In the wake of the tragic murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and Breonna Taylor, a wide array of organizations including grassroots entities, labor unions, state parties, consulting firms, etc. have come out publicly in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Welcome!!! I’m pleased that your organizations are now increasingly aware of the deeply rooted societal challenges that made Black Lives Matter necessary, but increased awareness is not the end goal. Alongside this newfound support, all organizations should be taking a critical look at strategic, deliberate actions that can be taken to truly embody the principles of the movement. For example, do Black Lives Matter when it comes to hiring Black people to join your workforce? If you truly stand by your public statement, what steps are being taken to ensure that Black staff are represented at different levels, not simply in entry-level positions or in the “diversity” departments, or only in roles that liaise with the Black community.
Without these considerations, it would be fitting to suggest that your organization is saying that Black Lives Matter via Tweet or Company Notice, only because it’s the trendy thing to do, not that the leadership stands behind it wholeheartedly. The recent Hill article by Jamal Simmons, Time for a Democratic reckoning on race, highlighted the real and present issues pertinent to hiring Black people within the Progressive Movement. It is not only important to acknowledge that there is work to do within our movement, but to also realize the challenges are structural and systemic. This means that any resolution will require real change, and not superficial surface level shifts.
All you need to do is take a critical look at the facts. In order to win in November, Progressive Organizations and state parties MUST earn and win the Black vote. This is widely understood, and should underpin your organizational strategy. It is therefore imperative that you hire talented Black people. This does not mean that you hire only one or two just to check the box, but active and deliberate recruitment of Black staff! We will talk about retention next time, but a gentle reminder that getting them through the door is only the first step, further efforts need to be made to promote and retain them!
I challenge you to not fall back on some more common points of feedback such as: “No Black people applied.” You also should not accept: “No qualified Black people applied, ” or “No Black people who would be a culture fit, made it to the next round.” Enough. These are all statements that demonstrate a lack of commitment to truly diversifying your rosters.
I can assure you that there are plenty of qualified Black people to fill your Communications Director role. There are numerous qualified Black people who can serve as your Political Director. There are more than enough qualified Black people who can fill just about any vacancy! There is not a shortage of Black talent. There is a lack of organizations actively seeking it out.
Unfortunately in this field, many organizations seek out potential candidates through personal and professional networks. This process, while common, furthers the already un-level playing field, and allows for systems built on white supremacy, nepotism, and other social ills, to endure. Recognizing that institutional barriers such as redlining have influenced and continue to influence access to residing in certain communities, or attend certain schools, it is not sufficient to assume that staff networks are far reaching. If your staff have only lived in neighborhoods or attended schools that are majority white, or non-black , then it is highly unlikely that these limited personal or professional networks would furnish a variety Black talent.
I reiterate that to recruit Black talent is a strategic and deliberate exercise. However, to support you on this journey, allow me to point you to some resources to give you a head start on your recruitment.
HCBUs and Other Higher Education Institutions
There is an incredible amount of talent and ingenuity to be leveraged through direct engagement with Historical Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). HBCUs are vital to the Black community, as they provided higher education opportunities when none other were available to Black students. Currently, there are 101 HCBUs, including both public and private institutions. It’s important that you reach out to the HCBU career centers, but I urge you not to stop there. In addition to senior level administrators, conduct targeted outreach to the departments related to the fields for which you are seeking candidates. Don’t limit yourselves to the “well-known” or geographically convenient schools – the Howard and Spelman Universities of the world, but also schools such as Jackson State University, LeMoyne Owen, University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Bethune-Cookman University, Grambling State University, Rust College, Stillman, and my own alma mater Virginia State University. This is only a brief list, but it is important to recognize that HBCUS come in all sizes! There are approximately 350+ students at Paine College, and 11,500+ students at North Carolina A&T! I acknowledge that all Black students do not exclusively attend HBCUs, and many also attend Predominantly White Institutions (PWIs). I encourage your organizations to seek out networks of Black students at PWIs as well. Many PWIs have an on campus center for diversity, and this would be a great place to start!
Black Professional Organizations
Black Professional Organizations offer an expert group of subject matter experts in one easy to find place. There is a Black Professional Organization for just about every industry, and they often have existing spaces to post career opportunities, such as jobs boards and regular networking events for their members.
Here are a few that you can contact today:
- National Black Public Relations Society (NBPRS)
- National Black MBA Association (NBMBAA)
- National Conference of Black Political Scientists (NCOBPS)
- National Association of African Americans in Human Resources (NAAAHR)
The National Urban League Young Professional Organization also has local chapters all across the U.S., and are a resource your organizations could tap into.
Progressive Recruitment Organizations.
There are several organizations that are actively recruiting more Black people in progressive spaces. The two that stand out are Inclusv and Room for Progress. Inclusv was founded with the mission to break down the barriers that have traditionally prevented people of color from advancing in the political sector. Inclusv collects resumes, and provides a weekly newsletter to their members advertising new job opportunities. Room for Progress, is an organization that is also actively increasing diversity within political workspaces by collecting resumes and connecting potential employers with prospective employees. Both of these organizations are a great source of potential candidates.
There is a social media ecosystem that could connect your organization to Black talent. Black Twitter is larger than a hashtag, it is a virtual community. Black people have created communities all over social media. There are many Black professional groups on Facebook and LinkedIn that are representative of various geographical locations and industries. These are groups that exist to share advice and job opportunities within the Black community. Selected groups include: Houston Black Professionals, The Black Professional Network – DC, Bay Area Black Professionals, Black Women in Campaigns, Black Professionals In Technology, Black Professional Attorneys, Black Women Tech, and Hire Black. Many of these groups have mechanisms through which you can directly post job listings. However, it’s also important to note that some of these places are “protected spaces” in that they would not want non-black recruiters to enter the space. But a non black recruiter can reach out to the administrators of such groups and pass on the job information.
There are several job boards that you can post with, to ensure that your career opportunities will be visible to a more diverse applicant pool.
I highly recommend:
- Diversify Tech
- Black Jobs
- Diversity Jobs
A unique job board that warrants your organization’s attention is 70 million jobs. This job board is curated for a specific subset of the population who struggle to secure employment due to systemic issues related to policing communities of color. Experience directly the criminal justice system is a reality for far too many Black people, for example in the age of COVID-19 and social distancing, in New York, out of all the people that were issued summons for social distancing, more than 80 percent of people were Black or Latino according to local elected leaders. While, Black people do not commit more crimes than white people, they are over-policed, and overly charged for things that white people are often just slapped on the wrist for. It is critical that progressive organizations do their part to seek out talent from candidates pools like these.
Historically Black Greek Organizations
The National Pan-Hellenic Council is made up of nine historically Black Greek letter organizations also known as the “Divine Nine.” The Divine Nine is made up of the following Black Greek letter organizations:
- Alpha Kappa Alpha
- Delta Sigma Theta
- Sigma Gamma Rho
- Zeta Phi Beta
- Sigma Phi Beta
- Iota Phi Theta
- Kappa Alpha Psi
- Alpha Phi Alpha
- Omega Psi Phi
Joining a historically Black Greek sorority or fraternity is a lifetime commitment for its members. The Divine Nine organizations were a vital part of the civil rights movement, and continue to be actively engaged in supporting and advocating for issues pertinent to the Black community. They often also have mentorship and community service requirements.. Alpha Phi Alpha for example runs “A Voteless People Is A Hopeless People”, national voter registration program. Other Black Greek organizations are heavily involved in the progressive movement, and I would urge you to leverage the experience and talent of the membership to advance your organizational goals.
Last but not least, listservs such as Jobs that are Left (part of this site: GAIN POWER), and the BlackBeltway are listservs that I have personally followed whether or not I’m actively looking for a job. Jobs That Are Left (JTAL) is a popular google group for the Democratic and Progressive community managed by this website GAIN POWER. Black Beltway is a space for African Americans (and friends) to share and receive political job postings, networking, and educational opportunities. These places are a great place to post jobs and have furnished opportunities for me and many others.
In closing, this is not an exhaustive list! This is a brief overview, which is intended to help you actively and deliberately recruit Black talent to join your organization. Please seek out other opportunities to identify prospective employees, consultants, etc. Now that you are better equipped with these various resources, GET STARTED.