By Carole Copeland Thomas, MBA, CDMP, CITM
It’s powerful, gripping and moving. It will bring tears to your eyes, while driving you to celebrate through the pain. That sums up my thoughts about the television miniseries“Roots” that aired on the History Channel in May/June 2016. For some it’s an unnecessary reminder of our past. For others it’s a troubling account of the strength and resilience of Black people who endured and survived the brutality of American slavery.
On today’s Blab show we’ll unpack the wide range of emotions with my special guest, clinical psychologist Dr. Lynda Morris Parham. She’ll help us examine why this miniseries is impossible for some to watch…while helping others to understand why race is still a thorny issue in this country.
I vividly remember getting my young family squared away at bedtime before watching every installment of Roots back in 1977. Now some 40 years later I rearranged my own personal schedule to watch this newer version that’s equally as powerful and painful at the same time. Join our conversation of our past, our present and our future through the Roots of our ancestor’s legacy.
By Carole Copeland Thomas, MBA, CDMP, CITM
Multiculturalism Vs. Diversity
Multiculturalism represents the landscape of our community as human beings. It’s a bigger concept than diversity because its very meaning requires an open platform for embracing multiple cultures, ethnic groups and ideologies within a society. Multicultural means many cultures operating in the same space. America, like other countries, is multicultural because different cultural groups maintain a meaningful co-existence within the span of 50 states. Even though there are decades of history where oppression, racism, discrimination and legislative restrictions affected one ethnic group over another, the cultural coexistence remains a vital link to our identity as Americans.
Multiculturalism demands that you coexist with others. In a truly multicultural society, one cultural group does not dominate another. The abundance theory is the prevailing rule, where society’s output is big enough for all of our cultures and ethnicities to be represented in an equally respectable manner.
We seem to fully embrace multiculturalism in food. Food seems to be one of the few cultural centers that stands on its own. Visit any mall or shopping center in any city or town and the food courts are populated by people of all walks of life. From soul food to cajun cooking, to Chinese cuisine to Indian vegetarian dishes, a typical food court presents the best argument that cultural pluralism can yield good value to any consumer’s taste buds.
On the other hand, some aspects of multiculturalism are closely guarded and tolerated only to a point. It’s fascinating to watch professionals in the workplace celebrate the worthiness of multiculturalism on the job. One would think that the level of commitment to cross cultural causes would get packed up and taken straight home to share, just like that leftover shrimp fried rice gets taken home after the party at work has ended. Instead, far too often you witness the reinforcement of cultural silos as employees head to cars, buses and trains to take them back to their neighborhoods that are all White, all Black, all Hispanic, or mostly Asian. The social conformity of our neighborhoods provide the greatest opportunity for us to breakthrough our comfort zones, venture out, and live among other cultures. It represents one of the central frontiers of true multiculturalism.
Diversity is an important byproduct of multiculturalism. It speaks to the segmentation of our societies and frames the very categories that define who we are as individuals and members of specific groups or cultural components.
I define Diversity from this perspective:
Diversity is understanding, appreciating and ultimately managing difference and similarities at the same time.
The emphasis is on the word AND. Diversity looks at both difference AND similarities, with one not being more important than the other. That’s where most people make a mistake by focusing on either one’s difference or one’s similarities without realizing that BOTH are in operation at the same time. For example, as an African American female, when speaking at conferences and meetings, I am accustomed to being “the only one,” that is, the only person of color either attending the meeting or speaking at the meeting. To focus on my difference from the rest of the conference attendees is only embracing half the experience. The other half recognizes that there are personal values, educational experiences, regional interests and industry issues that I share as similar points of intersection with those attending the same meeting. To just focus on my ethnic difference cancels out the rich value of those similarities of which I share in common with others.
Okay, let me explain it another way. Some years ago I traveled to Kenya for the first time. It was the trip of a lifetime for me. The minute I stepped off that airplane, pulled out my American passport and presented it to the customs officer at the Nairobi, Kenya Airport, my differences AND similarities were on full display with every other American on that plane. Some of the passengers had Black skin like mine. My travel mates (now known as the Kenya Sistahs) were also African American female. Some of the passengers were White Americans. Others were Hispanics while other were Asian Americans. There were Europeans, Asians and Africans on the plane, too. So the differences were on full display from ethnicity, gender and socioeconomic class. However, the similarities also represented this collection of travelers. I held an American passport, as did many others on the plane. And meeting other Americans on that maiden voyage trip to mother Africa was so very exciting, since we were all thousands of miles away from home, and it was comforting to connect with other ex-patriots from the States.
In diversity work, the similarities are as important as the differences.
Similarities are on equal footing with differences. That is so important to remember since there is an incorrect assumption that diversity is polarizing because it only focuses on differences at the expense of similarities.
You see it in families all the time. Brothers and sisters with the same biological parents, yet their values and opinions are as different as night and day. I see it in my own adult daughters, Michelle and Lorna. Their political, spiritual and economic opinions are very similar. However, their work habits, approach to preparation and personalities completely different.
The same is true for extended families, members of associations and corporate colleagues. The differences should be valued with the same level of importance as the similarities. They represent a different slice of the diversity equation.
Take advantage of the countless situations that can frame your multicultural and diversity points of reference. It can become a lifelong opportunity for you to enhance your knowledge base while building cross-cultural relationships that can have a positive impact on your life.
Carole Copeland Thomas has been a diversity professional speaking, training and consulting on global diversity, multiculturalism and inclusion for 29 years.
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Carole Copeland Thomas' Radio Program
Broadcast Live on June 19, 2014
On June 19, 1865, emancipation was finally granted to the remaining slaves in the rebellious state of Texas. Two and a half years after Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves in the confederate states, the hold out White plantation owners grudgingly and reluctantly gave in to the pressures of the US government, but held onto the racial hatred embedded in their hearts.
Fast forward to 2006, a short eight years ago, when Black financial tycoon, Mellody Hobson, was mistaken for kitchen help while in New York City on a campaign fundraising trip for Harold Ford. The manager who made that awful blunder needed to clean out the cobwebs and realize that Black people have significantly advanced since the rough-shod days of our Civil War past.
Mellody recently created a TED Talk about her experience, urging her audience to move from being color blind to becoming color brave. We’ll talk about this lingering issue with veteran consultant and former Chair of the National Black MBA Association Bill Wells, Jr.
It’s an American issue that simply won’t go away.
Your comments are welcome below.
How AME India Was Founded
by Carole Copeland Thomas, MBA, CDMP
by Carole Copeland Thomas, MBA, CDMP
The adventure of traveling to India as an exchange student would have been enough excitement for most seminary students. However, for (now) Rev. Karla Cooper it became a door-opener to a much larger launch into AME history. The African Methodist Episcopal Church (www.ame-church.com) founded in 1787 by freed slaves, has always been a global outreach denomination. With churches in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean, Central/South America, Europe and Africa its membership of 2.5 million represents one of the oldest historically Black denominations in the United States.
Asia, however, was always a distant outpost with few opportunities to save souls in that region of the world until 2003 when the door opened even wider for this mainstream church organization. That was the year seminary exchange student Karla Cooper met and formed a friendship with another student at Gurukul Theological Seminary in Chennai: Indian born Rev. Minnie Sarah (Peddiny). Rev. Cooper shared church history with Rev. Sarah and told of the visionary leadership of the church’s co-founder, ex-slave and first elected and consecrated bishop Richard Allen. It was a match made in Heaven.
At that time Rev. Sarah and her husband, Rev. Abraham Peddiny, were shepherding a dozen or more independent “family churches” in India, especially Southern India. Many of the members were Dalits, one of the lowest categories in India’s long history of the caste system. Many were also dark skinned Indians, making it difficult to advance the socio-economic ladder in an ancient and complex social system. When the Richard Allen story was shared with Rev. Sarah, her husband and others, the similarities were too remarkable to ignore. Slaves purchasing their freedom to become entrepreneurs, business leaders, abolitionists and church leaders in an independent Christian denomination. Marginalized dark skinned Indians looking for respect and dignity in a nation that systematically overlooked their humanity.
From 2003-2007 the idea was floated to invite the Indian churches into the fold of the AME Church. By 2008 when the AME General Conference was held, the church voted to accept the 20 Indian churches into the AME Church. Originally a part of the Fifth Episcopal District “AME India” was shifted to the Fourth Episcopal District at the 2012 General Conference under the guidance of their original executive sponsors and advocates Bishop John and Rev. Cecilia Bryant. Rev Sarah and her husband were to become the AME Church’s first Presiding Elder couple.
In less than seven years AME-India has grown from 20 to 105 churches located across India. Their commitment to Christ is unwavering and their devotion to their brothers and sisters throughout the denomination is unquestionable. AME India is one of the fastest growing regions in the entire denomination. The combined cultures, traditions and vision form one of the most unique collaborations in modern church history.
Gratitude is paid to two classmates from different parts of the world who were nurtured and supported by a Bishop and his wife who valued and respected the global outreach of the teachings of Jesus Christ.
In May 2014 a group of 40 AMEs from US, Canada and South Africa attended the Fifth Anniversary of AME India. The week long trip included the Annual Conference attended by more than 200 members of AME India from around the country, a visit to one of the AME India churches and a mission visit to an orphanage in Channai, Tamilnadu. This all took place during the conclusion of the India national elections, the largest democratically held election in world history.
I will have complete photos and details from the 2014 AME-India Annual Conference in the coming days at www.tellcarole.com.
By Carole Copeland Thomas
Necessity Is The Mother Of Invention.
Black people have always been inventive, creative and industrious. Go on any African street corner today and you’ll find talented entrepreneurs selling, making and distributing their wares. That talent was expanded as Blacks were exported, sold and enslaved to distant shores. This industriousness continued in America where discrimination, slavery and Jim Crow never stomped out the willpower of Black people to create businesses.
Fast forward to today’s Black economic trail and we celebrated several entrepreneurs at the February 11th Black History Breakfast held at the University of Massachusetts Boston Campus. Our keynote speaker was Beth Williams, President and CEO of Roxbury Technology. She stepped in her father’s business after his sudden death in 2002 and transformed it into the LARGEST African American female owned business in Boston.
Read her profile and you’ll see why she’s so successful. We salute Beth Williams and ALL of the African American owned businesses during Black History Month.
* * *
Beth Williams is the President and CEO of Roxbury Technology LLC (RTC), a
Boston based remanufacturer of sustainable and environmentally friendly, imaging supplies, products, services and solutions.
After graduating from Brown University, Beth began her career working as a Production Control Manager in one of her father’s earlier companies, Freedom Electronics. After 3 years of training and guidance from her father, she decided to expand her practical knowledge and experience inside a major corporation. Beth joined Raytheon Company’s Missile Systems division as a sub‐contract administrator and small minority business liaison officer. After 5 years at Raytheon and a desire to move into a more impactful role serving as a conduit for women and minority entrepreneurs and large corporations, she left Raytheon to join Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts procurement team and soon thereafter became the Director of Business Diversity for BCBSMA. Then, upon her father’s sudden death in 2002, Beth left Blue Cross Blue Shield to succeed her father as President and CEO of his 8 year old distribution business, Roxbury Technology Corporation.
Roxbury Technology is a remanufacturer of sustainable printing solutions that are good for the environment, the economy and the customer’s bottom line. More importantly however, is Beth’s commitment to being a socially responsible entrepreneur. She is driven by her social mission and that is to provide good, wage earning jobs to people who are far too often left out of the system. She is strongly committed to providing second chances to not only her products, but to people as well. She has been a long time supporter of CORI reform and more than 15 percent of her work force are ex-offenders, ex-gang members, etc.. Her belief is that “desperate people do desperate things and we all deserve a second chance and unless given an opportunity to change, we only perpetuate a cycle of dysfunction and ultimately a cost to us all. We either pay them or pay for them”.
Being driven by that philosophy, in her role as President & CEO, Beth served as the catalyst to RTC’s successful transformation from being solely a distributor of toner cartridges to becoming a manufacturer of toner and ink cartridges, resulting in strong revenue growth and profit portfolios. Today, RTC is a strategic diversity partner of Staples, Inc. and is their preferred supplier of their DPS brand remanufactured toner and ink imaging supplies.
RTC has a strong base of direct customers as well; most recently being awarded the m/wbe subcontractor and supplier of imaging supplies to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
RTC is the largest African American female owned business in Boston.
Her greatest pride and accomplishment is her 19 year old son who’s academic and athletic accomplishments far surpass any job, award or recognition she could ever receive.
by Carole Copeland Thomas
As we celebrate what would have been Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 85th birthday, here are my thoughts:
Dr. King would marvel at the election and reelection of our first Black president...but would cringe at the racial backlash President Obama has received since being in office.
Dr. King would celebrate the 49th Anniversary of the Voting Rights Act...but would cringe at the new voter suppression laws around the country and the countless Americans/African Americans who are too lazy to vote.
Dr. King would applaud the numerous business giants in the Black community, but would cringe at the wealth gap between Whites and people of color.
Dr. King would want to shake the hand of every educational achiever, but would cringe at the achievement gap among urban youth in the US and beyond.
These are four areas of opportunity and concern from a “King” perspective.
Below are 10 Useful Websites to help you go AND grow in personal and professional success.
10 Useful Websites
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