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F-Suite - Black First

F-Suite - Black First
By Deborah Okenla • Issue #5 • View online
My heart is heavy.
Over the past couple days black communities have witnessed and experienced so much pain and trauma. From murder, assignation, to silence and racism. Belly Mujinga, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, have had their lives taken away from them because of the colour of their skin - their black skin.
As a Founder and CEO running an organisation dedicated to diversity and inclusion in tech, YSYS, it’s our responsibility to stand up and speak out, but, as a black woman, with a father, brothers and uncles it’s also my responsibility.
I’m a BLACK woman first, before I’m a CEO.
I’ve spent the past few days speaking to my friends, advisors, and community to find out how they are coping and healing - “exhausted, angry, confused, depressed, frustrated” - where just a few of the words that summed up their current state.
Next week my company, YSYS, will be rolling out our Black Lives Matter Action Plan, which involves a series of activities from donating to a protest bailout funds, hosting an event bringing black community leaders together and adding more value to our programmes.
As Founders and CEO’s, change starts with you, and so I urge you, if you have not already to put together your company’s Black Lives Matter Action Plan and share this with your stakeholders, from your team to your clients - now is not the time to be silent.
Below, I have listed a few examples of actions you can take. This is list is not exhaustive, but it’s start.
1) Send an email to your team and advisory board with an overview of what has happened over the past few weeks and where your company stands with the Black Lives Matter movement.
2) Schedule 1:1 meetings with all members of your team (particularly those who are black) and check on their mental health and wellbeing, provide adequate care and support where necessary.
  • Kwanda, a collection pot for black communities is raising a fund to to cover the costs of therapy for black individuals - you can donate here
3) If you are hiring during this period, actively post your open roles on black jobs board such as: BYP, POCIT and YSYS.
4) Create a learning and development plan for your team, which involves education on anti-racism. This can include, workshops, courses, training and online events.
  • A great list of anti-racism resources for white people and parents can be found here.
1) Highlight activities members of your team can get involved in to show their support of Black Lives Matter, this can range from volunteering with black community groups to signing petitions.
1) Put together or update your Anti-discrimination and Code of Ethics policy. You can find templates here and here.
1) Share on social media where you stand with #BlackLivesMatter. Follow the example of:
  • Morgan DeBaun, Co-founders and CEO of Blavity post
  • Kike Oniwinde, Founder and CEO of BYP post
  • Sophia Amoruso, Founder of Girl Boss post
  • Emily Weiss, Founder and CEO of Glossier post
  • Stewart Butterfield, Co-founder and CEO of Slack post
2) Update your social media with the #BlackLivesMatter twitter banners and artwork, you can find some here.
It is not enough to be quietly non-racist. Now is the time to be vocally anti-racist” - Angela Davis.
I hope you found this email useful, let me know how you get on by using the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter


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Deborah Okenla

Musings and resources for Founders transitioning into CEO roles.

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