What’s An Ally To Do: Embracing Diversity Months

Allyship is challenging and difficult. But isn’t the popular diversity training statement “Get comfortable with being uncomfortable”?

As an ally, you want to be respectful, inclusive, and promote diversity. You will need all sorts of tools to help from the most recent research and data and the skills to know when and how to address micro-aggressions made in your presence.

I want to collect thoughts that help allies to better understand diversity and inclusion and to have conversations with friends and colleagues who are open to listening about diversity but haven’t yet identified as allies. I want to help allies navigate the day to day. Therefore, in my blogs under the title “What’s an Ally To Do?”, allies will find short writings on specific topics for those purposes.

Embracing Diversity Months

The top diversity hashtags and topics in February and March are Black History Month and Women’s History Month. In fact, almost every month there is a celebration of a diverse group. In our inaugural “What’s an Ally To Do?” blog, let’s discuss embracing diversity months.

Inevitably, someone will imply that Black History Month is for Blacks only or identify a roster of only women to send to the Women in Leadership Symposium. Are they well-intentioned? Maybe. But the impacts are harmful at worst and neutral at best to promoting diversity and inclusion.

An Ally’s embrace is important. Allies should ask a member of the identity group the proper decorum to ensure they are respectful. (Google can be consulted as a last resort.)

Allies can help by understanding that Black History, Women History, Hispanic History, and any history that acknowledges the accomplishments of minorities and marginalized groups is American History. Collectively, diversity months are a calling for national recognition that the achievements of these Americans contributed to greatness of the United States. They are an affirmation of our nation’s diversity, a call for inclusion, and an opportunity for every American to extend a welcoming embrace.

A welcoming embrace is important, and allies should consult a member of the identity group for the proper decorum to determine what that embrace should be. Allies should only consult Google as a last resort.

As a Black woman, in March, I want my allies to learn more about the contributions of Black women and women of color. Then I want them to post, like, share, tweet, and most importantly talk about them in workplace. I want to normalize the image and perception that Black women and women of color are positive achievers. That’s what a Women’s History embrace feels like for me.

Other women may have other ways for allies to embrace Women’s History Month. It is recommended that the allies ask the women they interact with at home and work on daily basis how they can support Women’s History Month. That’s where the ally can an immediate and visible impact.

Embracing diversity month celebrations is what an ally can do.

#BlackHistoryMonth

Embracing Inclusion

Embracing Inclusion is the EI (Emotional Intelligence) of Leadership for 2021. It consists of three principles.

1. Learn.

2. Practice.

3. Share.

How do we bring these principles together?

1. We must learn about others. We must learn who they are and what are their experiences.

2. We must practice appreciation for who they are. We do not need them to assimilate and or ask they erase their identity. We must practice respect for their otherness and create a space that is large enough to welcome the existence of our differences. We must honor human equality of all and protect the basic alienable rights of all. We practice coexistence, collaboration, and community.

3. We must share what we learn and what we practice. Our lessons are for our individual growth but for our common growth as well.

“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

Blogging: My 2021 Commitment

I haven’t blogged much this year. However, I have written a lot. I wrote and published many posts and published articles and a book. I’ve made more than a few short entries that could have been posted as blogs, but I found that I lacked commitment and dedication to take those steps. I felt that blogging did not fit in my 2020 identity of who I wanted to be. It was definitely something I felt I could do. I had proven that in 2019 and when I first posted. In 2019, blogging excited me.

The Excitement Wanes

The excitement began to wane. I didn’t like editing. I didn’t like the tech parts to post the blogs. Moreover, I did not like the lack of responses. I never found a niche topic. I was interested in so many things: Artist dates, diversity, uplifting others, and the list goes on. I never quite found my community.

Blogging just was not 2020 Zen. I did not identify and resonate with blogging to maintain a long term commitment. I even shared with my close friend how I felt that I was falling out of love with preparing a Sunday morning blog. But I never shared my feelings on paper and got clarity. Our relationship went on a hiatus even before the Covid-19 pandemic hit.

It is unfair to leave this relationship unsettled as we head into a new year. It’s complicated. Blogging was that first small step —the initial public exposure, the willing vulnerability that ignited my passion for telling more stories. Blogging opened the door for other writing. I am grateful for blogging, but I am not a blogger. I am a writer who may blog when that feels like the appropriate platform.

My 2021 Commitment to Blogging

Afternoon Writing Break

Hence for 2021, I’m not making any promises around blogging. This may be my last tryst with blogging or If I go onward, I don’t know how often I will post or if it will be on one topic or hundreds. I want my self-expression and freedom to be who I am as a writer. That is my priority and the vision I’m willing to lean into for 2021.

By the way, my book is Coffee and Conversations: Inclusion and Belonging. It’s available on Amazon. You may order copies at https://www.amazon.com/Coffee-Conversations-Esq-Zenell-Brown/dp/1734086548

Coffee and Conversations Book Cover

You’ve Gotta Have Artist Dates

If you are a person who gives your goals 100 percent of effort, you must take breaks to ensure you recharge and refuel.

I looked up from the work on my desk last Friday and left town. I’m in the Amen Corner when it comes to Artist Dates. I use every time out of town as an opportunity for Artist Dates.

Julia Cameron describes the Artist Date: “The Artist Date is a once-weekly, festive, solo expedition to explore something that interests you. The Artist Date need not be overtly “artistic” … art is about the play of ideas, they feed our creative work by replenishing our inner well of images and inspiration.”

I’ve filled up on Artist Dates:

Art

The Harvey B. Gant Center of African American Art: I hung out with the Stroller Tour, moms and dads pushing toddlers around museum. You are never too young or old to enjoy art.

Bryon Wilson’s Naturally Speaking #1

Adventure & Fun

The NASCAR Hall of Fame was a good time. I’m not a race car enthusiast. I failed and crashed out on the Qualifying Simulation.

NASCAR Fun

However, the history of NASCAR Ann France, the wife of NASCAR’s founder Big Bill caught my attention. In the midst of all the men, she managed the finances with an adding machine and cigar box to hold the loot in the infancy of bringing racing to the masses. I imaged her as a spirited woman thriving in this space dominated by men.

Whimsical Art

The second leg of my trip was Naples, Florida. I enjoyed 20 minutes touring a small gallery and was introduced to Hurt Slomen and his bunnies. The gallery assistant welcomed my intrusion and shared that history of Slomen who uses acrylic, resin, and crushes glass to render bunny and butterflies art with price tags of $20,000.

A Hurt Slomen’s Bunny

A little light on cash to make a purchase, I enjoyed the opportunity to take a photo of the an infamous bunny.

I also enjoyed the Hoffman’s The Naples Sculpture installation “The Dash” by Kevin Barrett. Shiny and beautiful abstract.

Dash by Kevin Barrett

Back to The 9-5

As I pack to head back to Detroit, I feel relaxed, restored, and refreshed. I’ve explored and reflected. Ready for work and to give 100%! “You Gotta Have Artist Dates.”

A Personal Inventory Project

The beginning of the year is a good time to take inventory of who we are: our likes, dislikes, strengths, weaknesses. Our personal inventory can remind us or offer insights into our values and what we really want out of the next 12 months and help us chart our course. JJ was willing to share his personal inventory with us today. JJ and I share a mutual interest in volunteerism. We’ve worked on projects serving the homeless and recognizing Women’s History. And, we also share a mutual liking for sparkling juices. I hope you leave this middle-schooler a few words of encourages and I hope he inspires you to grab a pen a complete your own personal inventory.

JJ’s Personal Inventory Project

I believe I have a lot of personal strengths. I am really good at Social Studies, and I like it. I play hockey and I’m great at that also. I’m well liked, and I have a group of friends. All of these things make me the person I am.

I wouldn’t be where I am right now if I didn’t have the support of my parents and grandparents. With their help they made me into a leader, and set me up to make sure that I always do my homework, so I get better at subjects in school. Even though I may not like ELA, I am still pretty good at it. One thing about ELA that I like is reading, I’m always ready to read. 

In my free time I like to play video games. I believe that’s a strength because it ups your reaction time and lets you unwind. I also become better at reading and listening because I have to read subtitles and follow the story by listening to characters talk. I believe relaxing alone is a strength for me because it allows me to regain my energy by doing what I want to do, and not having to worry about the needs of other people.

Eating is a strength for me because it allows me to get my nutrients, especially when I eat delicious food. Having a balanced diet is a strength for me. I love to eat vegetables and meat, especially steak. I love to have steak.

I have a lot of strengths and some I’m able to capitalize more on. When I capitalize on my strengths, I gain confidence in myself and I’m able to do some things I wouldn’t if I didn’t have those strengths.

Meet JJ