hold police officers and public safety systems accountable. We will hold you accountable for police reform and policy changes. We will hold you accountable to dismantle white supremacy and systemic racism. Our deepest fear is that nothing will be done and things stay the same. We do not want our deepest fear to be realized. We want things to change. Things much change. Things will change.

We are your deepest IRRATIONAL fear and racism and white supremacy is your drug that fuels your IRRATIONAL fear. You must fix that so things can change and you can be RATIONAL. Things must change. Things will change.

JB

#FadetoBlack.

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