I have the great pleasure of working with state legislators around the country to protect and expand reproductive freedom. However, the lessons they've taught me are more than just political, they're life lessons. Here are a few of my favorites from this year.
Have you ever thought about how privileged people are, myself included, to be born into G20 countries? How lucky are we to live in countries where one can quite realistically hope and dream for a bright future? Where possibilities are seemingly endless and freedom is already in our possession? Although there are flaws in our political systems, most people here do have basic human rights, our countries have significant economic power, and we always have at least a chance for justice.
Unfortunately, many people don't have this privilege. They don't get to explore the possibilities that freedom and economic power so easily offer us. In fact, it's the polar opposite. The reality is that we, as citizens of G20 countries, exploit (consciously or not) the lack of freedom faced by others across our world all in service of our own overconsumption of consumer goods. This system—that we are actively benefiting from—is modern slavery.
As a young Black girl immigrating to the United States, a place that, from afar, I thought was the epitome of equality and fair opportunity, I would have never thought that someday I would feel the need to or have to participate in any type of protest regarding the inequality of Black people in this country.
"I have said this before, and I will say it again," Lewis said in June 2019, a year before his death at 80 years old on July 17, 2020. "The vote is precious. It is almost sacred. It is the most powerful non-violent tool we have in a democracy."
In honor of the late John Lewis, a civil rights leader, he is quoted as saying: "To those who have said, 'Be patient and wait,' we have long said that we cannot be patient. We do not want our freedom gradually, but we want to be free now! We are tired. We are tired of being beaten by policemen. We are tired of seeing our people locked up in jail over and over again.
In recent weeks we have been seeing a string of articles praising the exemplary ways that women political leaders of various nations throughout the world have been handling the COVID-19 crisis. Some of these articles suggest, overtly or tacitly, that women are simply better leaders, period.
I live the pain and stress of being black in America every day: I am a black woman, the mother of a black son, sister to black men, and aunt to my black nephews. I remember what it was like as a young girl to be afraid to go to Howard Beach for fear of being chased out. I know what it's like to walk on Liberty Avenue and be called "nigga" and being so young that I didn't understand what the word meant, I had to ask my mother. I know too well that feeling in the pit of your stomach when a police car pulls up behind you and even though you know you haven't done anything wrong you fear that your life may be in danger from what should be a simple encounter. Like all African Americans, I am tired of this burden.
As cities burn and protestors storm streets across America in reaction to the ongoing slaughter of Black and brown people by law enforcement, many have asked what my late husband, Congressman Elijah Cummings, would say in this moment. I think he would urge protesters to "focus on what they are fighting for" and not fall into the trap of letting anger and destructive actions distract from their goal.
If you aren't able to be out protesting, there are still tons of ways you can support the current movement for racial justice at home. Here is a list of resources, organizations to donate to, petitions to sign, and a number of other actions you can take from home to help support Black Lives Matter as an ally.
Risha Grant is an internationally renowned diversity, inclusion and bias expert. She is Founder & CEO of Risha Grant LLC, an award-winning diversity consulting and communications firm, as well as an edgy, educational and motivational speaker, and author of That's BS! How Bias Synapse Disrupts Inclusive Cultures.She covers these topics as NBC KJRH TV News 2 for You's community correspondent, host of the JustUs series, and through her Tulsa World column, Risha Talks. She has been featured in Forbes, The Financial Times, Off Script, Bloomberg Media, Black Enterprise, Radioactive Radio, Take the Lead Radio and WURD Radio among other podcasts, local and national media.
As the Head of Diversity and Inclusion and Cross-Cultural Marketing at Unilever, Mita's efforts to build an inclusive culture are being celebrated. Under her leadership, Unilever was named the #1 Company for Working Mothers by Working Mother Media in 2018. She also co-created the first of its kind Cultural Immersions series to increase the cultural competency of marketers training over 4,000 marketers to date.
Liz Elting, Founder and CEO of the Elizabeth Elting Foundation, is an entrepreneur, business leader, linguaphile, philanthropist, feminist, and mother. After living, studying, and working in five countries across the globe, Liz started TransPerfect out of an NYU dorm room. During her tenure as Co-CEO, she grew TransPerfect into the world's largest language solutions company, with over $600 million in revenue, 4,000+ employees, 11,000+ clients, and offices in more than 90 cities worldwide. Liz has been recognized as a NOW “Woman of Power & Influence", an Enterprising Women “Enterprising Woman of the Year," and one of Forbes' “Richest Self-Made Women."
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