|From the Sustainable Solutions Lab at UMASS BOSTON|
Like all of you, I am horrified by the recent killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and Tony McDade. And yet, given the deep history of racism in our country, this is not new. Because of racism, Black people are being killed by police, by coronavirus, by air pollution, by floods, by heatwaves… at much higher numbers than white people are. This is not an accident. We are all responsible for changing these systems, especially those of us who benefit from white supremacy. As we each wrestle with how to show up, especially in the midst of this global pandemic and time of physical distancing, I wanted to share some resources and invite you to join me in taking action.
Supporting Communities that are Hurting: As my husband and I think about where to direct financial support right now, we are focusing on two main categories: shorter term funds to support the current protests and protesters and longer-term investments in community organizing and capacity building in communities of color.
Below are the places we decided to give.
Mass Redistribution Fund Massachusetts Bail Fund Color of Change
There are lots of other lists online if you’re looking for other ideas as well. And if you have other organizations you support that you think we’d be interested in supporting, please send them my way.
Supporting the Demands of Protesters: Black led groups are making calls for systemic change and accountability. You can join them in pushing for these reforms.
Here is more information on specific demands following George Floyd’s death and ways to take action. You can also follow the lead of local groups like the Boston chapter of Black Lives Matter, and Black Lives Matter, the Movement for Black Lives, and Color of Change nationally.
Educating Yourself: One book that really shaped my understanding of our current reality is The Half Has Never Been Told by Edward E. Baptist. I’m currently listening to Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi. The 1619 Project is another great resource as is The Case for Reparations by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Here are some resources on environmental justice, racism and whiteness. I particularly like this piece that connects police violence and environmental justice that my colleague Rosalyn Negron shared with me yesterday.
There are many lists of books to read online. If you’re interested in doing some self-education with other people in the SSL network, please reach out. If there is enough interest, we will start a reading group.
Talking to Your Family and Friends: Talking about racism is hard. And uncomfortable. But that’s ok. We still have to do it. I recently read White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo which I found very helpful. Kendi has a more recent book out that I’ve only read the introduction of so far called How to be an Anti-Racist that also seems great and that has gotten a lot of press. I’m challenging myself to have two hard conversations with family and friends about race in the next two weeks. If you want to do something similar and are interested in role-playing or practicing beforehand, I’d love to be a sounding board.
Intentional Parenting: My husband and I are trying to figure out how to raise our kids without the same biases we were taught. Embrace Race, Wee the People and Raising Race Conscious Children are resources we’ve found helpful. There’s an interactive webinar on June 14th hosted by Raising Race Conscious Children that we are planning to attend. If you end up joining, I’d in interested in debriefing with you.
Protesting in person: I’m concerned about protests being super-spreader events for Covid-19 but there is something incredibly powerful about mass protest. Here’s a run down of upcoming protests in Boston https://www.bostonmagazine.com/news/2020/06/01/george-floyd-protests-planned-boston/ There is so much to be done.
Thank you for being part of the SSL community as we work for a safe, healthy, resilient future for everyone.
Rebecca Herst Director,
Sustainable Solutions Lab
|NEW ENGLAND VENTURE CAPITAL ASSOCIATION|
A PERSONAL NOTE… NEVCA President Jody Rose sent a version of the below message to our Board of Directors. Many shared it with their partners and portfolio companies, and we invite you to do the same.
Friends, I am struggling.
And I have been struggling – with the past week’s events; with how to share this message. What might you think? How might it land? Would people roll their eyes? Would I come across as too aggressive? Too militant? Would this be too far outside of the normal constructs of our relationship?
I have spent the past week crying and wallowing in despair and fear as I watch and process the recent hate crimes against Black Americans. The gravity of what is taking place in our country is a burden too heavy for anyone to carry alone. Like so many, I feel overwhelmingly sad, angry, and in many ways, stuck.
For those who feel similarly – especially those who do not identify as Black, and feel stuck in how to support – I am moved to submit the following ideas:
1. Reach out: While you may be struggling with what to say, others are struggling with how to breathe. The best part of my week last week was hearing from some of my closest friends and allies who were calling to check in and sit alongside me with nothing more than empathy and a listening ear. The solidarity meant more than they’d ever know. I felt seen.
2. Offer space: As leaders of firms and portfolio companies with Black investors, employees, and colleagues – take it a step further. While this will take a little planning, offer to hold a safe space/conversation where your employees can process what they are feeling and experiencing. You will be surprised to learn how many of your colleagues (across all ethnicities) are struggling just to make it through a zoom meeting, let alone the day.
3. Reinforce: This is a great time to reinforce your values and state to your employees that you and your organization are not okay with what is happening. To some, your silence will be deafening.
As a leader and a Black woman, I am struggling to make sense of this. My sole intention in sharing this is to offer what I hope is a gift of kindness during a time when things around us feel bleak.
TOOLS TO DO MORE Communicating your Position: Silence is deafening. A non-statement is the loudest statement leadership can make.
In internal messaging for Hack.Diversity (A division of the NEVCA), we specifically recognized the following: Racism, police brutality, and the ramifications of COVID-19 are compounded stressors for the Black community. Work should not feel like a burden on top of bigger societal problems, and the team has the explicit right to speak up when work feels like part of the problem. Mental health is essential to the team’s long term success. We’ve let them know they can, and should, take space as needed.
Caring for your Team: Reach out to your Black employees individually to acknowledge them. Let them know you have their back, and leave the door open for them to come to you if they desire any other support you haven’t initially offered. Offer specific supports e.g. time off, new projects, a discussion of something unrelated, or a discussion of the events going on. Consider bringing in a third-party facilitator to offer psychological services to help people process. For example, Hack is bringing in a third-party expert to facilitate an internal conversation with Fellows.
(Feel free to reach out to us for recommendations.) Offer the opportunity for staff to take reflection time. It’s important to create a space within teams for this to be addressed. Be more flexible with working hours, and encourage staff to focus on their mental health. Offer the opportunity for staff to share their thoughts anonymously. It can feel safest to share without your professional identity attached to your feelings. If employees are looking for direct/tangible things from their organization, this can be an easier way to voice it. Know that even if you offer the space, leadership and power dynamics may prevent someone from feeling safe to share openly.
WANT TO DO EVEN MORE? HIRE A HACK.DIVERSITY FELLOW
Hack.Diversity (A division of the NEVCA) works to empower upward mobility for high-skill minority talent through access to internships at growing companies.
The COVID-19 pandemic has left many of the 2020 cohort – already vetted and ready to contribute – without the potentially life-changing internships for which they have prepared so diligently. If you are in a position to hire one of our Fellows for a summer software engineering or IT internship, this is a great way to make an impact RIGHT NOW. DETAILS ON HOSTING WITH HACK.DIVERSITY
At the New England Venture Capital Association, our mission is to foster a collaborative, inclusive, and prosperous innovation ecosystem.
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|BLACK HERITAGE TRAIL OF NEW HAMPSHIRE |
Friday, June 19, 1:00 PM | Zoom & Facebook Live
Music to Celebrate Our Ancestors: Drumming, Dance & Song
Live streaming from the Portsmouth African Burying Ground, members of the African drumming and dance group Akwaaba Ensemble and Rev. Robert Thompson will honor the ancestors who survived the Middle Passage with traditional songs and dance.
Other events include: Thursday, June 18, 3:00 PM | Zoom & Facebook
Cooking with Selina: A Soul Food Cooking Show
For those who want to cook along with Selina, a list of ingredients for the cooking show are posted on our website.
Register here Friday, June 19, 6:00 PM | Zoom
Songs that Feed the Soul: A Concert
Link to Zoom
Saturday, June 20, 10:00 AM | Zoom & Facebook Live
The Diet of Our Ancestors: What History & Science Reveals
featuring special guest Adrian Miller.
Register here For more information on these programs read here.