When the pandemic hit, many more black employees in our workforce had to continue working at our group homes whereas most white employees were able to work from home. This resulted in a much higher rate of black employees contracting the virus versus white employees. Due to their circumstances and lack of access to educational opportunities, black employees hold most of the lowest paid positions at our company, while mostly white employees hold management or senior management positions.
When I was in college, a friend and I were the co-organizers for a celebration to welcome our new college President. Me, my friend and the incoming President were White, and most of the coordinating committee were also White. The prior President was Black, and there was disappointment among some students that the new President was also not Black and hadn’t been overly supportive of racial and equity issues.. I thought I was relatively close to friends in the Black Student Union (BSU), as I had marched with them against Apartheid and other issues. But, on the day of the celebration, at the beginning of the event, about 20 BSU members entered the room with picket signs and loudly noted their disappointment with the new President. I was shocked and appalled, and felt betrayed by my “friends.” Years later, i came to understand that I had the advantage to host this celebration, and did not consider the needs of Black and other students. This event gave the BSU a space to have themselves heard, and they made the news the next day- not the positive story I had anticipated.
I came from very humble beginnings growing up in the hard of Boynton Beach. I experienced all the risk factors many young black men in similar communities face each day (Single parent household, juvenile delinquency, teen parent). The odds were stacked against me and I was able to maneuver through the systems and barriers and graduate high school and college. In spite of my success, graduating college and becoming a success story for the Department of Juvenile Justice, I was unable to gain employment with the agency because of my juvenile record. There were inequities in their systems which prevented individuals like myself from being a part of the agency. They have made changes and modifications to their process to allow individuals with backgrounds the opportunity to work for the agency considering they are of good moral character.