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Conventional diversity initiatives tend to focus on inclusion and engagement that can sometimes appear performative. Some companies donate in the millions to show solidarity while others hashtag the latest trending movement. The police killing of George Floyd and the protests that have continued since has inspired companies, from Apple, PepsiCo, LEGO to college institutions, to take a different approach, with a renewed focus to bolster relationships with the communities they interact with. Some are now partnering with local leaders to begin working towards substantive goals.

“Investing resources and building partnerships between Black and Brown communities and corporations that are not exploitative, but are truly generative, that’s lasting change,” Dr. Laura Morgan Roberts, author of “Race, Work and Leadership: New Perspectives on the Black Experience” and a business professor at the University of Virginia, said.

 “It’s helping to build businesses and business owners who are from the community, and will continue to serve that community and extend beyond that community,” Roberts explained.

A study found that organizations with an effective corporate social responsibility program are more profitable than those that are ineffective. Beyond engaging with corporate boards on conversations about racism and how it manifests throughout the organization, says Dr. Roberts, committing to sustainable change in disenfranchised communities is a tangible way to turn that responsibility into real action. More companies are now looking to make lasting changes poised to impact the culture, work environment, and African Americans. And to accomplish this, they are looking to community leaders.

Alicia Garza, Tamika Mallory, and Melissa Harris-Perry are among the activists SheaMoisture has tapped as advisory council members to their Social Justice Coalition. The advocacy campaign, a direct response to racial injustices, is dedicated to supporting Black women-led social entrepreneurs and will infuse a total of $100,000 to five local activists fighting for social change.

Uber is committing millions to police reform to make criminal justice in America more just for all. They donated $1 million to the Equal Justice Initiative and the Center for Policing Equity—working closely with Dr. Phillip Atiba Goff, the co-founder of the policing equity group, and Bryan Stevenson of EJI. “Uber stands in solidarity with the Black community and with peaceful protests against the injustice and racism that have plagued our nation for too long,” Uber’s CEO Dara Khosrowshahi tweeted following their donation to both groups. “My hope is that if each of us recommits to doing all we can to counter bigotry wherever we see it, change will follow.”

Verizon announced a similar effort, donating $10 million to seven social justice groups, including the National Urban League, the NAACP, Rainbow Push Coalition, and Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights. “The events unfolding across the country that are rooted in hate are contradictory with our beliefs as a company and leave me with a feeling of regret and sadness,” said CEO and Chairman Hans Vestberg in a statement following the announcement. “I am hopeful that the rest of the country will come to understand that valuing everyone equally is the best way forward. We cannot commit to a brand purpose of moving the world forward unless we are committed to helping ensure we move it forward for everyone. We stand united as one Verizon.” The groups chosen are embedded in and committed to underserved communities, strengthening local leadership and civic engagement.

In addition to investing in Black communities, some white executives are also creating space for people of color. Alex Ohanian, who is married to Serena Williams and is the co-founder of Reddit, stepped down from his board. He wants his seat filled by a Black candidate, saying in his announcement that he’s also committing all his future Reddit stock gains to invest in Black communities “chiefly to curb racial hate,” beginning with a $1 million pledge to Know Your Rights Camp, an organization founded by former NFL player and activist Colin Kaepernick. “I believe resignation can actually be an act of leadership from people in power right now,” Ohanian added, “To everyone fighting to fix our broken nation: do not stop.”

Such investments can only help to elevate more local leaders, says Dr. Roberts, to have more access to resources to grow their businesses and neighborhoods. “So it’s not indefinite charity. It truly is an investment in a business partnership.” A minority-owned or ran business is empowerment, which she says is lasting change. “The economic resources now available help build other forms of capital that develop and advance families and communities.”

Rita Omokha is a New York-based writer who writes about culture, news, and politics. Twitter Instagram


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