What can I do?
It was a question I often received after writing I am exhausted and I want you to know why. . A few people even reached out to me and asked if they could get on a call. They were trying to understand the impact of institutional racism, how it affected me and my environment. I was appreciative of the sincere interest and discussions that followed. That being said, not all conversations were easy. Discussing racism is uncomfortable for a lot of people. It’s confrontational. The phone calls, meetings, text messages gave me a new feeling of exhaustion. Talking to my family and friends helped me manage and cope with the response the article received. I realized there was one common thread in every conversation. People asked, “what can I do” “how can I help.” Listening and showing empathy is the first small step of many towards solving complex and deep-rooted injustice in society.
The months that followed led to more conversations about racial injustice. I was asked to join several panels but noticed the topic was losing momentum. Corporates made promises to change their hiring policies, make teams more diverse, and support the black and Latinx communities. Although some progress has been made in the last several months and there is now more awareness than ever, there is still a lot of injustice to address. We still need more corporations and governments to step up.
How education and policy gaps have had societal-level implications on access to opportunity and the idea of fairness.
In June 2020, Aaron Stewart of BTCN.tv approached me to see if I was interested in shooting a documentary focused on the history of racial injustice, its impact on society, and ways to address it. I didn’t take long to say yes, under one condition: the documentary shouldn’t portray just my story. I wanted to make sure we examine the foundational layer of inequality, starting with how education and policy gaps have had societal-level implications on access to opportunity. To explore the forces that enable upward mobility and wealth generation. Specifically financial investment and access to capital, media and the distribution of information and creation of narratives, personal/professional networks and access to expertise.
BTCN loved the idea, and before I knew it, I was co-producing a documentary. My good friends Jamaur Bronner and Karim Raffa joined the production team as we kicked off our search for interviewees. It was inspiring to see how our network came together. Everyone loved the idea of making a documentary around this topic. How do you find 12 to 16 people willing to share their insights and experiences? About something so complicated and emotional as institutional racism and social injustice? Initially, I pitched the idea to several people with an academic background in social studies. I felt as nervous as a first-time founder sharing the concept of the documentary. What if they didn’t like the idea? What if it didn’t make sense for us to make a documentary while based in Singapore? Who will watch this documentary? Tiffany Joseph was one of the first interviewees to say yes. The ball started rolling fast after that. Jamaur did an incredible job lining up his network in the US. We signed some impressive interviewees and are still adding more as we inch closer to the release date (Q2 2020). We have the first black management consultant ever at McKinsey, the world’s foremost expert on reparations for Black Americans, and diverse senior leadership from some of the largest tech and Fortune 500 companies such as Twitter and Google. All of the interviewees have such an amazing story, they could be a documentary on their own. We are also teaming up with data partners in the US who are helping us with insights related to topics such as the wealth gap, corporate diversity, leadership, education, and equal opportunities.
As part of the documentary, Karim interviewed me about how I experienced racism. My youth and what my industry, venture capital, can do. It’s the first time I walked out of an interview as my emotions took the overhand. Talking about how racism influenced my youth and self-worth was challenging to discuss but absolutely worth it. Even one of my best friends, De’Angello Harris, dropped by for moral support. We’re still doing interviews. After every interview, the team needs some time to unwind. The topics go deep and hearing everyone talk about their experience and hopes for the future impacts us all. One quote from Tiffany still rings in my mind;
“Even after 1865, descendants of slaves did not benefit. Instead of having any sort of wealth passed down if anything was passed down, it was poverty”.
The documentary dives into the interlinkages between 8 topic areas, weaving together a mosaic perspective to highlight gaps and opportunities underpinning common paths to wealth creation.
- Government and Policy
- Professional Sports and Entertainment
- Business Executives and Corporate Leadership
Through interviews with leading researchers, industry executives, investors, professional athletes, and pop culture influencers, Broken Chains tells the story of those who “made it.” Why are they rare exceptions inside a broken system? How a collective push to end systemic injustices will create a better world for all of us.
We’ll keep on burning the midnight oil until the production is done. We’re conducting interviews across different timezones, and everyone manages either their day job or other projects. Our passion for addressing racial injustice is what combines us and drives this forward.
I want to show gratitude and respect to the interviewees we have confirmed thus far: Dr. William Darity, Mariah Lichtenstern, Tiffany Joseph, Dr. Kamau Bobb, Kristal High Taylor, Kaitlin McGaw, Dave Scott, Nick Caldwell, Jason Towns, Mike Asem, Marlon Nichols and Jim Lowry.
I also want to thank the team at Golden Gate Ventures for giving me the time and space to dive into this endeavour alongside our busy schedules. Your support hasn’t gone unnoticed.