For those of you I have not had a pleasure of meeting, my name is Darryl Keeton II, Executive Leader, Black Diamond Business Solutions based in Galvanize Phoenix. Recently, two different lists were published about the Valley’s startup community “leaders to know.” Congratulations to those who made a list and look forward to meeting those I do not know on the list. The lists were “20 People to Know in Startups 2017” and “My Top 30 People to Know in Startups Around Phoenix.” The lists serve a great purpose with amazing people who I have worked with and view as leaders. In the lists I noticed one thing missing was the lack of inclusion, which made me ponder if the Valley’s #yesphx community was truly generous? A significant aspect that stood out the most out of a total of 50 individuals one person on one list was black. I reviewed the list twice to see if I missed anything paused and reflected.
If you don’t mind, I would like to share with you a personal experience in how I recently accepted inclusion (especially in my backyard) now more than ever. I am a black male, but I see myself as a human. As a human, we all need water, food, and shelter to survive. I choose to focus my life as an entrepreneur and to help others. My purpose was that if I see everyone as equals and include everyone why do I need to categorize myself with others and check another box. My interaction with inclusion involved this year with an organization I volunteer for. We participated in an inclusion challenge initiative and received $5,000 seed funding. To receive the seed funding an organization had to demonstrate how the use of funds would be put toward increasing engagement with minority and women business owners. To be honest, for the organization that was connecting a community I was uncomfortable only targeting the funds to minority and women business owners. I thought inclusion was to mean inclusive to everyone no matter who they were. For the seed fund reporting, we track the number of minorities and women who we are engaging with us. I was unease with tracking individuals based on who they are. While being in the trenches of the inclusion initiative, the article and blog generated an eye-opening experience about inclusion. I changed my perspective and understanding about the importance of inclusion and what it truly means in its form and intended purpose. Inclusion is not how you describe groups but creating awareness for individuals looking and who need a source of connectivity to create an engaging experience that resonates with them. It is a conscious decision on the part of humans to include. It is not necessarily natural. Which is why I write today. The effort is missing from these lists.
I would like to say that there is no hardship for me, over the list, but there is a genuine concern with the Valley’s startup community, its leaders, and influencers who may not be focusing on inclusion in their efforts. I’ve been to many startup events and identified I’m either the sole minority in the group or was the only black person. That never bothered me. However, I see how the grant I mentioned above and its purpose serves so much more and we all need more education and awareness about inclusion.
As a community, we need to do more and focus on inclusion not just through our words but most importantly, through delivering action! Therefore, I ask that we collectively include friends who are a minority, women, or LGBTQ (no matter if they are a startup or an entrepreneur) to the next startup event in the Valley. Think about this; if they show up with each of us the first time, they will more than likely continue to attend on their own and continue the cycle. Let’s open our doors and make it an objective that if the room looks too much like any of us to step up and make a change.
I hope this starts a healthy conversation in our community. Live on, grow, and be stronger #yesphx, let’s make the “I” in generosity equal inclusion!
For additional reference, here are some related articles, videos, and blogs regarding inclusion. Thank you to Robin Baskin McNulty, Program Coordinator, Entrepreneurship + Innovation for providing this list.
3. A couple of scholarly articles
a. The Color of Entrepreneurship Why the Racial Gap among Firms Costs the U.S. Billions. Download the report too, it’s a great read!