A manager once told me that my peers didn’t respect me because I self-identified as “Black” first, and a “Woman” second. I know… I know, it sounds ignorant and crazy, but it really happened. It’s just one of the many micro-aggressions that I and many women of color experience in the workplace.
My response was that of a samurai warrior! My tone was even but stern, and my tongue was slick and cut like a knife, to the point that tears began to roll down the face of the person attempting to demean and degrade me. The one thing that person underestimated was my lifetime of experience as a Black woman, which inevitably gave me the strength to combat this divisive and racist behavior.
I am proud to be part of the esteemed group of Black women who are unapologetically bold about who they were born to be. This doesn’t mean that we are not accepting of other cultures and races, it simply means we are proud of our heritage and ethnicity.
During the past few weeks, I’ve been reminded of the power that lies within Black women leading the charge to drive diversity, equity and inclusion in their respective industries and communities. I had the pleasure of attending the Harlem Fashion Row’s (HFR) Fashion Show and Style Awards founded by Memphis native Brandice Daniel, a creative and passionate force for change within the fashion industry. Brandice made a call to action asking the attendees to wear “everything black”, meaning wardrobe curated by Black designers.
HFR provides a platform and support for black designers who are underrepresented in the fashion industry. Brandice founded the company in 2007 and has made great strides in advancing black designers and their work. Most notable is the collaboration with Nike and Lebron James to design James' first women's sneaker, the HFR x LeBron 16 and the recent announcement of HFR's new “In the Black” e-commerce site. It’s an online boutique introducing curated merchandise from select designers of color. Make sure you check it out!
I left that event, which was held at the top of the World Trade Center Observatory, feeling so proud of Brandice and all that she has accomplished to ensure that black designers receive their fair share of equity in the fashion industry. She has overcome obstacles that would cause many to give up, but she kept, and keeps going. A true warrior in the fight for inclusion and equity!
I also attended the 2019 ADCOLOR Conference and Awards, founded by a Black woman trailblazer in the advertising industry, Tiffany R. Warren. What I love and admire about Tiffany is that she drives strategy by focusing on the intersectionality of diversity, and all of the different aspects we should consider when championing for true equality beyond race and gender. It was my second time attending the conference and awards of the premier organization that celebrates and advocates diversity in the creative and technology industries. I first attended in 2016. Not only was I was blown away by the growth of the conference over the years, I was equally impressed by the content, speakers, and the work that Tiffany and the ADCOLOR team had done to #TakeAStand for more equity and inclusion in the advertising industry.
My greatest take away from my ADCOLOR experience was that diversity is a given. It’s time we move beyond counting people and checking the box on quotas. We must ensure that women and people of color not only have a seat, but a valued voice at the table. One of many memorable quotes from the conference was, “Our activism can’t just be on Twitter; it has to match who we are in the workplace. Your character at home needs to align with your character at work” – Angela Rye. If we are fired up about injustice and inequality at home, we need to bring that fight to all aspects of our lives. We shouldn’t be required to silence our values when we step inside the workplace.
This leads me to the next event I had the pleasure of attending, Diversity Honors. Created by another dynamic Black woman Dee C. Marshall, CEO of Diverse and Engaged in collaboration with Full Color Future, a think tank and advocacy organization committed to changing the narrative about people of color in media, tech, and innovation. Dee is a force all by herself. She’s been known to be a policy influencer, and female members of Congress call on Dee to co-convene women’s initiatives, strategic planning on mobilization of women, and gathering local women leaders whenever they need a young fresh perspective on connecting with women.
The event was designed to recognize diversity leaders, game-changers, and corporate leaders across industries and sectors, as well as community representatives who have moved the needle and made bold moves to advance marginalized and underrepresented people in workplaces and common spaces. The theme for the event was "Diversity is Multidimensional; People of Color cannot be Forgotten."
The theme speaks to the fact that many companies are attempting to make women their area of focus for their diversity and inclusion efforts, counting the advancement of white women as their big accomplishment. If they only propel white women in the organization, it does little to nothing to build a culture of inclusion in the workplace.
Minda Harts addresses this in her new book “The Memo: What Women of Color Need to Know to Secure a Seat at the Table.” A recent Harvard Business Review article Minda stated, “Many senior leaders are not comfortable talking about race and they are doing their talent a disservice by ignoring racial equity in the workplace.” I wholeheartedly agree. I am baffled by senior leaders who state that they are committed to diversity and inclusion yet are unwilling to discuss the role of race in driving inequity in the workplace. By the way, if you haven’t read Minda’s book, please do, it’s a must read for anyone looking for validation or a better understanding of the experience for women of color in the workplace. You may want to buy a few copies to gift to a few of the managers in your workplace who would benefit. I’m just saying, with my side eye, you know who they are!
Last but certainly not least, I attended the Congressional Black Caucus Annual Legislative Conference in addition to the Black Women’s Agenda annual town hall and luncheon in Washington DC. The content focused on issues that are preventing black progress in this country, and most importantly those issues most concerning to black women.
The fifth annual “Power of the Sister Vote” survey of African American women published by Essence magazine in conjunction with the Black Women’s Roundtable revealed the top issues that are of concern to Black women in this country.
Criminal justice and policing reform.
Rise in hate crimes/racism
Equal rights and equal pay.
Gun Violence and Gun Safety.
I left DC with the affirmation of what I already knew; Black Women are fired up, convening, and planning to lead change. So, to my old manager and anyone else who questions why I affirm my blackness or my womanhood… you can have several seats!!! I am proud to be black, a strong woman, and part of the Black Women Leadership Tribe! A huge THANK YOU and much gratitude to Brandice Daniel, Tiffany R. Warren, Dee C . Marshall, Minda Harts, and to all of the countless Black Women leading the charge!
Peace and blessings,