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Resources for Talking about Race: An Imperative for Leadership Development Programs

This past month I had the opportunity to attend the American Healing Conference in Ashville North Carolina sponsored by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.  There was a pretty amazing line up of folks doing incredible work in Baltimore, Isabel Wilkerson author of the “Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration” talked about the importance of knowing the history of the great migration and deeper story of resilience, folks from the Color of Change, BMe, United We Dream, and the Perception Institute shared stories about their work trying to change narratives and the our current reality.  Of course this is just a very modest sample of a rich three days that left me thinking about lots of things; including the role of leadership development in healing and equity. 

The conference reminded me that leadership programs can create safe spaces for people to talk about race on multiple levels.  It can be a place where people can check in with others who have a shared experience and do a gut check on actions that are being dismissed as not racially motivated or ill intended.  It’s important to have places where people can have frank conversations, talk openly about power and how to confront and or navigate power.  The events in Fergeson , Baltimore, and other cities around the US are opening this door.  These conversations are more productive when participants develop a common understanding of how race works, how racism thrives in this country, and why opportunity and advantage are not equally distributed among for example, to people of color, to the poor and working people, immigrants, and other marginalized groups. 

There are tools and resources that can help leadership programs make racial equity part of their leadership development work.  I was happy to hear Rinku Sen from Race Forward describe their Racial Justice Leadership Institute.  I had a chance to speak with Terry Keleher also from Race Forward who shared that they have been able to incorporate their institute as a segment into the broader curriculum of other leadership programs like Rockwood Leadership Institute.   It’s not necessary to start from scratch if you are not bringing race into your leadership work because there are existing resources you can tap into.  I encourage folks to reach out to Ramesh Kathanadhi at Race Forward if you are interested in their program.  He shared a link for videos on structural racism that are short and pithy and that you might be able to use:  

Sally Leiderman and Maggy Potapchuk have developed curriculum for Transforming White Privilege and are also another great resource.  I ran into Maggie at the conference and learned that she was also part of a network that has formed over the past several years.  It’s a network committed to creating a movement, building the field of people doing racial equity work, connecting the dots, deepening knowledge and my favorite “bringing the heat and the power.”  LLC has already tapped into this network and have recruited one of the participants to offer a webinar on Unconscious Bias.  I plan to join this network and think you also might find value in joining forces with this national network.  I hope you check it out,

Picture taken of Isabel Wilkerson by: Lori Villarosa and Shared Via Twitter

For a list of resources visit this post.