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Black Women Are Leading the Charge for Equity and Inclusion 

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Black woman- Pic: Shutterstock

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.
  •  Affordable healthcare.
  • 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!

Also Read viSHEbility: Releasing Aspiration And Shaping Narratives One Story At A Time – Mary Mosope Adeyemi

Most importantly, I commit to doing my part towards advancing progress. I know that I was in those rooms for a reason and I don’t take that privilege for granted. As a woman of faith, I know that to whom much is given, much is required.

By: Dorinda Walker, Founder and CEO of Cultural Solutions Group

 

Africa speaks

Africa Rising: Why Project Managers Are Critical to Africa’s Future

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Photo by NESA by Makers on Unsplash

With a rapidly growing population and economy, Africa is poised to take on massive infrastructure upgrades, and they’ll need talented project managers to lead the charge.

If you want to see the future of project management, look to Africa. The world’s second largest continent by both land mass and population is home to the world’s largest free-trade zone and is experiencing significant population growth and urbanization. These trends, in turn, are driving massive investments in infrastructure, but they’re also giving rise to flourishing film and music industries and attracting significant technology investment dollars.

What’s especially exciting about the future of Africa is the coming “youthquake” poised to drive change across the region. Fully 75 percent of the population is under 25! This means that the people who stand to benefit the most from all these developments are the young. It also means that responsibility for managing many of these projects will be shouldered by a new generation of project managers. 

 

These young managers have a natural affinity for the growing African film, music and technology industries: 

  • Nigeria is home to “Nollywood” – the second largest movie industry in the world after Bollywood in terms of output. It produces 2,500 films a year. 
  • The African music industry is also thriving. New African streaming platforms like Boomplay, uduX and Simfy have emerged in recent years, attracting investments from music industry stalwarts like Universal and Warner. And consumers are flocking to hot new music festivals like AfroChella and Afro Nation. 
  • Africa is also pulling in investment dollars from technology and fintech firms. According to African Tech Startups Funding Report, 311 African tech startups raised $491.6 million last year alone. And a report from Briter Bridges and GSMA indicates the number of active tech hubs in Africa has almost doubled to 618 over the last three years.

In addition to these industry hot spots, infrastructure remains a high priority across the continent. Despite recent economic development, only 38 percent of the African population has access to electricity. Three-quarters of all roads are unpaved. And 416 million Africans still live in extreme poverty. These numbers spell out why infrastructure development remains such an urgent priority. 

Also Read: L’Oréal Appoints Hlengiwe Mathenjwa As Director

In 2018, for the first time, Africa’s commitments to infrastructure projects exceeded US$ 100 billion, according to the Infrastructure Consortium for Africa (ICA). These mega projects included: 

  • Grand Inga Dam on the Congo River in the Democratic Republic of Congo – Estimated to cost US$ 80 billion, Grand Inga is the world’s largest hydropower project in the world (and expected to be twice as large as the Three Gorges Dam in China). 
  • Bagamonyo Port in Tanzania – A joint venture of Tanzania, China and Oman will be the largest port in East/Central Africa. 
  • Konzo Technology City in Kenya – Called Africa’s Silicon Savanna after Silicon Valley in the U.S., this smart city project is part of Kenya’s Vision 2030 plan and is expected to generate 17,000 high-value jobs and 68,000 indirect jobs.

As noted, both population growth and urbanization are powering this development. Already home to 1.2 billion people, Africa has the highest rate of population growth in the world. The United Nations projects that more than half of all global population growth will occur in Africa, and the population of sub-Sahara Africa alone is expected to double by 2050.  

Africa is also increasingly urban. The world’s fastest-growing cities are now in sub-Saharan Africa where, according to the World Bank, 472 million people live in cities. They expect that number to more than double to 1 billion by 2040, due to high birth rates and migration from rural areas. (That’s the fastest rate of urbanization in the world.)  

All these developments are creating enormous demands for project managers who can deal not only with technical complexity but with the transnational nature of many of the projects. An 832-kilometer electrical transmission project in West Africa, for example, crosses four countries: Nigeria, Niger, Benin and Burkina Faso. The LAPSSET megaproject in East Africa involves a port and oil refinery in Kenya, a railway line and two pipelines between southern Sudan and Ethiopia, and three airports, among other projects. 

The pace of development is just as rapid within individual countries. In Zambia, where the population has doubled to 17 million since 1993, infrastructure projects include four international airports, the US$ 4 billion Batoka Gorge hydroelectric power station, and Link 8000, a 10-year, US$ 31 billion project to rehab and construct 2,000 kilometers of roads.   

The need and opportunity for young project managers are clearly immense – but so are the challenges. Some of these challenges are economic. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Africa’s economy is expected to contract between 2.1 and 5.1 percent in 2020 – the region’s first recession in 25 years.  

Large-scale projects can ensure long-term growth, but they also require sophisticated project management skill sets. Young project managers will need training and mentorship to lead Africa’s development efforts. At PMI, we’re supporting their needs through our training and certification programs and through the guidance and encouragement that comes with participating in local chapter activities.

The next generation of project managers in Africa will play a critical role in transforming their continent, and, in doing so, will inevitably reshape the world of project management. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to see what’s next! 

Author: Otema Yirenkyi, VP Global Engagement, Sub-Saharan Africa

PMI

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Africa speaks

Systemic Racism- A Case of Elon Musk

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Humankind artwork by @tristaneaton flew with the Dragon spacecraft this past Saturday.

Please note: This article is not about Elon Musk and his family being racist or direct supporters of any form of oppression. (Article by: Mariatheresa Samson Kadushi)

“You want to wake up in the morning and think the future is going to be great- and that’s what being a spacefaring civilization is all about. It’s about believing in the future and thinking that the future will be better than the past. And I can’t think of anything more exciting than going out there and being among the stars.”- Elon Musk

For me and my 10 year old son, our biggest news for the past few days has been SpaceX’ Falcon 9 historic launch. Stuck in two different continents due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, it didn’t stop us from livestreaming and witnessing two astronauts embarking on Crew Dragon’s second demonstration (Demo-2) mission, launching from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida (USA) to the International Space Station. #launchamerica was a great moment of inspiration and turning point for Elon Musk’sexploration mission to the Moon, Mars and Beyond.

Humankind artwork by @tristaneaton flew with the Dragon spacecraft this past Saturday.

In parallel to #launchamerica this week, another big news has been protests in United States and around the world following George Floyd’s death. Masses of people have been expressing their outrage against police brutality and racial profiling. More frustration is directed towards systemic racism that allows a flawed criminal justice system to thrive; one recent example being lack of action for two months after Ahmaud Arbery’s murder by a white ex cop.

What would have been Elon Musk’s future if he was born black in South Africa?

Elon Musk was born in South Africa eighteen years after apartheid was established. Apartheid was a system of institutionalised racial segregation that existed in South Africa and South West Africa (now Namibia) from 1948 until the early 1990s. It was characterised by an authoritarian political culture based on baasskap (or white supremacy), which ensured that South Africa was dominated politically, socially, and economically by the nation’s minority white population. (Source: Wikipedia)

Race was a deciding factor for the quality of education, housing, healthcare, voting, public services, employment, business or property ownership and marital or sexual relationships. Over the years, racial separation and oppression resulted to not only peaceful protests but also violent resistance, thousands of deaths, mass incarceration, detention and extreme use of police force.

Despite remarkable efforts and strong opposition within South Africa and globally Apartheid remained in effect for more than 48 years.

An image illustrating segregation in South Africa (Image credit: Mariatheresa Samson Kadushi)

“ The native [referring to an African] must not be subject to a school system which draws him away from his own community, and misleads him by showing him the green pastures of European society in which he is not allowed to graze”- Dr. Hendrik Verwoerd “Minister of Native Affairs” (1950–1958).

If Elon Musk was born black in South Africa he would have been subjected to attend Bantu schools, a separate education system that was designed to prepare blacks to lead their lives as a laboring class. This, along with many other hurdles would have made it difficult or even impossible for him to build a future that is currently transforming and creating new possibilities for humankind. If Elon Musk was born black in South Africa, his skin color would have been a deciding factor for his intellect, existence and future.

To the privileged ones……

From time to time, people based on their skin colour find themselves in a lesser or superior side of the playing field. Elon Musk and many white South africans were just born in an unequal society, they neither asked for it nor had much of a say on how oppressive structures were run by the state. Systemic oppression is not individualistic and white privilege doesn’t mean that your life is not difficult, it plainly means that the color of your skin isn’t one of the things contributing to your life difficulties.

In this era, we can collectively take action against structures of oppression and institutionalized racism. If you are white, examine your privilege and educate yourself, become an ally, voice your opinion, join people of color in protesting peacefully, build resistances and support movements easing racial disparities and injustices.

Here is a poem by my white friend Joel Moskowitz.

I too am familiar with hatred as I am a Jew, but in today’s America my problems are relatively few,

For the brown, red, yellow or blacks; equality, fairness and rights is what America lacks,

Protection, justice, enfranchisement and equal opportunity are held back from some, seemingly in perpetuity.

I have never felt the blow from a policeman’s baton nor the tightness of handcuffs ever put on,

I have never unfairly been locked in a cell nor feared routine traffic stops as if facing hell,

I’ve never been needlessly separated from my mother or brother nor rendered uncomfortable by basic interaction as if I was the “other”

I was taught to judge my fellow man by the content of his character only to receive advantage of which I am an all too willing inheritor,

I’ve been told that the arc of morality always points towards justice yet we give no reason for people of color to trust us,

It helps no one if I say I am color blind, if to institutional racism I pay no mind,

If by my silence I perpetuate this evil creed then I am just as guilty for this pernicious deed.

I will conclude with a quote by a human rights activist and Nobel prize winner Desmond Tutu

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”

Photo by Xena Goldman

Also Read: These two Africans are helping businesses and individuals spend less time doing expenses with Xpensi

Article by: Mariatheresa Samson Kadushi– Humanist with loud thoughts and Founder, Mobile afya| Digital health | technology and innovations

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Africa speaks

Juliana Olayinka: The Trauma of Racism

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Juliana Olayinka, Broadcast Journalist

I can’t recall ever experiencing a bout of post-traumatic stress disorder until very recently.

After a week of seeing the outrage trend on social media I decided to watch the video footage showing the brutal murder of Ahmaud Arbery.

Unfortunately, the sad tale of Arbery’s untimely death is a familiar one. He was a young black male killed while out jogging in his neighbourhood in Georgia, after being hunted down by father and son Gregory and Travis McMichael. The incident took place on February 23rd. 3 months later the pair were arrested and charged with felony murder and aggravated assault. An indictment that may not have occurred if not for the relentless outpouring of disbelief and horror expressed by the black community and beyond.

For at least 30 minutes after watching the video, I sat frozen at my desk. I could not erase the image of Arbery attempting to fight off the killers out of my mind. What would he have been feeling and thinking at that precise moment? What were his killers thinking? Why did they do this? How can any human being loathe another so deeply purely because of the colour of their skin? I was traumatised.

It’s because of this experience that I have refused to watch the full clip of George Floyd’s murder. I’ve seen the haunting image – it’s unavoidable – but I’m afraid of what that footage will deposit within me. I’m even more afraid of what these depictions of black men and women being slaughtered will do to the younger generations who are consuming this heightened narrative with no pause button.

At times I’ve felt drained and helpless over the past couple of weeks and the global lockdown hasn’t helped to calm the anxiety.Black men and women are nearly twice as likely to die with coronavirus as white people in England and Wales, according to the Office for National Statistics.

As a Black British born woman of Nigerian descent, I’ve often wondered if my opinion matters to the Black Lives Matter Movement whose origins are very much entrenched in the injustice felt by African Americans in the States?

Throughout most of the 15 years that I’ve worked in media- calling out racism has been morphed into having a chip on your shoulder as an ‘angry black woman’. How can I compare losing out on promotions (time and time again) to my less qualified white peers to the brutal murder of an unarmed black man in police custody? These past couple of weeks have taught me that I don’t have to compare the outcome as the intent is all part of the same problem.

Do I believe insidious and institutionalised racism exists in Britain Absolutely I do. The inequalities felt by ethnic minorities in the UK may not manifest itself as overtly as what is being witnessed in America, but the disease of oppression still exists. It exists across the world.

The Historian and Broadcaster David Olusoga summarised this sentiment perfectly in a recent article published in The Observer;

“When black Britons draw parallels between their experiences and those of African Americans, they are not suggesting that those experiences are identical. Few people would deny that in many respects’ life is better for non-white people in the UK than in the US. The problem is that it is not as “better” as some like to believe. Black men are stopped and searched at nine times the rate of white men. Black people make up 3% of the population of England and Wales but account for 12% of the prison population and not since 1971 have British police officers been prosecuted for the killing of a black man, and even then they were charged with the lesser crime of manslaughter and that charge was later dropped.”

Also Read: Black Founders: Here are some fundraising and networking opportunities

Just a few weeks ago my social media feed was flooded with images of lynching, today it’s flooded with images of unity. Of tens of thousands of people from across the world marching together in solidarity for change. The anxiety I used to feel anytime a Black Lives Matter incident trended on social media, has been replaced with hope. The hope that this period may be a defining moment in our quest for equality.

Article by: Juliana Olayinka, a Broadcast Journalist

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