As a professional speaker on diversity and inclusion I am moved to speak.
America needs a group hug right about now. Corporate and universal diversity and inclusion can not be reduced to lip service. With a splintered America becoming a part of a new reality, someone has to step up and offer solutions for bridging troubled waters. I am stepping up and equipped to serve our nation to deal with some tough stuff. Seeing today’s youth with fire in their bellies jolts me back to six hot August nights in 1965 when I was an eyewitness to the Watts Rebellion.
As a thirteen-year-old girl, I saw Watts burn as I stood in my backyard feeling unsafe. As I watch the news this week, I am jolted back to a feeling of fear and hopelessness that engulfed my friends and me. I wondered what would happen to my home, to my life, as embers from the fire floated in front of my face. We lived on 89th and Compton Avenue, and the downtown blocks of Watts on 103rd Street, were lit up like fireworks. Orange, red and yellow flames streaked across the night sky.
The events of 1965 shaped my future.
Those events led me to study race relations and to major in Black Studies at Scripps College. I dove so deep that I spent a semester of my senior year with the Experiment in International Living, studying and working in Ghana. I wanted an international perspective. I found that in a masters’ program in African Studies at Howard University. Little did I know I was being equipped for today.
Over years I facilitated work groups that grappled with race and gender issues. Sensitivity workshops helped educators and students to reach each other’s’ hearts and minds across racial and cultural fault lines. Studying communications management at the Annenberg School of Communications at the University of Southern California, helped me to develop the language and frameworks for purposeful dialogue.
My unique capacity to engage opposing forces led to the appointment of the Executive Counsel for Leadership and Career Development at the National Education Association. Designing and implementing employee morale initiatives became the focal point of my work.
The fires of Watts still burned inside of me. I am now channeling this burning desire to help figure out this race thing, the what and why, the impact.
Today, I know my purpose in life. I am equipped for the times we are experiencing today.
As a professional speaker and executive coach, I have fire in my belly to help people find their path across the deepening racial divide, especially our students. Today, I help organizations to address issues of diversity and inclusion as well as bullying, and macroaggression, which many see as the new face of racism. I try to help workplaces be safe places by facilitating tough conversations, to discuss the undiscussables. Perhaps the fires came to me early in life so that I would be unafraid to help build a bridge over turbulent waters, to intervene into tough situations, to help those in conflict see “the other.”
We are now swimming in new waters that will call on us to find those islands of grace, to reach across the pond. The key is for us not to drown but to figure out how to wade to safer ground. As I watch Latino, Asian, White, Black, and Native American middle schoolers march through the streets of San Francisco seeking “help,” the fires are burning now in their souls. They will need to swim harder and faster to safer shore.
I want to be lifeguard for them, workplaces, and for our future. Please reach out to me if I can assist your organization, group, corporation, or school to emerge through the often murky waters of diversity and inclusion.