Please describe your current and/or previous roles that relate to your work for justice and equality.
My decision to work in the diversity, equity and inclusion space was influenced by my personal experiences as a Black woman of Caribbean descent. I knew that I wanted to help individuals, particularly those from underrepresented backgrounds, navigate work spaces where they were in the numerical minority. After a career in law I served as a Career Advisor at Columbia Law School and worked with students from a broad array of backgrounds to help them define their career goals and prepare for successful law practice. I also worked for a boutique Diversity Consulting Firm where I advised clients on their Diversity Equity and Inclusion strategic plans and conducted trainings on topics such as inclusion and unconscious bias. For the last four years I’ve worked as an internal DEI practitioner focusing on helping drive equity in representation, hiring, and progression as well as building inclusive work cultures where employees experience a strong sense of belonging.
What about your work brings you the most joy and gives you the most pride?
I am often called on to provide insights and strategic consultation as well as help navigate conversations around race and equity, but it brings me such pleasure when I sit in a room or I’m on a call and rather than seeking my commentary or insights first, individuals and particularly leaders take the initiative to challenge assumptions and biases they observe, ask the sometimes uncomfortable questions, or step up as advocates for underrepresented groups. I smile internally because it’s in these moments that I know that the work I’ve done to build awareness and empower individuals to take action and show up has taken root.
What is your most meaningful moment or significant accomplishment as it relates to your work for justice and equality?
A few years ago I facilitated a seminar on unconscious bias. It was a mandatory session and sometimes participants are a bit skeptical about attending mandatory DEI seminars. There was one participant who sat in the back of the class with arms crossed and had a stoic expression on their face throughout the seminar. At the end of the seminar the participant approached the front of the classroom and shared, “I didn’t know what to expect from this seminar, but I really learned a lot. I realized that I’ve been engaging in some of the behaviors that undermine inclusion, and I really want to take steps to correct this.” This may seem insignificant, but it was really meaningful because this participant was vulnerable about his missteps and expressed genuine interest in doing the work to change his behavior. Too often in the DEI space individuals are not willing to be introspective and feelings of guilt and apathy become roadblocks to engaging in behavior change.
What is the greatest hurdle you’ve had to overcome as it relates to your work for justice and equality?
The greatest hurdle I face as a practitioner in this space is how to enable behavior change. For there to be sustained impact individuals not only need to be aware of how their personal biases and systemic racism creates inequity in this country and the workplace but also need to be intentional and courageous about the small and big actions they take every single day to promote equity. But, behavior change is not always easy.
How do you empower those around you?
There is so much fear in getting this work wrong or saying the wrong thing. I remind people that you aren’t always going to get it right, you are going to stumble but if you do stumble, get back up, apologize, and don’t get stuck. Use your mistake or misstep as a learning opportunity. Be proactive in educating yourself and recognize that there are a million micro moments every single day that you have an opportunity to show up and take action.
What short phrase would you offer others to inspire them to have hope and/or to take action?
“If not me, then who?” Too often we look to others to do the seemingly hard and uncomfortable work. And more often than not individuals in marginalized groups bear the burden of racial equity work. I encourage everyone to identify the individual commitments they will make to move this work forward—and follow through!
How has this summer’s civil unrest and calls for equity impacted you?
My work has always been and will continue to be centered on creating equity in representation, advancement and experiences, but I am seeing a heightened focus around the topic of allyship. In my role, I’m very much focused on helping individuals understand that allyship is an act and the importance of using their platform, position and privilege to advocate for marginalized voices. From a personal perspective it’s been challenging at times as I balance being a Black woman during this momentous time and working as a DEI practitioner. I’ve learned that I have to be very intentional about carving out space to take care of myself and allow myself to process my ever evolving emotions of grief, excitement, anger, and hope.
How has your perspective changed since the time you were a Lafayette student?
While there is currently a heightened focus on racial equity and injustice, these issues aren’t new. As a student I had to navigate being in many spaces where no-one looked like me and where people made assumptions about me based on my race. It wasn’t always easy. I was fortunate to be a member of the Association of Black Collegians which served as a lifeline for me during my time at Lafayette. I was recently pleased to see the commitments that Lafayette has made to addressing racial injustice. My hope is that the college continues to center the experiences, perspectives and voices of the most marginalized and that these efforts aren’t one and done. It’s incredibly important that the Lafayette community band together to ensure that Lafayette is an institution that is representative from its faculty to its staff to its student body and also ensure that students from underrepresented groups have equal access to educational opportunities and feel like they truly belong on College Hill.