This letter by Michelle Gethers-Clark, United Way of Greater Greensboro President & CEO, was originally published in the Triad Business Journal, here.
Where do we go from here?
Our desire to move forward and do something to help can be paralyzed by too many options or not knowing where to start. The issues of race, equity and justice date back to 1619. The recent coronavirus pandemic and its extreme impact on communities of color taken together with the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery bring into sharp focus how racism manifests itself in the daily lives of black and brown communities.
I am the child of a family from rural South Carolina. My family had no formal education and earned a living share cropping and cleaning houses before migrating to New York City for a chance at the American dream. I am the first generation to finish high school, go to college and live my own dreams of a finding a good job, buying a home in the neighborhood of my choice, and creating opportunities for my own children.
And while I was able to climb the corporate ladder, become an executive at American Express, and now serve as president and CEO of United Way of Greater Greensboro, my family is still not immune to racism or harassment. In fact, even though my son will graduate from Stanford University on June 14, there are still systems in place that would put him in a jumpsuit rather than in a business suit. This is a harsh reality, and a reality I cannot avoid.
So again, where do we go from here?
No single leader, corporation or organization has all the explanations, ideas or solutions. Our community needs leaders of all ages, ethnicities and sectors to clear the path for learning, listening, getting involved, and taking action together. We all benefit by seeing ourselves as one community and acting as one community. Personal engagement of leaders combined with creating operating policies to address race, equity and injustice will give black and brown communities opportunities to succeed.
United Way of Greater Greensboro hosted a community conversation on June 5, and I am proud to say that our community is full of people who are looking to collaborate on the path forward.
As leaders we can clear the path for our community to build solutions. Let’s work together…