As our country tackles problems that disproportionately affect communities of color, we must face the origins of these challenges head-on. And with an election year approaching, we will move our communities to action and challenge candidates of all parties to do so as well.
Who can argue against The Greenlining Institute’s vision?
“Building a nation where communities of color thrive and race is never a barrier to opportunity.”
This is the vision statement of The Greenlining Institute. It’s all good, right? As it turns out, in the times we live in right now, lots of folk might take exception to this statement.
Specifically, some are bothered by “communities of color” and “race is never a barrier.”
There are reasonable people who will argue that we, in order to create a more perfect union, need to become the nation where “everyone” thrives and there are no barriers for “anyone.” Those people would argue that a focus on the building of a nation through such a specific lens of color and race only hinders progress. They are the people who often claim to “not see race” and who replace the slogan “Black Lives Matter” with “All Lives Matter.”
I am not one of those people.
America’s racial wealth gap was created by deliberate policy choices that were based on race, and solutions that don’t consider race and ethnicity simply won’t work. As our country tackles problems that disproportionately affect communities of color, from income and wealth inequality to climate change, we must face the origins of these challenges head-on. And with an election year approaching, we must move our communities to action and challenge candidates of all parties to do so as well.
With all of that on my mind, I made a heartfelt, mindfulness-centered decision to become the next President and CEO of The Greenlining Institute. In many ways, it was an easy decision. I am all about building communities of color and I have always worked to remove barriers where I believed race, gender, ethnicity, and a wide range of challenges presented themselves and did not allow a person to be what they envision for themselves. If I could help, I did. Even sometimes at my own peril.
Now, after nearly four decades of working across multiple industries, including the private sector, public sector, activist circles, political round tables, task forces and more, I feel ready for this. I have been an insider and an outsider. My portfolio of skills along with my personal mission to live boldly and intentionally allowed me to step into many leadership roles. It’s not been easy but I’m good.
Greenlining began as an informal, multiethnic coalition of civil rights groups in the 1980s and formally incorporated as an organization in 1993, emerging as a leading advocate for racial equity. I, too, started my career in the 1980s, when I was consistently the only woman of color in many arenas and I had to demonstrate over and over that I was capable and eager to not only excel but to lead. As Greenlining was growing and advancing, I was growing and advancing. I have now honed my professional and interpersonal skills in such a way that I now can choose where and with whom I want to work. I believe I am very fortunate that the Board of Directors and staff choose me to be its next leader. And I decidedly choose Greenlining.
First and foremost, I chose Greenlining for the people. When you’ve been around as long as I have, you know that all big impacts and every major accomplishment happens because a group of people got together, focused on a common goal and decided to push forward. If you have not met or worked with the people at Greenlining, as they say in my old ‘hood, “You trippin.” After doing quite a bit of homework, I told myself if I’m lucky to be selected, I knew I wanted to work with a group of people who had its community and its people at the center of what they do each and every day.
Second, I chose Greenlining for the work it does. I thrive when challenged and what greater challenge exists today than to provide opportunity for all people of color across multiple sectors while engaging with the impact that race presents?
Third, I am a lifelong learner, defined as ongoing, voluntary, and self-motivated pursuit of knowledge for personal or professional reasons. I believe it not only enhances social inclusion, active citizenship, and personal development, but also self-sustainability, competitiveness and employability. I have much to learn in this new space and much to share.
Being a Greenliner means we are building a nation where everyone thrives and no one has barriers. To get to the “everyone” and “no one” reality, I decided to work with a dedicated, intelligent, woke team that is unabashedly and unapologetically focused on communities of color, race and all the intersectionality therein.
Debra Gore-Mann is Greenlining’s President and CEO.