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‘What Has the Most Significant Impact on Leadership of Color?’ 16 Philly-Area Leaders Answer The Que

Sabrina Vourvoulias - February 11, 2020

This month, Generocity is focusing attention on leaders of color.

In one recent article, they asked some leaders from across the nonprofit, social impact and civic sectors: what has the most significant impact on leadership of color?

Below are the first few responses (they organized the article alphabetically).

To read all sixteen, click here.

Vanessa B. Briggs, President and CEO at Brandywine Health Foundation

When you take your first steps into leadership you carry with you the clear and unequivocal understanding that no matter how much education you’ve attained or how much you’ve accomplished in your chosen field, you will always have to work twice as hard as your counterparts who are not leaders of color. This realization, intensified and supported today by a political atmosphere that encourages racism as a right, disproportionately impacts women, who despite many of the diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, continue to have a shorter tenure in the C-suite.

This all can be daunting, exhausting and more than a little disheartening. But you use your leadership superpowers for good and continue the work, developing new strategies and coping techniques to rise above the fray. Keep close your stop-at-nothing work ethic, your commitment to excellence and, perhaps most importantly, your genuine desire to help other people of color challenge the status quo.

As my mentor and friend, Yolanda Gaskins, first African American female news anchor at CNN and principal at Gaskins Media Works reminds me, “As a woman of color in a leadership position you awake each morning to a minefield of challenges. If your purpose is clear and you move carefully toward each objective with humility and integrity, you will arrive safely at the end of the day a far better leader. Only then can you help other women of color walk the same leadership path and stay the course.”

Rodney Camarc, Senior Programs Manager at Asian Arts Initiative

The biggest impact for me as a POC in a leadership position, having come from a white-led organization, has been to be seen and validated.

To no longer be invisible but celebrated for my perspective on being an immigrant.

Erinn Corbtt-Wright, Vice President, Charitable Foundation Program Manager at TD

I believe that leaders of color, particularly within the public sector, share a sense of collective responsibility to the communities in which we live, work, and play. Those who are motivated by that sense of responsibility last far longer and have much deeper impacts than those interested in acclaim or financial gain. Feeling inextricably linked to collective progress is an integral quality to leading as a person of color.

As such, I’d say I stand beside — not on the shoulders of — the following leaders of color in Philadelphia: Rev. Dr. Lorina Marshall Blake of the Independence Blue Cross Foundation, Jasmine Sessoms of the Community College of Philadelphia, and of course, my colleague, Dominique Goss of the TD Charitable Foundation.

Elicia Gonzales, Executive Director at Women's Medical Fund

For me, what has had the most significance as a queer Latinx in leadership roles within various nonprofit organizations in Philadelphia is an intentionally supportive community or individual. We need folks we can lean on, trust, seek advice, and just check in to make sure that what we are experiencing is, in fact, often times rooted in white dominance and patriarchy.

One of the most healing, powerful spaces I have been a part of is the Women of Equity group. This is a group that meets monthly between April-December for women of color working in nonprofits. We share stories and console one another. I have found it incredibly comforting to share various incidents and for others to validate my feelings and assure me that, in fact, I am not crazy. Investing in environments like this has a huge impact on leadership of color. Similarly, I have found that my role as a leader of color is to serve as a source of support for other people of color — those who are trying to get their foot in the door, or more seasoned folks who are grappling with conflict. We need to look around, hold the door open for others to emerge as leaders, and then support one another in our respective roles.

Towards that end, the leaders of color whom I admire are Kris Smith and Amadee Braxton — the two folks who facilitate the Women of Equity groups. They host us and help to create a space where true healing, transformation, and affirmations can occur. They give so much of themselves —all in the name of supporting women of color [helping us] survive and thrive in the nonprofit industrial complex. They help us be whole and I truly could not sustain in this work were it not for them.

To read more, click here.

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