These Companies are Stepping Up in the Fight for Racial Equality

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a person writing word Inequality on glass board

When it comes to encouraging diversity, especially during the Black Lives Matter movement, here are some of the companies that are supporting racial equality.

Bank of America

On June 2, Bank of America announced they will be pledging one billion dollars toward community programs and minority-owned businesses over the course of four years. The money was pledged in response to both the death of George Floyd and the impacts of COVID-19. Bank of America hopes this money will further help minority-owned businesses thrive, improve health services in Black communities, and open up positions for more bank employees.

Uber

To encourage its users to support black-owned businesses in response to George Floyd’s death and the Black Lives Matter Movement, Uber has announced that it will be waiving all delivery fees coming from black-owned restaurants in the United States and Canada. This process will begin on June 5 and continue throughout the rest of the year. Uber has also stated they are planning to create an initiative specifically designed to aid black-owned restaurants, as well as other businesses.

Additionally, Uber has pledged to create more diversity within their employees.

UnitedHealth Group

UnitedHealth Group is donating a pledged ten million dollars to help the neighborhoods of Minneapolis rebuild any damage taken in response to the protests. This will include five million of those dollars being donated to the YMCA Equity Innovation Center of Excellence.

UnitedHealth Group has also pledged to pay for all of George Floyd’s children to go to college when the time comes.

Disney

Disney will be donating five million dollars to companies that stand for social justice, including the NAACP, which Disney has pledged two million dollars to. Disney employees are also encouraged to donate to social justice causes, as Disney has promised to match any donation made by a Disney employee.

P & G

The umbrella company for brands, such as Tide and Olay, P & G has created the “Take on Race” fund that will be distributing five million dollars to organizations that will advance education on race, better communities, and improve all healthcare systems. The fund will be working directly with large and small organizations, such as the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, the United Negro College Fund, and Courageous Conversation.

The Newest Member of the Billionaire’s Club

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Tyler Perry pictured at awards ceremony smiling

Actor, producer, writer, and director Tyler Perry has officially become a billionaire, making him the seventh black billionaire in the United States.

Perry’s newfound status includes him in the same income bracket as Oprah Winfrey, Kanye West, Robert F. Smith, and Michael Jordan.

Perry earned much of his money through his productions and his investments. Though most notably known for his work in the Madea movie series, Perry is no stranger to any form of performative arts.  Not only did he direct, produce, write and star in the Madea franchise, but he has also served as an actor and writer for many of his own projects. In total, Perry has been involved in over a thousand television episodes, 22 movies, and 24 stage productions. Additionally, Perry works closely with the BET television network, earning an annual income of $150 million to create content for their live and streaming platforms.

According to Forbes, Perry’s billion-dollar net worth can be calculated into five main categories: library, cash and investments, the studio, his stake in BET, and homes and toys.

Since closing his production company in 2019, Perry has decided to invest in wealth into his community. Having recently become a spokesperson against human trafficking in Georgia, Perry wants to use his funds to provide housing for trafficked women and LGBTQ youth. He also plans to set up a financial academy for children and wants to build a Disney-like theme park with shops, restaurants, and a movie theater.

Virtual Events Take Center Stage

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By Innovate Marketing Group

As the live events industry awaits COVID-19 regulations, guidelines, and phase rollouts; innovations and digital opportunities arise, virtual events take center stage, and the importance of an events agency and planner sustains.

Why go virtual? Virtual events have proven to be an effective and efficient way to convey content and engage attendees. Experts shared that future events will incorporate a digital aspect as a hybrid-type model as the events industry seeks to widen their audience and maintain contingency plans. Events will see more virtual aspects embedded into their programs moving forward.

Going virtual also brings market share and new opportunities.
“Some companies that were previously on hold to wait out COVID-19 have either pivoted to virtual or seriously considering since the recovery is so uncertain. Business still needs to go on. Leadership conferences, educational and training are still vital for companies,” said Amanda Ma, chief experience officer of Innovate Marketing Group.

All of the different elements of a virtual event need to be coordinated into one impactful and engaging experience. The event agency’s role includes helping guiding businesses to pivot to the new normal, advising and adjusting contract changes, applying event strategies to help meet goals, vendor coordination and recommendations, program management and managing multiple tracks, marketing and communication, incorporating sponsors and stakeholders and the guest experience.

Some of the many benefits of pivoting to virtual include:

  • Cost savings and lower cost per guest attending
  • Access to a wider audience and reach, and not limited by location
  • Replay capabilities and reusable on demand content
  • Lower carbon footprint and less impact on the environment
  • Attendee engagement
  • Opportunity to get creative and engage viewers in new ways
  • Metrics, instant data tracking and capture, and gaining new insights
  • Virtual events eliminate the need for a venue, catering, rentals, stage, décor, photographer, videographer, transportation, etc.
  • Taking action – calls to action link in right away; connect, survey, polling, Q&A and donate

Some challenges in comparison to a live event include emotion and energy, stimulations such as touch, taste and smell, memory and recall, networking, and viewer attention span.

Innovate Marketing Group also shares top best practices in going virtual, such as setting your goals on information, education, message, attendee and sponsor engagement, networking, etc.

Format: Determine your virtual event format – webinar, webcast, pre-recorded sessions, simu-live, live streaming, networking, exhibitors.

Registration: Reconsider the registration process, including number of users who will be accessing the website, personal data, payment processing safety, and customized questions per data you would like to collect.

Keep Your Audience Engaged: with tools such as live polling, question and answer sessions, networking opportunities, gamification, live leader boards, rewards and social media feeds. Maintain your event experience by making your guests feel involved and connected to your program. We are in the planning stages of a 3,000 people walk/run event, and one of the ideas is on the day of the event to have a virtual DJ play during the walk and the organization lowers the volume if messages need to be communicated. The music is based on what the organizers want. This way while people are walking, they can stay connected as part of the program.

Pre-Event Communication & Marketing: Communication and marketing are key. Unlike an in-person event where they must get dressed up, drive to the event, and spend more time to prepare for the event, a virtual event is simply a login to a platform. Therefore, it is very important to send out reminders and build up the anticipation of the event. In a recent virtual event, we advised the client to ask for the attendee’s cell phone number.

So, in addition to email reminders, the week of event and day of, a text notification was sent out to all attendees. We received great feedback for putting that in place. It reminded folks the virtual event is coming up and to tune in. Digital marketing, promotion, advertisement, and video content is still very important for a virtual event, before broadcasting on your event day.

Surprise and Delight Before the Event: Sending a swag bag prior to the event with items relevant to the event. For an upcoming conference, we are sending a box with a blue light blocking glasses, candle, custom door handle, notebook, T-shirt, and a coffee tumbler. We have a special note to go along with this kit to kick off the conference mindset. On the day of the conference, we asked everyone to wear the shirt provided. One less worry about what to wear on “top.”

Content is King: Offer educational, relevant, timely and meaningful content that people will want to hear. It is vital to create content that captivates guests, sparks their creativity and results in productivity.

Do Not Try to Replicate Your Live Event: Instead, look for new opportunities but stay true to purpose of your event. Keep principle of why your guests were coming together, and make it part of the equation.

Test, Test, and Test Again: Technical difficulties may occur, and it often distracts from your event. Have a run through with your speakers and moderator in advance and test the virtual release on your platforms.

Too Young to Retire Couple and Their Son Bring the Top Mobile Flooring Franchise To Dallas, Texas Area

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Mike & Daphne Williams stand outside in front of their work vehicle

Tired of traveling. Corporate buyout. Empty nesters. Too young to retire. Take all four ingredients, mix together and you have the perfect recipe for a new career and new direction in life as a franchise owner. That’s exactly what Mike and Daphne Williams cooked up as newly minted franchisees with Floor Coverings International, visiting customers’ homes in a Mobile Flooring Showroom stocked with thousands of flooring samples from top manufacturers. The Plano, Texas couple’s Floor Coverings International North Park/Dallas franchise serves clients throughout Highland Park, University Park, Preston Hollow, Lakewood, Lake Highlands and White Rock.

Mike Williams, 55, spent 30 years in medical device sales and management and most recently was regional sales director for a global medical device manufacturer. Having tired of a rigorous travel schedule, Williams took advantage of a buyout opportunity. Daphne Williams was a stay-at-home mom to the couple’s now grown sons and always had a passion for home improvement projects. Mike’s buyout package included the services of a franchise consultant and that’s when the couple discovered Floor Coverings International. “We were too young to retire and after 30 years in the corporate world, I was ready to tap into my entrepreneurial drive and be my own boss,” said Mike. The couple’s youngest son, Miller, will also be assisting in the new family business while remotely attending college.

In Floor Coverings International, the Williams’ found a company that has tripled in size since 2005 by putting a laser focus on consumer buying habits and expressed desires, its impressive operating model, growth ability, marketing, advertising and merchandising. Floor Coverings International further separates itself from the competition through its customer experience, made up of several simple and integrated steps that exceed customers’ expectations. “People are doing more home projects now and consumer spending is shifting from vacations to home improvement, so I believe the market is very strong,” Mike Williams said.

ABOUT FLOOR COVERINGS INTERNATIONAL

Floor Coverings International is the #1 Mobile Flooring Franchise in North America. Utilizing a unique in-home experience, the mobile showroom comes directly to the customer’s door with more than 3,000 flooring choices. Floor Coverings International has 150-plus locations throughout the U.S. and Canada with plenty of opportunity for continued expansion in 2020. For franchise information, please visit www.flooring-franchise.com and to find your closest location, www.floorcoveringsinternational.com.

Advice for Entrepreneurs, From Entrepreneurs

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collage of four diverse entrepreneurs

Starting a business is tough. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics notes the first years of a new business can be unstable (unsurprising) and volatile.

A third of all of young companies fail within two years and about half fail within five. Although these figures seem upsetting, all hope isn’t lost. It simply indicates that good business strategies and quality management are key to pushing through the initial volatile period. If you’re hoping to strike out on your own and launch the world’s next successful start-up, you’re going to need every bit of advice and support you can get. That’s why we’ve asked successful entrepreneurs to share their advice for the next generation of young business minds.

Here’s what they had to say.

‘Surround yourself with great people’

Team spirit is the defining factor for Danny Scott’s company CoinCorner. He said: “I think the most important thing is to surround yourself with great people. “You want to be able to trust your team to tell you when you’re going in the wrong direction or to be there as support when hard times come knocking. The team makes the company at the end of the day, and you’ll want to spend your time with people who believe in you and the business.”

‘Get ideas down, however silly or small’

Leiho aims to help people feel good by doing good for others. Founder Joey Li says the company’s journey began by selling socks to help homeless people – for every pair of socks sold, Leiho gives another to a homeless person. Li said: “Our socks are also made with bamboo because we believe in sustainability and social impact.” When it comes to launching a business, Li said the most important thing to do is take that first step: “Get ideas down on a piece of paper however silly or small it is. Once you see it in front of you, that brings your idea to life and more ideas come rushing to your head. “Don’t prolong the start – try to sketch out website ideas, packaging ideas or anything that will literally make you see the potential of whatever you’re selling.”

‘Don’t fear failure’

Li also told us that mistakes and setbacks shouldn’t be treated as the end of the road. “Fail fast and fail cheap. The earlier you make mistakes and fail, the cheaper and better it is for the future of your business. Don’t be disarmed by failure and don’t fear failure. Learn to accept it and learn to improve, develop and try again.”

‘Take the criticism because you never know how helpful it might be’,

Li added: “There will be people out there who don’t believe in your idea and there will be a lot of people out there who support it. Listen to both. Take the criticism because you never know how helpful it might be. “Ask them what else you could do, what else they like about your idea and what else they would suggest. This is the best market research you could ever do – get to know your customers!”

‘Keep an eye on your cash’

Cara Holland started her business Graphic Change 13 years ago, going on to work with brands including TimeWarner and Google, and now even has an online academy with students from over 70 countries learning to work more visually. She told us: “Keep an eye on your cash. For lots of businesses, you don’t need much to get started. Start with your minimum viable product and only spend what you absolutely need to evolve.

‘Trust yourself and be true to your vision and your values’

Holland also places great important on positivity and self-belief. She said: “Trust yourself but don’t be afraid to get input from potential customers and other people whose views you respect. Don’t just ask your family and friends because they’ll never tell you the truth for fear of hurting your feelings. “Be true to your vision and your values. The right customers and clients are out there. The more authentic you are, the easier it will be for them to find you.”

‘Don’t forget to enjoy the process’

Dhruvin Patel is the founder of Ocushield, the world’s only medically rated screen protector. Ocushield protects eyes and improves sleep while protecting your digital device, by limiting the amount of blue light emitted from the screen. As a qualified optometrist, he understands the importance of blue light protection in today’s society. He said: “Since qualifying, I was able to raise investment which allowed me to grow the business, the team and improve our products. When asked for his advice for other entrepreneurs, he said: “When launching a business, too many founders can get caught up in the end goal and forget to enjoy the process. Remember that developing a start-up can truly elevate your life both professionally and personally.”

Ayo Foods Brings Authentic West-African Cuisine To Us Grocers To Spice Up Frozen Foods Category

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black cuisine business owners Perteet and Fred Spencer pose together

Frozen meals just got a whole lot more joyful. AYO Foods, the authentic and delicious line of West-African inspired cuisine, has developed a partnership with Whole Foods and is now available at nearly 50 locations throughout Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana and Oklahoma.

Founders Perteet & Fred Spencer have developed the brand from their family’s own recipes that have been shared across generations. The line offers nutrient-dense, flavor-infused frozen meals and presents the opportunity for grocers to attract new and existing customers – including the large West-African millennial population and growing number of ethnic explorers.

Additional grocer tension points that AYO Foods are positioned to directly address include:

  • A brand with extensive growth potential across shelf and aisles – 38 percent of customers order out ethnic cuisine at least once a week. AYO Foods provides a new, convenient, and unexpectedly authentic option at grocers. The company’s initial line of inspired West African cuisine is tailored for the Frozen Foods section, however the company has many additional products in development.

 

  • New options for consumers to meet a growing demand for frozen ethnic cuisine – Three of the top five fastest growing frozen specialty entrees at grocers are internationally inspired. AYO Foods’ brings a new experience to the set to accelerate consumer interest in the category.

Ayo foods Jollof Rice ad

  • Stand out better-for-you options that meet consumer lifestyle demands – the deeply flavorful, nutrient-dense dishes celebrate the unique produce of West Africa with are convenient entrees for healthy meals on-the go.

 

  • AYO Foods is a proud, Black-owned business – as part of the cultural conversations that are currently taking place in the US, many retailers are being asked to commit to provide shelf-space for Black-owned businesses. Founders Perteet & Fred Spencer story connects with customers.

AYO Foods initial offerings that are currently available in select Whole Foods markets include:

 

  • Cassava Leaf Soup – Ground cassava leaves, chicken and spices slow cooked into a soup. The family recipe starts by grinding the Cassava plant’s fibrous leaves and simmering them with all natural chicken, cayenne pepper and savory spices until it makes the perfect family soup.

 

  • Jollof Rice – One pot long-grain rice spiced and stewed in a flavorful tomato broth with roasted red peppers and onions. A staple throughout the region, our recipe is based on the classic version.

AYO Soup Ad

  • Egusi Seed Soup – Ground melon seeds, fresh peppers, onions and spinach slow cooked into a savory stew. This recipe is chock-full of nutrients and is high in protein and healthy fats.

AYO Foods can be found in the frozen-food section with a suggested retail price of: $5.99. The rich flavors come from sustainably-sourced ingredients inspired by Perteet and Fred’s family traditions. @AYOFoods can be found on Instagram and Facebook. For more information, please visit www.AYO-foods.com.

ABOUT AYO FOODS

Founded by Perteet and Fred Spencer in 2019, AYO Foods is a celebration of West African cuisine. AYO Means “joy” in Yoruba, one of the many languages spoken in West Africa. These savory and spicy recipes have brought joy to the Spencer family for generations. AYO foods feature nutrient-dense, flavor-infused dishes and can be found in the frozen food section at select retailers across the US. To locate a retailer, please visit the company’s website www.AYO-Foods.com. Fans are encouraged to follow @AYOFoods for brand updates on Instagram and Facebook.

Using Your Voice as a Powerful Business Tool

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Angelica Nwandu headshot

By Angelica Nwandu

The power of voice is an often-underestimated tool within the business world. Countless entrepreneurs have harnessed the power of their voices to create strong online brands that people trust.

By putting your voice out there, you can establish yourself as a leader in the industry—translating into endless business opportunities. If you’re an up-and-coming entrepreneur, the number one way to grow your brand is by sharing your expertise across all mediums. You’ll see the ROI in no time!

Here’s how you can use your voice as a powerful business tool through content and other means:

Find Your Niche

The first step in using your voice as a business tool is to establish your expertise. You need to establish yourself as an expert within your niche. That is the only way your audience will take your words as an authoritative resource.           

Dive into your skillset and find the area that you believe is your strongest field. What can you offer that no one else in your industry can?

Once you’ve found the place where you can set yourself apart from the rest, target in on that. Create useful and educational content surrounding your expertise. Write about things no one else besides you can write about, and find the questions no one has answered yet. By doing this, you will start to gain traction and attract a significant audience.

Have a Strong Social Presence

Social media is important for networking and discovering potential customers. Post consistently to LinkedIn and connect with prospects. Your connections will then see your expertise and hopefully consider you as a thought leader.

Always engage with your followers. Respond to comments and encourage conversation on your social profiles. Make sure every one of your social profiles is complete with a profile picture, bio, and more so that you come off as authentic and professional.

In addition to all this, feel free to join social groups on Facebook and more that you believe could bring a larger audience to your brand. Share your own personal articles and additional educational resources that would be of value to these groups.

Be Authentic

One crucial part of transforming your voice into a business tool is authenticity. In order to utilize your voice as a tool for business, you first need to establish trust. And trust only comes with authenticity.

When posting content or networking with potential clients, be sure to be authentic. If people trust you and your content, they’ll be more likely to do business with you. Post content in your personal tone and voice. Be a useful and reliable educational resource for your target audience.

Also, pass on the self-promotional content. Post and share content that your audience can truly benefit from as opposed to self-promotional advertisements. 

Post Consistently

If you want to be taken seriously in your industry, you must post consistently. Posting consistently will establish you and your brand as a trusted voice in your niche. Post educational, compelling, and unique content that will help you reach your audience. Create a posting schedule that keeps you on track to share educational content. Overall, hold yourself accountable to posting regularly.

Also, make sure your tone and quality are both consistent. You want your content to be top-notch every time you share content.

Harness the Power of Video

Video is one of the most essential mediums today. It can convey vital information more effectively while also offering more opportunities for creativity. It will communicate your voice better and stronger.

Instead of writing post after post, consider a quick one or two-minute video. Speak about topical subjects, best practices, and more. This can make you stand out in your industry and garner trust from your audience.

Seek out Speaking Opportunities

One of the best ways to use your voice as a business tool offline is to seek out speaking opportunities. If your city is hosting a conference or convention within your industry, see if there’s any way you can contribute. Volunteer for a panel and showcase your expertise. Attendees will take note of your insight, and you may be able to turn them into customers.

Overall, your voice can be a powerful business tool to attract a broad audience. Choose your words wisely and utilize your expertise to find your target market. Authenticity, trust, and consistency can go a long way, so be sure always to put your best foot forward.

Your voice is the most powerful business tool you have. Start using it today!

Angelica Nwandu is the founder of The Shade Room, a site that covers celebrity news and celebrates black culture. She was named as one of Forbes “30 under 30” in 2016 and has created a media company that inspired Refinery 29 to dub Nwandu “the Oprah of our generation.”

Former Attorney Launches First Black-Owned Stock Exchange in 230 Year US Stock Exchange History

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When it comes to investing, estate planning, and overall generational wealth building, Black people are often at a severe disadvantage due to a shortage of knowledge, education, and access.

And while in recent years, there has been an increase in resources and opportunities for Black people to plan for their futures, grow their money, and set their children up for financial success, they are still lightyears behind compared to their white counterparts. Former attorney, Joe Cecala, recognized this and, through a partnership with Cadiz Capital Holding LLC, a minority-owned private equity firm, founded The Dream Exchange, the first Black-owned stock exchange in the 230 years of US stock exchanges.

Dream Exchange’s mission is to “focus on small business capital formation and diversity using the power of the American investing public.” The new stock exchange promises to “allow investors to empower innovators and emerging businesses in a way that has never been done before.”

In a statement, Cecala shared, “The Dream Exchange is a real solution to the long-term systemic issues plaguing our country by providing a marketplace where money flows to any organizations that help us to survive better as a society.” He hopes to provide access to the capital markets system by making it available to more individuals and businesses. Cecala also says that the Dream Exchange will list new companies with breakthrough ideas at an early stage so that investors will see the most significant potential opportunity.

William H. Ellison (Bill), Chairman of Cadiz Capital Holding LLC, said, “For years my team and I have looked for a way to help mid-size businesses participate more extensively in the US economy, we feel the Dream Exchange is that way.”

When it comes to investing, estate planning, and overall generational wealth building, Black people are often at a severe disadvantage due to a shortage of knowledge, education, and access. And while in recent years, there has been an increase in resources and opportunities for Black people to plan for their futures, grow their money, and set their children up for financial success, they are still lightyears behind compared to their white counterparts. Former attorney, Joe Cecala, recognized this and, through a partnership with Cadiz Capital Holding LLC, a minority-owned private equity firm, founded The Dream Exchange, the first Black-owned stock exchange in the 230 years of US stock exchanges.

Dream Exchange’s mission is to “focus on small business capital formation and diversity using the power of the American investing public.” The new stock exchange promises to “allow investors to empower innovators and emerging businesses in a way that has never been done before.”

In a statement, Cecala shared, “The Dream Exchange is a real solution to the long-term systemic issues plaguing our country by providing a marketplace where money flows to any organizations that help us to survive better as a society.” He hopes to provide access to the capital markets system by making it available to more individuals and businesses. Cecala also says that the Dream Exchange will list new companies with breakthrough ideas at an early stage so that investors will see the most significant potential opportunity.

William H. Ellison (Bill), Chairman of Cadiz Capital Holding LLC, said, “For years my team and I have looked for a way to help mid-size businesses participate more extensively in the US economy, we feel the Dream Exchange is that way.”

In addition, due to the current global pandemic, the Dream Exchange has been educating members of Congress on the need for venture securities, how to protect capital markets, and the creation of opportunities in the post-COVID environment.

Continue on to the Chicago Defender to read the complete article.

Who Said Woman Was Not Meant to Fly?

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Bronwyn Morgan pictured smiling sitting at a table

By Laurie Dowling, National Utilities Diversity Council

What do you get when a serial innovator merges her vocation and her avocation? You get Bronwyn Morgan, founder of Xeo Air, an outsourced AI-based drone services and data analytics company, and Airversity Drone Academy & Consulting.

Founded in 2019, Xeo Air is the next step in a management and entrepreneurial journey that has taken Bronwyn from strategic visioning at Fortune 100 companies like Procter & Gamble and Coca-Cola, to media, academia and now aerospace futuring.

For those of us whose knowledge of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV – drones) has mostly been garnered from adventure movies, it may come as a surprise that in the next two years the commercial drone industry in the US is expected to reach $100 billion. In the four years since the Federal Aviation Administration granted more operations exemptions and flight regulations for professional drone services, they have increasingly become a part of business and civilian life, even if we aren’t always aware of them. They do and will perform functions ranging from mapping and data collection to delivery, crop fertilizing and facility disinfecting.

Xeo Air focuses on business to business solutions with inspection and mapping services with high definition video, thermography, LIDAR and infrared, for industries including civil infrastructure, oil and gas, wind, solar, utilities, construction, telecommunications, disaster response and government. Xeo Air is a young startup with an administrative team of four and 20 FAA part 107 certified pilots, and Bronwyn and her backers see it poised for growth as companies continue to embrace this game-changing geospatial data collection tool that saves businesses time and money so they can make decisions more quickly.

Additionally, to serve the growing need in public safety and corporations that need in-house capacity in unmanned aerial vehicles, a year ago, Bronwyn created a training company – Airversity Drone Academy and Consulting – which fields a team of FAA 107 certified instructors (pilots) based around the US who provide FAA exam prep and flight training.

A few questions for Bronwyn:

Are there a lot of drone companies owned by women?

I am part of a small but growing segment of the industry owned by women. Less than 10 percent of drone companies are owned by women, but the numbers are increasing, and there are more women in senior positions in larger companies as well.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced with your company so far?

Scaling up. It takes resources and time to grow your client base and to source talent, and you must sharpen your business model as the environment changes in this young industry. We also have limitations based on regulations and equipment innovation, but that is changing rapidly.

Have you had to educate potential customers on drone services because of misperceptions?

Absolutely. What most people know of drones is primarily their military usage. Our UAVs are very different and our business is different. We have to educate our potential clients about how drones can help their businesses and how we can help them make decisions faster, safer and at a lower price point than traditional services. And when you put it together with machine learning and artificial intelligence, the data becomes more actualized. There are so many uses for our services. Example: We’re able to get up and down a tower for routine inspection within an hour and capture significant data critical to immediate maintenance requirements. We can also assess damage to critical infrastructure after disasters, which can mean life and death in emergency response. Additionally, our capabilities can provide streaming information that allows customers to see real time the status of any asset. The use cases are endless.

What do you think is your competitive advantage?

We’re building an end-to-end product. We can collect data; keep you informed digitally through the processes and analyze the information for immediate use. We’re able to take care of customers end to end. And we can do it securely, with a high level of customer service. We treat our clients’ business as if it were our own.

What is in your future?

I’m working on solutions with flying passenger vehicles, to be announced soon. This is the future of aeronautics. It’s a dream job. When I was in high school, I wanted to fly fighter planes, which they didn’t allow women to do. I think my job is better!

We agree. In fact, please forgive the pun, but we think Bronwyn is soaring.

For more information on Xeo Air click here.

For more information on Airversity, click here.

For more information on NUDC and its free programs to advance diversity, click here.

Letter from the Editor—The Summer of Change

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button that reads "I can't breathe" adorns the jacket of a mourner before the private funeral for George Floyd at The Fountain of Praise church

With the pandemic still raging amid the aftermath of George Floyd’s tragic death and subsequent nationwide protests, this summer will stand in the history books as one of definitive change.

It’s about the only thing we can count on right now. We here at Black EOE Journal are not only examining this unprecedented time in our country—we are embracing it. And we urge you to do the same.

The world is standing in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. Big corporations are donating millions of dollars. Activists, celebrities, and many other individuals are showing their support. Millennials are not backing down and defining a new generation. There is more awareness, more cultural sensitivity – things we have been lacking for far too long. Everyone is fed up, and rightfully so.

But what did being fed up lead to? Change.

Since Floyd’s death, police departments have seen significant changes, such as the ban of chokeholds in some states, among others. Prosecutors upgraded charges against Derek Chauvin, and the other officers involved in Floyd’s death have been charged. The FBI is further investigating the death of Breonna Taylor. Confederate monuments have been removed. NASCAR banned the confederate flag. Juneteenth has become a paid holiday for some companies. Heads of corporations have resigned after claims of racism. The Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben brands have been retired. And these are just a few of the events that have occurred.

These are significant milestones, and even more change needs to happen.

As you read our cover story on Page#18, we explain the impact of George Floyd’s death, show our support for the Black Lives Matter movement, and stress the importance of reform.

It’s time to dig even deeper. Support black-owned businesses. Educate yourself on systemic racism. Show love, not hate. This is the summer of change. Be a part of it. Embrace it. And keep it going.

Samar Khoury

Managing Editor

Black EOE Journal

What Will the Workplace Look Like After Covid-19?

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Motion blurred shot of two business people talking through modern office hallway. People walking in office entrance hall.

By BWISE

What will the workplace look like after the long nightmare of Covid-19 is over? While there is no way to be certain of the changes to come, it will most definitely be much different than it looked prior to it.

Companies across the country are laying off and furloughing employees in record numbers and unemployment has reached levels not seen since The Great Depression. In addition, we now have four generations in the workplace: Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and Generation Z., each with their own needs and perspective on how Covid-19 has affected them. Unlike other economic downturns, this pandemic has also resulted in significant illness and loss of life for millions of people. And the devastation of small businesses is unprecedented.

How will organizations of the future handle all of this?

Companies are in the business of making money, not dealing with the fallout of a healthcare and fiscal crisis. There is not even a business function that exists to handle what corporations, government or academia is dealing with these days. While human resources might seem like the appropriate department to coordinate these efforts, it is not. After years of reductions in staff, it has neither the capacity nor the qualifications to even adequately handle what is happening now. What’s needed immediately and for the long term are experts in workplace solutions. These experts are paying attention to global social and economic trends and are advising business leaders on how not just survive, but to adapt.

The Importance of D&I

In the future, we will almost certainly see a rise in positions in life sciences as well as in supply chain management. As software began to take over the world, both industries have faced reductions in salaries and employees due to managements’ drive to cut costs. While millions of people practiced social distancing at home, we now see how essential these functions really are. And just as important is ensuring that organizations are not cutting back on their Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) efforts amidst all of this. The economic disparity in race and gender has had a tremendous impact on communities of color. The rates of infection and mortality for Blacks and Hispanics far exceeds that of the population overall. Business and political leaders must prioritize plans to make sure that EVERYONE in the workforce can earn a livable wage.

Moving the Needle

Without an influx of new talent each year, the United States will far further behind other nations in innovative and technological advances. There is still a critical need for qualified technical workers, but we cannot expect women and underrepresented minorities to remain in work environments where they do not grow and thrive. We also cannot expect girls to enter fields where they do not see positive role models. It’s imperative that we stop the constant drip from the leaky STEM pipeline by working hard to retain diverse candidates from the middle to the end. Despite our best efforts to encourage future generations to become scientists and engineers, there is no guarantee they will enter or stay in the STEM workforce once their education is complete. Let’s spend more time and money to ensure we can keep those Black women who are determined enough to make science a career.

Founded by Erika Jefferson, Black Women in Science and Engineering (BWISE), which supports underrepresented women in STEM through networking, mentorship, and career development, is partnering with Cambio, a multi-faceted recruiting and diversity platform founded by Neil Patwardhan and Bob Richards. Both organizations are focused on truly moving the needle on DEI hiring in meaningful way.

Partnering for Good

BWISE, with its professional job board and network of over 15,000 scientists, engineers and technologists, can focus on guiding employers and diverse job seekers with a focus on Black women in STEM. And Cambio, through its diversity engine and analytics, can spotlight diverse candidates and focus on delivering the best. BWISE was founded with the purpose to support underrepresented women through networking, mentorship and career development. The group primarily consists of Black women from middle management through senior leadership with degrees in the sciences, math and engineering who would like to connect with others. The organization provides a platform and a space to share career experiences and be empowered.

Cambio’s mission is to create a more human experience in the world of recruiting and job searching, and to make the process more transparent by embracing the swipe culture of viral mobile applications. A powerful part of the company’s platform is the ability to surface underrepresented qualified talent to ensure recruiters get the right visibility. Cambio aims to speed up the hiring process and lead the way in diversity hiring to help companies meet their workforce goals for 2020 and beyond.

For additional information, news and updates on BWISE, visit www.bwiseusa.org.  

For additional information, news and updates on Cambio, visit www.cambiome.com.

Ignited by Injustice—How George Floyd Changed the World

LinkedIn

By Jovane Marie

George Floyd: Life and Death
Floyd’s last moments – recorded for the world to witness – set off a series of events that have further propelled the conversation of police brutality and systemic racism to the forefront of the national conversation.

His death made an indelible mark on the world. But his life made a mark, too. Family and friends of the father of five describe him as a gentle giant and hard worker who moved to Minneapolis with eyes on a new beginning.

Although not exempt from mistakes and the hard lessons of life, the 46-year-old was on a journey to be the best father, provider, and man he could be.

In the immediate aftermath of his death, protests erupted as the Black community, echoed by their fellow citizens of all races, national leaders, and the global village, decried the senseless violence and demanded justice.

“When I first heard about what happened, I was emotionally overwhelmed by anger, sadness, and a sense of disbelief,” said Marc Morial, president and chief executive officer of the historic National Urban League, which works to provide economic empowerment, educational opportunities, and a guarantee of civil rights to the underserved in America.

“Even though we know Black men are proportionally brutalized by police, it was still a shock to see these officers, fully aware that they were being recorded, treat a life with such casual disregard.”

The four Minneapolis officers involved were promptly fired. However, it was four days before the first arrest was made. Chauvin, the most senior officer, has since been charged with an upgraded count of second-degree murder, while the other three are charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.

Memorial services for Floyd, paid for by boxing champion Floyd Mayweather, were held in both Raeford, North Carolina (where he was born) and his hometown of Houston (where he was laid to rest next to his mother).

Both services drew thousands, including prominent community and national leaders, activists, celebrities, professional athletes, and – most notably – the families of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Botham Jean, and Pamela Turner. The outpouring and noted names in attendance signified the impact of the moment.

“He once said he wanted to touch the world,” recalled Jonathan Veal, Floyd’s longtime friend, in an interview with CNN’s Don Lemon. Then teenagers, they were discussing what they wanted to do with their lives.

“That comment, back in the eleventh grade, was prophetic in nature,” he added. “He is literally having a global impact.”
In Houston, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, joined by Illinois Governor JB Pritzer, officially declared the day of his burial – Tuesday, June 9 – as George Floyd, Jr. Day.

Memorial Service For George Floyd Held In Minneapolis
Members of George Floyd’s family speak during a memorial service at North Central University on June 4, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

“We must never forget the name George Floyd or the global movement he inspired,” Hidalgo shared in a statement. “It has taken far too long for us to get here, but we must lean forward and work to make meaningful change in our nation.”

The series of events – emotionally charged and heavy – was unfortunately not an anomaly.

Floyd’s name joined a chorus of others on an ever-growing list of Black lives lost to violence perpetuated by a system of institutional racism and bias.

Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor
In the months and weeks leading up to Floyd’s killing, the murders of Ahmaud Arbery and (to an initially less publicized extent) Breonna Taylor caught the nation’s attention.

On February 23 in Glynn County, Georgia, 25-year-old Arbery was out jogging when he was chased, cornered, and gunned down by father and son duo Gregory and Travis McMichael, both white. Video of the shooting, leaked at the request of the elder McMichael – a former police officer and DA investigator – went viral and elicited immediate outrage. Recusals in two district attorney offices, however, contributed to a two-month delay in their arrests. They were finally arrested on May 7, and on what would have been Arbery’s 26th birthday four days later, tens of thousands across the country commemorated his memory with a 2.23-mile run.

On June 24, both men, including a third who joined in the pursuit and recorded the footage, were indicted on nine counts, including malice murder, felony murder, and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment.

Memorial Service For George Floyd Held In MinneapolisLess than a month after Arbery’s killing, 26-year-old emergency medical technician Breonna Taylor was shot to death in her home by Louisville, Kentucky, police officers executing a “no-knock” warrant. Initially drawing little media attention, publicity on her case erupted as activists pushed to include her name in the narrative and a social media campaign to #SayHerName went viral.

The three officers involved in the shooting were placed on administrative reassignment, but it took until June 23 – more than three months later – for just one termination to be made. In response to the tragedy, the Louisville, Kentucky, Metro Council unanimously passed Breonna’s Law, which outlaws “no-knock” warrants and requires officers’ body cameras to be turned on before and after every search.

Separated by a razor thin margin of occurrence, the murders of Arbery, Taylor, and Floyd were a painful reminder of the injustices that Black Americans have endured for far too long.

“The pain that the Black community feels over this murder and what it reflects about the treatment of Black people in this country is raw and spilling out into streets across America,” said Floyd’s family in a statement. “We need Minneapolis and cities across the country to fix the policies and training deficiencies that permitted this unlawful killing – and so many others – to occur.”

Enough
Protests and demonstrations against police brutality and systemic racism and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement have been ongoing for years. Since the birth of the movement in 2013 in response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer, dozens of names have been added to the list of Black lives snuffed out by racial prejudice and state-sanctioned violence.

But the seemingly back-to-back killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd – compounded by disturbing video footage of the Arbery and Floyd murders and initial delays in charges being brought in all three cases – proved to be the boiling point.

In the days following Floyd’s murder, streets in almost 4,000 cities and towns on four continents swelled with protesters marching, chanting, and demanding justice.

And while the message – Black Lives Matter – was the same as all the years before, these protests were markedly different in both size and scope. Within weeks, support for the Black Lives Matter movement increased by nearly as much as it had over the previous two years, according to data from polling and analytics company Civiqs.

US-POLITICS-RACISM-JUNETEENTH
Demonstrators arrive at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial during a Juneteenth march in Washington, DC on June 19, 2020. The US marks the end of slavery by celebrating Juneteenth, with the annual unofficial holiday taking on renewed significance as millions of Americans confront the nation’s living legacy of racial injustice. (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)

The increase overwhelmingly included white people who had been previously silent about, blind to or critical of the existence and prevalence of systemic racism and the reality of police brutality among the Black community.

“The protests themselves are very similar to the ones that followed other police shootings and fatal assaults of unarmed Black men, such as Michael Brown and Freddie Gray, with one notable exception – the rising involvement of white protestors,” said Morial. “What has made these protests really different is the way they have been received by the broader public.”

“Now, the world is paying attention. Congress is paying attention. Corporations are paying attention,” he added. “The message is finally breaking through.”

Members of prominent organizations, such as the Black Lives Matter Global Network, the Movement for Black Lives, Color of Change, and the National Action Network, weren’t the only voices leading the charge and standing on the front lines, either.

In cities large and towns small, everyday citizens – from high school and college students to blue collar workers and stay-at-home mothers – stepped up to the plate, organizing protests and rallying other supporters. Harnessing the crucial power of social media, these novice activists collectively added thousands of new and powerful voices to an already resounding call for justice.

The call has not just manifested vocally. Poignant art, including drawings circulated on social media, murals paying tribute across the country, and “Black Lives Matter” painted on main streets in cities including Washington, D.C., New York City, Sacramento, and Seattle, have accompanied and amplified demonstrations.

While protestors have been largely peaceful as they march and demand accountability, occasional bouts of rioting and looting, perpetrated at least in part by white participants unattached to the movement (evidenced by multiple videos posted to social media), have peppered demonstrations. Peaceful marches have also been marred by video evidence of excessive police force and misconduct, with at least 40 lawsuits being brought by protestors across the US.

Despite these obstacles, protests have maintained a clear vision of their foundational goals: to demand police accountability and reform, to stand in solidarity with the families of the fallen, to dismantle institutional racism, and to declare that Black Lives Matter.

Solidarity
More and more, this declaration is permeating the population and drawing increased support. According to a recent national Civiqs poll, more than half (52 percent) of Americans support the Black Lives Matter movement. Beyond the streets, that support has manifested into millions upon millions of dollars in donations and financial pledges to justice and Black-centered organizations, including Black Lives Matter Global Network, the NAACP, the ACLU, The Bail Project, and Color of Change.

Solidarity has also come in the form of celebrities, professional athletes, sports leagues, and community influencers contributing their voices and leveraging their massive platforms to demand change, condemn racism, and amplify Black voices.

The NFL, in a surprising reversal, has backtracked on their criticism of player protests and clearly stated their support for #BlackLivesMatter.
In droves, businesses and corporations have taken public, official stances proclaiming their support for Black Lives Matter and promising to take action steps to enhance representation and diversity within their ranks.

The Confederate flag, decried by many Americans as a relic of hatred and racism, has been banned from display on Navy bases, Marine Corps installations…and even NASCAR.

The centering of Black voices, commitments to internal restructuring, and pledges of far-reaching financial support have set the stage for transformational change. Now, the work to bring true equality and justice for all must commence in earnest.
And we’ll have to work together to bring it to pass.

Ally Up
Several factors have contributed to the reach, sustainability, and impact of protests following the murder of Floyd; the horrific footage, the convergence of uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, and overwhelmingly, the growing number of non-Black supporters joining the fight and aligning themselves as allies.

Alongside large multi-racial cities, citizens in small, mostly white towns (including Vidor, Texas – once a stronghold of the Ku Klux Klan), organized and took the streets. Viral videos showed white protestors physically placing themselves between Black protestors and police officers to create a barrier. White celebrities, influencers, and politicians handed over their Instagram accounts to Black creators, journalists, and activists in an effort to amplify their voices. And sales of anti-racist books by thought leaders such as Dr. Ibram Kendi (How to be an Anti-Racist) and Dr. Robin DiAngelo (White Fragility) have skyrocketed.

The journey to become an authentic and effective ally for people of color is not an easy one. Adherents must commit to centering Black voices and truly listening, educating themselves on systemic racism and its effects, speaking up within their areas of influence, and sitting with the discomfort of admitting their own biases and prejudices.

It is, however, of the utmost importance to get involved. In the fight for justice and equality, everybody has a role to play.

Actions
There is a long road ahead in the fight for justice for all. While the destination, a society free of institutional and systemic racism that truly values Black lives equally, is one most all agree on, there are a number of proposed routes.

But our feet are on the road.

Cities across the country are re-evaluating their police policies and tactics, with the local governments and law enforcement agencies of at least 23 cities completely or partially banning the use of chokeholds and carotid restraints. Some departments have committed to additional training and increased transparency.

In Washington, D.C., House Democrats have unveiled the “George Floyd Justice in Policing Act,” comprehensive legislation aimed at overhauling policing. It includes a chokehold ban, creation of a national registry to track police misconduct, and a grant program to fund independent investigations of misconduct.

The call to defund the police has also gained momentum, presenting itself as a controversial solution to the call for justice. Advocates argue that reducing police funding to instead reinvest in Black communities and reallocate to social programs (such as mental health, poverty, and homelessness) is the best way forward.

“Our focus should be on communities that have been deeply divested from, that may have never felt the impact of having true resources,” said Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors. “What we’re asking for is a reinvestment in how we understand what’s needed in our communities. Why is law enforcement the first responders for a mental health crisis? Why are they the first responders for domestic violence issues? Why are they the first responders for homelessness? Those are the first places we can look into.”

The final solutions, whatever forms they take, will be influenced not only by the voices in the streets but also by one of the most important actions of all: voting for change.

“The point of protest is to raise public awareness, to put a spotlight on injustice…but eventually, aspirations have to be translated into specific laws and institutional practices – and in a democracy, that only happens when we elect government officials who are responsive to our demands,” said former President Barack Obama in an essay posted to Medium.

“The bottom line is this: if we want to bring about real change, then the choice isn’t between protest and politics. We have to do both. We have to mobilize to raise awareness, and we have to organize and cast our ballots to make sure that we elect candidates who will act on reform.”

World Changer
Gianna Floyd, the six-year-old daughter of George Floyd, doesn’t know all of the details of her father’s untimely death. What she does know, as she hears his name chanted in the streets and sees his face plastered on posters, is that he has made an undeniable impact. In her very own words, “Daddy changed the world.”

She’s not wrong. We’ve protested about police brutality and systemic racism before. But today’s demands – amplified by the traumatic footage of Floyd’s murder, the uncertainty and inequalities of a viral pandemic laid bare, and the rallying cry of the global community – are reverberating louder than ever and demanding immediate and impacting change. Despite the rage and heartache, Gianna’s daddy has become a catalyst in our collective journey toward justice.

“As Martin Luther King Jr. was fond of saying, the arc of the moral universe bends toward justice,” said Morial. “Sometimes we take one step back, as we have seen with the spike in hate crimes and racially inspired violence over the last several years. But for every step back, we take two steps forward.”

Interview with Marc Morial, Civic Leader and President of the National Urban League

LinkedIn
During the 2019 National Urban League Annual Conference held at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis, Indiana on Wednesday, July 24, 2019

What were your thoughts when you first heard what happened to George Floyd?

Emotion overwhelmed me. Anger, sadness, and a sense of disbelief.  Even though we know Black men are disproportionally brutalized by police, it still was a shock to see these officers, fully aware that they were being recorded, to treat a human life with such casual disregard.

Do you feel the protests that followed are different than those in the past? How so?

The protests themselves are very similar to the ones that followed other police shootings and fatal assaults of unarmed Black men such as Michael Brown and Freddie Gray, with one notable exception – the involvement of white protesters. What’s really different about these protests are the way that they have been received by the broader public. Corporations are paying attention. Congress is paying attention. The message finally is breaking though.

What are your thoughts on the policy changes happening. Do you feel they are effecting genuine and lasting change?

I’m very optimistic about the possibility of reform. The National Urban League has been working very closely with Congress on the Justice in Policing Act, which has bipartisan support and has a very realistic chance of becoming the law of the land. Meanwhile, mayors and governors around the country are taking a firm stand on police misconduct in a way we haven’t seen before.

In your opinion, what is the most important contribution of the Black Lives Matter movement?

The movement has mobilized young people, and united people of all races, creeds and background around a common cause in a way we haven’t seen in a generation.

Where do you see us going from here?

As Martin Luther King Jr. was fond of saying, the arc of the moral universe bends toward justice.  Sometimes we take one step back, as we have seen with the spike in hate crimes and racially-inspired violence over the last several years. But for every step back, we take two steps forward.

(Photo by {credit} | Video/Photogrphy by J.R. | www.vpjr.com )

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Upcoming Events

  1. NFBPA: A Construct for Change Forum 2020
    October 8, 2020 - October 13, 2020
  2. HBCU Career Development Marketplace
    November 10, 2020 - November 12, 2020