A Courageous Conversation with Opal Tometi
Who is Opal Tometi?
Recently, we had the great honor to attend a webinar featuring Opal Tometi, the co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement (BLM). This was the second Courageous Conversation webinar hosted by the Raleigh Chamber and Triangle DEI Alliance. As we became closer acquainted with Opal, we had the chance to learn about who she is, about what she is passionate, and what led her to co-found the Black Lives Matter movement. Opal recounts that a few years back, she knew her friends were working on a new project together to create a platform for Black people and people of color, and she knew she was willing to do anything she could to be part of the movement. Opal’s background is in Marketing and Communications, so when she felt the pull to join her friends in the creation of BLM, she knew exactly how she could help.
What is the Black Lives Matter Movement?
Opal noted that the Black Lives Matter Movement is not strictly about police brutality; however, the organization has focused many efforts recently on recognizing systemic flaws within sectors of police brutality, American government, education, healthcare, and law making. Opal and the other co-founders of Black Lives Matter recognized that oftentimes misinformation can lead to a lack of unity. If there is a way to unite people under the same cause, then more people will have a platform to use their voice, and change will be easier to enact. This was the heart of BLM during its conception, and still to this day- to create a safe space where people can learn and grow and empower each other to be the change within flawed systems.
Corporate Engagement + Black Lives Matter
We’ve noticed that many job seekers care deeply about the culture of a company and what the company offers beyond a paycheck. Corporate Engagement in Social Justice Issues emphasize that the company is committed to growth, DEI, and amplifying the voices of others. Opal made a point to mention that it is not the responsibility of just a handful of people to enact change in our societies, it’s the responsibility of everyone, everywhere. We cannot wait around for important people or impactful companies to establish change in our communities. The heart of BLM is to offer a launch pad for all companies and people, no matter race, size, or influence to have the platform to stand up for what is right. Opal put it perfectly when she said, “The mandate is much larger than any one individual or any one organization.” We are all responsible for standing up, speaking out, and using our platform.
One tangible way companies can invest in corporate engagement with BLM, Opal suggested, is to offer your employees solutions to take Election Day to vote. For example, Greene Resources offers its employees to take two free days off a year to volunteer at any place of their choice. Many team members at Greene Resources are taking Election Day to work at the polls to assist in making voting easy and accessible for others.
Commit to Your Community
Community changes everything. It took a pandemic for the world to slow down enough to recognize how important real community is. When you become deeply invested in a community it is easier to see how your actions impact people within your sphere of influence.
Your Sphere of Influence
The words we say and actions we perform impact people more than we may realize. Whether working, parenting, or being a friend, what you stand for is obvious to many throughout the day. Opal challenged everybody to be gracious towards each other and extend kindness to all with whom we interact. In this Courageous Conversation, we were reminded that throughout our days, our lives will intersect with people who look different than us, act different than us, and believe different things than us. It may feel more comfortable to avoid investing in relationships with people who are different, but Opal encouraged everyone to remember that differences are what make us stronger and wiser.
Honest and Robust Conversations
Many people may feel intimidated to begin to have conversations about systemic racism and diversity due to the fear of saying the wrong thing. If you are just beginning the work of recognizing biases and racist tendencies, you may feel like you don’t have anything worth adding to the conversation. While people with privilege should always amplify other’s voices over their own, everybody brings valuable information and insight into conversations. Opal put it simply, “Don’t let the fear of perfection keep you from taking the first step. We are looking for progress, not perfection.” In order to see real change around systems of inequality and racism, real people must be transformed. Transformation begins with having the space to engage in honest and robust conversations, like the Courageous Conversation that Opal Tometi shared.
It is always an honor to get to sit in the (virtual) presence of world-changers and simply get the opportunity to listen and learn. We were tremendously impacted by the first webinar in this series with Matthew McCarthy as well as this Courageous Conversation with Opal Tometi. The team at Greene Resources wants to extend a special thank you to Opal Tometi for speaking at this event and to The Raleigh Chamber and the Triangle DEI Alliance for organizing and hosting Courageous Conversations.