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Giving a hand, making a difference

When BLOCC reached out to me to sit on The Building Black Legacy panel at The University of Pennsylvania, I knew I had to do everything in my powers to be there that day. The panel was an opportunity to connect with individuals in the broader community and students from many different universities. They were bringing together over 400 black millennials from across the nation for a weekend of networking, shared wisdom, and powerful resources. With the mission to eliminate the black collegiate unemployment rate and bridge the gap between standout talent and companies. The purpose is to connect the students to the resources, connections, and opportunities.

It was one of my proudest moments to be able to come to The University of Pennsylvania to speak with students about a variety of topics, especially students who looked like me. It was a great opportunity to connect with other up and coming minorities from various backgrounds. I hope I was able to say what they needed to hear and could use to change their life.

I was chosen to speak on the Finance and Consulting panel because of my experience in the industry. Then I would later find out I would be sitting on the panel with my brother from Girard College and a very good friend of mine Omar T. Woodard the Executive Director of the GreenLight Philadelphia.


Minorities in the workforce

During the panel discussion, I focused on life as a minority working in corporate and the challenges that I’ve faced. Look.. We’re not quite there yet as a nation. My mother used to always tell me, doing the same as my white peers would never be enough, I would have to work twice as hard and then go above and beyond on top of that just to make an impact. However, my message was clear and direct today; you can succeed in corporate America. My story might not be their story and my challenges might not be their challenges but if they are faced, it gives those coming behind you more courage and determination to change the future working environments and culture.

Companies often times applaud themselves for having a diverse and inclusive working environment however from personal experience that’s not always the case. Sometimes I do question whether it’s a marketing tactic or they actually walk the walk. I have friends from prominent tech companies and other industries that tell me all the time they don’t feel welcomed at their jobs. Often times, we discuss how when something happens outside of work that affects a community (such as the many shootings of African Americans this past year) we have a difficult time not allowing it to affect us in the workplace because the issue is so dear to our hearts. It’s simple, we are afraid it can happen to us. Being told it doesn’t matter leaves us with a pain in our stomach that we can’t fathom and we feel trapped because there’s no place for us to go and no one who cares enough to listen.

To know that they might not feel safe, especially from individuals of color who’ve come so far along from home to be in a place where they’re not already wanted or welcomed. There’s still a lot of education that needs happen to inform the workplace on how they can combat these issues and make their peers, employees, and friends feel safe. Looking into the future and being optimistic I hope we can all get their together.

What are some suggestions to help make the workplace more inclusive? Have you ever had a time where you didn’t feel like you belonged? I’m really interested in hearing your stories and engaging in the comments below.

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