Diversity and Inclusion Touching All Areas of My Life – Five Examples


Figure Skating is perhaps my favorite active leisure activity

NOTE: This blog has over a dozen links – please do explore them.

After retiring from IBM 11 years ago, I started my own diversity and career development consultancy. Naturally, I now look at everything I am involved in through a diversity lens. What I have been increasingly seeing is a tremendous focus on diversity and inclusion across the many hobbies and groups I am involved with. Here are five extremely varied examples:

1 – Figure Skating. At the age of 59, I decided to pursue my dream of becoming a competitive adult figure skater with no prior experience. (Link to one story.) And for a long time I have been an avid figure skating fan, attending US Nationals year after year, and a financial supporter through Friends of Figure Skating. Historically, there have been very few African Americans and Hispanics enjoying this sport.

But US Figure Skating has started ramping up its efforts to make the sport more inclusive and welcoming to all people, including forming a diversity task force. In the past, I have written about out gay figure skaters throughout the years, and you can read about 14 fabulous men and 1 woman in these blogs written in 2016 and the follow on in 2018.

2 – Numismatics. For those of you who do not know, numismatics is the collecting of currency – coins and paper money. I have been a coin collector since elementary school days, using my allowance and birthday money to buy rare coins. The American Numismatic Association (ANA) magazine has often featured interesting stories about our money that connects with diversity.  Two such stories inspired my blog about the derailed plans to place Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill, and a second about an American coin inspired by the Ku Klux Klan.  And throughout 2020, the editor included a special feature about outstanding women in history (for example the November issues introduced me to educator, historian and political activist Dr. Pilar  Barbosa de Rosario), since women are sorely under-represented on American money.

My partner Rich and I enjoying a long trek with the Sierra Club in Morocco

3 – Nature and Conservation. I love long hikes and nature travel, and support several conservation organizations including the Sierra Club, Nature Conservancy, the World Wildlife Foundation and the National Wildlife Foundation. Their magazines now often include stories about the need to increase diversity within the conservation and natural resources professions, as well as the historic negative impact that conservation work has had on under-represented and economically disadvantaged communities. Examples: The NWF’s stated commitment to equity in their work and a focus on women in conservation leadership.

And they also are featuring the diversity of their employees and stakeholders. I recently spoke to Mark Steudel, a Loyal Donor Officer with the Nature Conservancy, and he shared about their focus on inclusive recruiting and reminded me of a story featured in a past issue of their magazine about the leader of the LGBTQ Pride Employee Network.

It is always great to get back to Georgia Tech and the University of Chicago

4 – Georgia Tech and the University of Chicago. As an active and involved alumnus, I always read the alumni magazines from my two alma maters, and almost always there are one or two  articles with a very strong diversity and inclusion connection.  Examples:
• The Scheller Business School at Georgia Tech where I received my Bachelors, prominently features its commitment to diversity, inclusion and equity as a key strategic initiative imperative.
• The University of Chicago’s recent alumni magazine had an excellent multidisciplinary in depth analysis of racism, policing and protest by 5 faculty members.
• The U of Chicago Booth School of Business where I got my MBA is offering a free series on unconscious bias for students, alumni and staff, a gift from the MBA class of 2020.

The NC Council of Churches strongly believes people of all faiths need to unite against racism and islamophobia

5 – The North Carolina Council of Churches. I am a past president and current board member of the North Carolina Council of Churches, founded in 1935 by black and white clergy people wanted to address racial injustice within the church and society. Over the years the organization has grown and now works on how faith relates to poverty, health, conservation and more. But now, given the recent focus again in our nation on racial disparities and systemic racism, the council has reconstituted a Racial Equity and Peace Committee which is starting deep work to address racial disparity across all aspects of our organization’s structure and work. Racial equity is now listed at the top of the priorities list on the Council website.

In addition, the North Carolina Council of Churches is now connecting their work on climate change with environmental justice, recognizing the intersection of diversity, racial justice, economic justice, faith and environmental advocacy.  

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I encourage you to look at all the various activities you are involved in and notice the increase focus on diversity, equity and inclusion.

Two cool books on race relations from a University of Chicago Graduate

I get about a dozen magazines a week, and many of them are collecting on a pile in the corner of my bedroom, and most of them I skim quickly. But the one magazine that always has interesting content and that I read thoroughly is the University of Chicago Magazine. (NOTE – I am a U of Chicago Booth School of Business MBA ’79 – read my 2-part blog about recently returning for my 40-year class reunion.)

The Spring 2019 edition had several interesting articles that coincided well with my diversity and inclusion consulting business. These included:
• Toward a more diverse and inclusive Uchicago (page 9)
• Lieber Erich about a play inspired by the author finding a box of old letters written by his grandmother for Nazi Germany before losing her life in the Holocaust. (page 48)
• One Person’s Power about a 1968 African-American graduate, Sybil Jordan Hampton, who attended Little Rock Central High School two years after the famed “Little Rock 9” enrolled following the Supreme Court Ruling Brown vs. Board of Education (page 52)
• And the article this blog is about, “History Matters” featuring Claire Hartfield’s (JD ’82) two books for young readers (but excellent for old readers too!) (page 14)

Ms. Hartfield’s “day job” was overseeing the development of school desegregation plans for the cities of Chicago and Rockfield, Illinois, and in her own words was inspired to write books to tell “some stories that were not being told, important stories.”

The first book is a children’s book entitled “Me and Uncle Romie.” It’s the story of young African – American boy who is sent by train up from rural North Carolina to Harlem in New York City (for his first time) to stay with his Uncle Romie and Aunt Nanette while his mother was toward the end of a difficult pregnancy. In addition to experiencing the fascinating sights and sounds of New York City, he started to learn more about his mysterious Uncle Romie who seemed to spend hours holed up in his art studio.

Jammin’ at the Savoy by Romare Bearden

Though initially a little frightened and unsure about his uncle, the boy grows to appreciate his uncle and his art, and eventually decides to try his own hand at being creative. NOTE: Uncle Romie is an actual person, Romare Bearden – link (1911 – 1988) who became a well-known collage-style painter residing in Harlem.

The book has an appendix at the back with instructions on how to create collage art.

The second book is geared toward teen and young adult readers, though perfect for all adults, “A Few Red Drops – The Chicago Race Riot of 1919.” On July 27, 1919, a white man threw a rock at hit and killed a teenage black boy at the beach, which exploded into several days of intense rioting that engulfed Chicago’s South Side. What is excellent about this book, is that after shortly recounting the murder, Ms. Hartfield goes through all the dynamics from the past several decades that created the environment that provided the impetus for this explosion.

Some of these factors included several societal issues that are still present in America today:
• Overcrowded and poor living conditions
• The struggles between immigrants from Europe and blacks (freed slaves and their children) moving to Chicago to seek a better life
• Business owners who were exploiting workers with long hours and low wages, and pitting the groups against each other
• Lawless gangs protecting their turf and terrorizing citizens with little intervention from law enforcement.

This thoughtful exploration of the second half of the 19th century and the early 20th of south side Chicago faithfully documents a part of history that needs to be remembered and learned from.

I thank the University of Chicago Magazine for bringing this author and her books to light, and I thank Claire Hartfield (link to Claire’s website) for gifting us with these two important literary contributions.