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Black History Month: How You Can Promote Diversity

As you may know, February is Black History Month. While we should constantly work towards becoming more culturally competent, this month provides a great opportunity for us to educate ourselves on notable people of color in the business world, as well as find locally owned black businesses you can buy from. The first step in addressing the disparity between people of color and white people is to become aware of these disparities in your everyday life. The next step is to take part in making a change, which can be done through donating. Of course, you shouldn’t only support black owned businesses during February and should continue to support them throughout the year!

First Step: Know the Statistics

Despite increases in diversity education throughout the years, there are only five black Americans on the Fortune 500 CEO list. These include Marvin Ellison, Kenneth Frazier, Roger Ferguson, René Jones, and Jide Zeitlin. These five CEOs make up only 1% of the Fortune 500, despite 37% of the population in the US being people of color. There have only been 18 black CEOs on the Fortune 500. Clearly, there is still racial inequality in the United States.

Educate: Notable People of Color

Looking back in time, Robert Johnson and Sheila Johnson were the first black billionaires in America. They hit the jackpot when they sold Black Entertainment Television (BET) to Viacom for $2.9 billion. As for the CEO side, Janice Bryant Howroyd was the first woman of color to create a company that brought in $1 billion in annual revenue. She is the founder and CEO of an employment agency known as Act 1 Group. She impressively grew her company solely from word of mouth.

Robert and Sheila Johnson

Today, Oprah Winfrey is the richest black American in the United States, with her net worth at $3.5 billion. Her first TV job was as a new anchor, where she was randomly fired. Her boss told her, ‘She wasn’t made for TV”. She, however, went on to star in The Oprah Winfrey Show. Now she is the CEO of Harpo Inc, has launched her own magazine, and owns 10% stake in Weight Watchers. Another notable person of color in the business world is Daymond John from Shark Tank. He is also the founder and CEO of Blueprint+Co and the main investor and CEO of his own clothing line, Fubu. These are only a few of the notable people of color in the business world.

Oprah Winfrey

Daymond John

Action: Donate to Worthy Causes

Now that you know a little bit about the history of black people in business, what are some black owned businesses you can donate your money? If you attended the first monthly meeting of the semester, CWIB provided a link tree to three great businesses: the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, Black Girls CODE, and The Sentencing Project. If every CWIB member donated only $1 to any of these organizations, together we could make a monumental difference!

Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF)

Donation Link:

The Thurgood Marshall College Fund is a national non-profit organization set up to help students of color be able to attend college. TMCF even helps these students to find internships and job opportunities once they graduate. Countless data statistics have shown that people of color generally have higher rates of poverty than other races. Regardless of how much money you are born into, every student deserves the opportunity to get a good education. Using a combination of scholarships, capacity building and research initiatives, innovative programs, and strategic partnerships, the Thurgood Marshall College Fund can support black students throughout their education experience.

Black Girls CODE

Donation Link:

Black Girls CODE was created in 2011 by Kimberly Bryant. Growing up, Kimberly always enjoyed coding, but she was always sad to see that she didn’t look like any of the other girls in her classes. She created Black Girls Code to introduce young black girls to different technologies and computer programs that employers expect their job candidates to be able to properly use. Black Girls CODE hosts workshops for students after school where they can work with computer programs such as Scratch or Ruby on Rails. There is a lack of people of color in STEM majors and careers, which is most likely due to the lack of their availability to access technology. Kimberly hopes that by teaching these skills to students at a young age, they will be able to grasp the material quicker and decide what they want to do when they grow up. Their long-term goal is to train one million girls how to code by 2040.

The Sentencing Project

Donation Link:

The Sentencing Project has been around for thirty years. Their mission is to advocate for a fair and effective criminal justice system in the United States. They do this by conducting research to encourage reforms in sentencing policy, addressing unjust racial disparities, and advocating for alternatives to incarceration. The United States has the most people incarcerated than any other country in the world. 1 and 6 Latino men born in the U.S. can expect to go to prison in their lifetime. Not only are people of color more likely to go to prison, but they’re also more likely to receive a longer sentence. People of color makeup 37% of the U.S. population, but 67% of the incarcerated population. The U.S. has started being tougher on crime, leading to more people serving lifelong sentences in prison. Research has shown, however, that incarceration isn’t the most effective reform. Many people will end up back in prison in less than a year of their release date. The Sentencing Project works to make people more aware of the implicit bias and racial prejudice in the criminal justice system, as well as advocates for steps to make it easier for people released from prison to return to their normal lives.

There are clearly still gaps in the living conditions and opportunities for people of color compared with white people. The first step in overcoming this is to educate yourself on the issue and find ways you can make a change in your everyday life to make this gap smaller. Whether you do this by donating once a month to one of the nonprofits mentioned earlier, or you do this by finding black owned products to start buying, any small change will help promote diversity in the United States!

By: Allison Gray

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