Are You Racially Literate?

As published on LinkedIn Influencers on May 8th, 2018.

Last November I had the privilege of attending the TED Women Conference in New Orleans, and to say that I came away from that event inspired would be an understatement. Out of all the incredible speakers that I heard over those three days, there was one talk in particular that I could not stop thinking about. The one shared below, which was just released on the TED platform yesterday and has already been viewed nearly 300,000 times. When they gave their talk at TED Women, Priya Vulchi and Winona Guo were in the midst of travelling to all 50 states to talk to people about race, and they were doing this during their gap year between high school and college. Their talk outlined how they were attempting to connect both the hundreds of personal stories they were hearing on their trip, as well as their own personal experiences on a cross-country road trip as two women of color, to the wealth of facts and statistics that have been gathered by researchers over the decades about racial inequality and the negative impact of systemic racism in America. In their talk they share their framework by identifying two big gaps in people’s racial literacy: the heart gap, a lack of understanding of our own personal experiences with regards to race, and the mind gap, a lack of understanding about the systemic epidemic of racism in this country. When I heard them speak, I realized I possessed both of these gaps, and it is likely you may have them as well.

Taking a step back, in 2016, Priya and Winona published The Classroom Index, a racial literacy textbook for educators to help them teach students on this often difficult and uncomfortable topic. They did this while sophomores in high school in New Jersey. Yes, you read that right, sophomores in HIGH SCHOOL. The success of, and interest in this book led them to embark on their journey across America to have these conversations with average, everyday people in all 50 states in order to truly understand the current state of racial literacy in this country. Their findings are set to be published in their forthcoming book, Race Across 50 States. At the time they spoke at TED Women in November, they still had 23 states to go.

When I heard that Utah was one of the states they had not yet interviewed in, I immediately invited them to come visit, which they did in February of this year. They set up multiple independent interviews, my daughter Allie hosted them at her high school, and I hosted a home based event with students, educators, and others. What they did more than anything else in each setting was listen; they really listened to each person’s experiences around race. It sounds simple, but it’s rarely simple in execution. As they said in their talk, “Today, so few of us understand each other”, and this lack of understanding is the root of so many social problems across all communities. That is why they set out to change the status quo by founding Choose in 2014 to try and raise the bar in racial literacy, which in turn led to their publication of The Classroom Index just two years later. I think it bears repeating that they did all of this while still students in high school. These two truly are Wonder Women.

Yesterday, their TED Talk was released on TED.com, and I encourage everyone to take the time to not only watch this brilliant and important talk, but to share it broadly. Whether at school, at home, in our places of worship, or in our community based organizations, these are conversations we need to be having. I hope their talk inspires everyone to take a closer look at their own experiences around race, ask and listen to others, and try to understand the many ways race and racial inequality impact our society. Priya and Winona are two of the most intelligent, compassionate, and articulate young women I have ever met, and I believe wholeheartedly that their work is going to help change the racial conversation in this country for the better.

Since TED Women, Priya and Winona have finished their tour of all 50 states, collecting over 500 interviews along the way, and they are hard at work finishing the content for their new book. As if you needed any more proof of their awesomeness, they are also currently in New York City as part of the TED Residency program, where they are the youngest TED residents in history. Despite all this, something tells me that Priya and Winona are just getting started, and I can’t wait to see where their journeys lead them next. If you would like to learn more about Choose, you can find more information HERE. You can also follow the conversation online at @princetonchoose on Twitter. Finally, their TED Talk can be found HERE, and I hope you will all watch and share it with your networks.

Their TED Talk is below, as well as an informal interview I conducted with Priya and Winona during their visit to Utah.

 

Celebrating 10 Years of Women Moving Millions

As published on LinkedIn Influencers on September 8th, 2017.

“Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world.” H.Zinn

Today marks the start of the annual Women Moving Millions (WMM) Summit in New York City, and this year we are celebrating 10 years since the founding of WMM. 10 years since two sisters decided to spark a philanthropic movement dedicated to giving big and bold. 10 years during which unprecedented resources have been catalyzed for the advancement of women and girls. 10 years since an incredible community of donors came together to put the words women, giving, and millions together.

Women Moving Millions began in 2007 as a campaign to raise the bar on giving to women and girls. Founders and sisters Helen LaKelly Hunt and Ambassador Swanee Hunt sought to inspire donors to make financial commitments of $1 million or more to women’s funds around this country and the world. Phase I of the WMM campaign began in April 2007, and was launched in partnership with the Women’s Funding Network. During the initial campaign, over $182 million was pledged from 102 donors to 41 WFN funds, and a global movement of committed, purposeful women donors (and a few good men!) was born. I was honored to be one of the 102, and although I knew the initiative was a game-changer for women and philanthropy, I did not know how much of a game-changer it would be for THIS woman and HER philanthropy. That woman being me.

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” H. Keller

Soon after the campaign ended I began to take on a more active role within WMM, together with so many other women who knew that this effort to encourage women to give big and bold to women and girls could not end. With every passing year I became more and more passionate about the cause, and in 2011 I was invited by Helen LaKelly Hunt to become the founding President and CEO (Chief Engagement Officer) of Women Moving Millions Inc. when WMM transitioned from a program and campaign within Helen’s private foundation into an independent 501C3. This transition was possible in large part because of a signficant seed grant from the JP Morgan Foundation, which came to us through the incredible support of Kim Davis, Laura Davis, Mary Erdoes, and Diane Whitty. Earlier this week I had an amazing call with Kim, who is no longer with the foundation, and we laughed about the sheer number of meetings we had over the years, and I have the evidence! I saved every single deck and every single note from every single meeting. Kim, along with those other amazing women, believed in us and our mission at WMM, and tonight I will be celebrating them at the Brooklyn Museum.

In the years since I became CEO, I have put my heart and soul into this organization, because I truly believe in the work we are doing to support our members’ individual, as well as our collective engagement and leadership, to bring about a more just and equitable world. Yesterday we welcomed 28 new members, bringing our total to 282. 282 individuals who have given or pledged at least $1 million or more to organizations of their choice that primarily serve women and girls. Documented total giving exceeds $600 million, but total giving from our community members stretches well over a billion. Money does not go to WMM or through us, but directly to the organizations of the member’s choosing. What an honor and privilege it is to see where the money goes, and the vast number of organizations and initiatives that our members support. Money matters, but so does passion and leveraging one’s personal platform in every way possible.

This was brought to life so powerfully last night when one of our newest members, Mariska Hargitay, spoke about her passion around the issue of untested rape kits and her soon to be released HBO film I Am Evidence. Mariska has portrayed Lieutenant Olivia Benson on NBC’s Law and Order: SVU since 1999, and in 2004, in response to the thousands of letters she has received over the years from rape and sexual assault survivors, she founded the Joyful Heart Foundation. The mission of this foundation is to help survivors of this abuse through the positive transformation of society’s response to sexual assault, but in particular, this foundation aims to end the national backlog of untested rape kits, which is the primary issue examined in the film. Thank you Pat Mitchell for doing such a beautiful job interviewing Mariska and others involved with the film including Kym Worthy, Wayne County Prosecutor and Maile Zambuto, CEO of the Joyful Heart Foundation. Missing was the amazing Regina Scully, Producer of the film and Founder of the Artemis Rising Foundation. Key messages from the film were captured by the incredibly talented visual artist @PeterDurand.

“If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” African Proverb

Every year we pick a theme for the Women Moving Millions Summit, and it is no coincidence that the theme of this year’s Summit is The Power of Community, because the power of this community is truly remarkable, and we are just getting started. Yesterday, Gloria Steinem joined us, as she has many times before, and invited us, no commanded us, to do what other groups may not be able to do. To take big risks, to be bold, and to support and champion each other and the countless women who do not have the resources we do.

Tonight, I will be named a cofounder of Women Moving Millions Inc., alongside Helen LaKelly Hunt and Catalyst Ambassador Swanee Hunt, and this honour means the world to me. I will continue to be ALL IN to build a movement of people, men and women, who believe that gender equality is important, is just, is right, and is about time.

Please join the conversation online at @WomenMovMillions, #wmmsummit, and #powerofcommunity

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” M. Mead

Here’s to the next 10 years of community at Women Moving Millions.

Top Take-Aways From The Skoll World Forum 2016

IMG_9764I love going to conferences. Yes, I am one of those people who show up full of anticipation that I will learn something new, meet someone who will become my new best friend, deepen relationships with people I already know, experience something different, and leave fully fueled so that I can continue in my diverse efforts to help make the world a better place. As we all know, some conferences are better than others, but as I depart from my inaugural trip to the SKOLL World Forum in Oxford, England, I checked off all of the above!

In case you have not heard about it, what exactly is this special event? It is a by-invitation gathering that happens only once a year, and it is hosted by the team at the Skoll Foundation. They bring together nearly 1,000 top innovators from more than 60 countries for debate, discussion, and networking, and the conference is designed to accelerate entrepreneurial solutions to the world’s most pressing problems. What’s not to like about that? The theme for this year was fierce compassion as a driver of social progress. It just so happens that both of those words; fierce and compassion, happen to be on my top ten list of words that inspire me, so my expectations for this conference were very high.

To do a full debrief on every session I attended, every speaker I heard, and every new and awesome person I met would fill up a book, and indeed it did, so allow me to share the highlights in an unusual form. Included below are some of my favorite people, powerful words, calls to action, and more, all in chronological order. I hope you like it.

Utah to Oxford. 4810 Miles. Arrive in pouring rain. Surprised? England. Check-in. HI. Hey. HI. Hey. HI. Me? First time. You? My second. My fifth. My tenth. Me too. Walking tour? Sure! 38 colleges, some dating back to the 13th century? Cool. Understatement. Pub night at the Head of the River. Another please. Shining Hope for Communities. Find Me Unafraid. Love Story Jessica + Kennedy. New besties? Check. Sleep? Not really.

Excitement! First session. Higher Ground: Faith and Spirituality as Levers for Change. We cannot retreat to our silos. Dialogue. Fav? Molly MelchingTOSTAN. Include religious leaders in the process to discuss and change negative social norms. Human rights education. Lunch. Global Innovation Fund. New. Grounded in evidence with rigorous measurement. Follow-up. Introductions. Research. First Plenary. Stephan Chambers. For the next few days, you do not have to explain why you do what you do. What we combat does not get tired. Jeff Skoll. Climate Crisis. YES IT’S REAL. Mary Robinson. Paris Agreement. Get FIERCER. The Fierce Urgency of Now. Selina Leem. Marshall Islands. One of the most vulnerable places on earth to climate change. Annie Griffiths. Ripple Effect. If we want women to be valued we must show their value. Indoor pollution #1 killer of women in the developing world and children under the age of five. 4.3 million deaths per year. Hut Lung. Say what? Al Gore. #sofunny. #whoknew. Three questions. 1) Do we really have to change? 2) Can we Change? 3) Will we change? BAD News. Really Bad. Hope. Global wind and solar capacity. This is a moral choice. Pick a side. Let us not forget that the power of people is much stronger than that of people in power. Malek Jandali. Syrian American Composer and Pianist. Breathtaking. Next. The Neuroscience of Fierce Compassion. Can we grow empathy? Is empathy a choice? Academic debate. Way too many ideas and questions. Brain exploding. Finding your story and making it count: A Session with Sundance. Tabitha Jackson. #girlcrush. What makes a good story? Truth. Transcendence. Transformation. I get to work with her. Na na na na na na. Think about how things should fit together. Then fit them together. The world is full of free things that are delightful. Delight. Funders reception. Dinner. Sleep? Not really.

#soexited. Leading Through Adversity. Pat Mitchell. #bestie. Alaa Murabit.Mary Robinson. Mphu Tutu. Halla Tomasdottir. Running for President of Iceland and an absolutely amazing woman. Wish she was running here! What is the source of the power? From where does one derive it? When you specifically wrong you learn a lot, when you are vaguely right you do not. As a leader are you giving space, or taking it? Next. The News We Need. @jesssearch. Brit Doc. #girlcrush. What is news? …what someone does not want to be printed…helps us to understand who we are and what we care about…reveals truth…@wajahatali @zoesqwilliams @doctoryasmin @anasglobal!!!!! @anasglobal in a mask, deep investigative journalist in Ghana. Name. Shame. Jail. Justice sold is the most dangerous commodity on earth. On corruption. Google Raceboy. Islamophobia. Pay for quality journalism! Funders lunch. Women and girls table. Most crowded! WOO HOO. Plenary. Sally Osberg President and CEO Skoll Foundation. #girlcrush Do we have an innate desire and capacity for justice? Skoll Awardees. $1.25 mm each. GO HERE to view them all. AMAZING. Separate blog. Reception at the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Technology. Stories of Change Dinner. The Slug and the Lettuce. Beer and networking. Networking and beer. Sleep? Ya right.

Last day. Private meeting. Molly Melching. TOSTAN. #impact #beautifulperson. Panel. Challenging Global Wealth and Inquality. Fav? Darren Walker, President Ford Foundation. #guycrush. New face? Nick Hanauer. Middle-up economics versus trickle down economics. What are the drivers of inequality? Persistent prejudice and negative cultural narratives… corruption…rigged rules…aspirational deficits…immoral capitalism…We need more rich white guys talking about inquality. Is revolution inevitable? Closing Plenary. Alexander Betts. Director. Refugee Center. Oxford. Research on Myths around Refugees. Need a paradigm shift. Man does not live on food and water alone. But on hope. Know the facts. Change the narrative. Create a just scheme to distribute refugees. #respect. #humanrights. Tabitha Jackson. Again! #awesome. Sonita. Sundance premiered documentary film. Yes I was there. Her story. Afghanistan. Iran. Girl rapper. WATCH THIS NOW. Seriously. WATCH. Activist. Must see. When you don’t have papers you don’t exist. I was not mad at my mom. I was mad at society. On social norms around child marriage. Official close. Stephan Chambers. The will to act is itself a renewable resource. Be clear that what you do is important. Last Thing. Henry James. Only three things are important in life. The First is to be kind. The second is to be kind. The third? To be kind.

After the conference was officially over, I hung around for six more hours chatting with the other “slow to departers”. I had the pleasure of meeting up with Heather Mason, Founder and CEO of the Caspian Agency, who was responsible for executing this multi-day event. To say she is a conference planning rockstar would indeed be an understatement.

As I type now I am sitting at the Heathrow airport about to board my flight back home. Will I be back next year? Darn right I will! Congrats to the SKOLL team for a job incredibly well done, and for ALL the work they do in support of social entrepreneurs everywhere. Truly incredible! And if you are looking for incredible organizations to support, spend some time on the SKOLL website to read about their many awardees. I think you will be hard-pressed to find a better list of amazing non-profits that are worthy of our support.

Take a cruise through the TWEETS to get other amazing take-aways from SKOLL Forum 2016 using hashtag #skollwf . Follow @skollfoundation on Twitter for year-round conversations and news.

PS – definition of girl crush: feelings of admiration and adoration that a girl (woman) has for another girl (woman).  A nonsexual attraction, usually based on veneration at some level.

Photo with Pat Mitchell and Halla Tomasdottir, who is currently running for the President of Iceland.