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DEI / Workplace culture

One year after mass protests for racial justice, the words from these 15 Black leaders’ stories still resonate

Look back to June 2020 for a reminder that the work of dismantling systemic racism and confronting anti-Blackness is far from over.

George Floyd memorials in (clockwise from top left) Denver; Minneapolis; Portland, Maine; and Houston. (Photos by mana5280, munshots, Mercedes Mehling, and Josh Olalde on Unsplash; image compiled by Generocity)

This editorial article is a part of Tech for the Common Good Month of's editorial calendar. This month’s theme is underwritten by Verizon 5G. This story was independently reported and not reviewed by Verizon before publication.

George Floyd’s murder on May 25, 2020, in Minneapolis sparked nationwide protests, as Black Americans led the call demanding accountability for police brutality. His killer, former police officer Derek Chauvin, was eventually convicted. But the longstanding work for racial justice in the United States continues.

In the days and months that followed, at, we ran many stories emerging from the uprising that followed Floyd’s death, and later, Walter Wallace Jr.’s killing in Philadelphia. Looking back, it is striking that the reflections remain so resonant and retain so much of their urgency.

We know that the work of dismantling systemic racism and confronting anti-Blackness is far from over, but these words stand to remind us that there is no more important work to be done our city and our nation.

We dove into our archives from June 2020 to pick the 15 pieces we’ve excerpted here. These local Black voices are worth reading in their entirety, so we’ve linked the original headlines for you.


“If we can all agree that being black is not easy, we should similarly agree that being black and being a founder is at least twice as hard.

Here’s why. As an entrepreneur, one of the most challenging aspects is the constant struggle to explain how racial biases challenge your experiences, particularly with fundraising. The offenses aren’t as clear as being choked by police as George Floyd was, or hunted down as Ahmaud Arbery was, or even profiled as Christian Cooper was in Central Park by Amy Cooper. But they are there.”


“We have to collectively dismantle racism to truly progress this country forward.

We’ve seen tech CEOs from large firms publicly speak out against injustice, and we are calling on Philly’s startup community to do the same. We’ve already seen great examples from local leaders and encourage more to use their platform and privilege to raise awareness and commit to transformative change.

To start: Educate yourself on the history of Black people in America, understand where riots stem from, check your privilege and fragility, have hard and uncomfortable conversations with your network, and make your staff/board/portfolio more racially diverse.”


“We’ve been here one too many times.

We live in a racist society. I don’t say that to accuse anyone of anything. But I think most of us have known this fact since we were old enough to comprehend language. That racism presents itself in many different ways. From jokes about race from ‘good’ people trying to show they’re colorblind, to police officers feeling perfectly fine with killing unarmed black men, on camera, for the world to see, without a hint of empathy or humanity.”


“We’re flipping the script, and refusing to play a supporting role in your diversity theater.

Please don’t be fooled, this isn’t just another op-ed on having difficult conversations about race in the workplace. This is an ultimatum.

This is about creating lasting change for generations to come. It’s about holding everyone responsible, and no individual, organization or corporation will be spared from full accountability. If you’re not an active contributor in the building of a more equitable entrepreneurship ecosystem, you do not deserve to benefit from our contributions to it.”


“Current events have offered us all much food for thought around race — and the restrictions on travel and interactions have left many of us with a lot of time for reflection.

More than ever, I find myself thinking about the intersectional nature of my work as an advocate for women in technology. I was planning to sit down to write a piece about working in technology as a person of color, but I find that I can’t separate it from my experience of being a woman — a woman of color in a field full of men.”


“We do not need to return to normal.

By now, we have all received similar messages in our inboxes, from our banks to our smoothie shops, stating “We stand in solidarity with Black communities everywhere.” Companies want to be visibly on the right side of history, and people do, too. But what happens the day after, the week after, the month after, and so on? We seem to be passionately heated in the moment, but are failing to move the needle on this cause. As the list of hashtags grows longer and we become desensitized to videos of police brutality, it is difficult to have hope.

Activist and lecturer Rachel Cargle asked, ‘How will you show up in this time of human history?’ during her public address on revolution Saturday. ‘We are at the tipping point,’ she said.”

“In the wake of the current civil unrest occurring throughout our country, many companies are now seeing the gaping corporate hole where cultural diversity and inclusion initiatives should have been.

“Some may think it’s too little too late or be timid to jump into the discussion, but now it is imperative for companies to take the first step — admit past faults, take action and begin to create change.


“Our advice to other tech companies is that it’s not enough to ‘not be a racist.’

Allies (whether other POC or white people) have to be actively anti-racist, have the uncomfortable conversations amongst themselves and with others, and actively work to dismantle the system that was designed to imprison, disenfranchise, economically depress, and outright kill black people.”


“As a human

As a Black man

As a Black, tall man

As a Black, tall man of similar age

As a Black, tall man of similar age, with a child

As a Black, tall man of similar age, with a child in this country



“This might sting a bit.

Are you tired yet? Are you ready to be distracted by something else? Find something, anything, that will take you away from all of this? Are you ready to go back to your normal routine and business as usual? Feel free to do so as best you can. You can breathe a sigh of relief, and no need to read any further.

Still with me? Welcome to the next Great Awakening.

Take a deep breath — there is much work to be done.”


“As a Black man it pains me to know that we still live in a country where the decision of you living or dying can come down to your skin color.

It pains me to know that equality is still not a basic right. It pains me to know that race is still being weaponized, putting people of color on high alert even during the most basic day-to-day situations.

But during this time, I hope people from different backgrounds can come together to constructively discuss these issues, and not back away from them, digging further into our biases. I’m hopeful that through discussion and action, we can continue to better understand the root causes of the issues, and come out of it with real solutions to stop what’s fueling this vicious cycle. I also hope that if anyone does not clearly understand why all of this is happening, they do not pass judgment on those who are trying to make a change, but instead, reach out to those who may be most impacted to see how you can help.”


“No one’s going to say it, but I will: You don’t pay Black people enough  — or at all — for the emotional labor and anti-racism work that some of you are asking for.

If you read that first line and you’re uncomfortable, this is a good first step to addressing how you’re approaching Black people with anti-racism questions in 2020.”


“In the past few days it has become more clear to me that equity and justice need to be at the forefront of discussions when it comes to conversations about inclusive innovation.

I am calling upon other leaders within the startup, tech, and innovation community to step up and make real, and visible, efforts towards having tough discussions and supporting underrepresented people, and more specifically black technologists, entrepreneurs, and STEM professionals within our community.”


“Investment in Black and Brown founders contributes directly to the economic viability of Black families and communities, and it’s time to put our money where our morals are.

To be clear, this isn’t just about doing the right or charitable thing; this is about good business. New majority consumers are growing in number and economic leverage by the year. The spoils of the next quarter century will go to the companies that figure out how to appeal to the needs of communities so often ignored by the market. Organizations that fail to lean in are not only on the wrong side of history, they are leaving money on the table.”


“Hopelessness can really cripple even the best of us.

I readily admit that I struggle with hopelessness often, especially when we are fighting the same battles as generations before us with incremental changes. It is difficult to help others remain hopeful, if we are not hopeful. Hope is sustained by goals, pathways to success and self-agency. As with any company goal, a hopeless staff leads to a doomed company. If your employees truly want to collectively move towards action, then as leaders, our responsibility is to help ensure that goals are set, pathways are cleared (no matter how difficult) and each individual feels that they have the power to navigate through the challenges.”

Series: Generocity / Racial Equity in Tech Month 2021

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