Editor’s note: This is part of series of stories from WRAL TechWire focusing on the calls to action by African American executives in the Research Triangle technology sector following the death of George Floyd.
DURHAM — Margaret Brunson is CEO of Illumined Leadership Solutions. She is focused on strategic leadership development and solutions through leadership coaching, seminars and organizational development consulting.
She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree from North Carolina Central University and a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D) degree in leadership studies from North Carolina A&T State University.
She, along with other African American business leaders in the community, are calling for lasting change after the death of George Floyd at the hands of police last week.
- What is your view on the ground here in the Triangle?
As it relates to the protests, I have not actively participated. However, I do stand in solidarity with and in support of the protests. Above all, I want the protestors to remain safe and not be met with some of the extreme force that I’ve seen on the news.
In general, I’m seeing and participating in many virtual conversations, calls for real change, people vowing to do the work of understanding the fundamental and foundational issues at hand.
- What can be done on a local level to affect change?
We are currently experiencing this moment because of the tragic killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and too many other Black bodies, at the hands of the police. And, much of the conversation around transformation is focused on police reform which is something that can and should happen at multiple levels.
On a local level, I think municipalities, businesses, and organizations need to start intentionally moving beyond conversation. America has been talking about and discussing racism for a long time. While there are some people who need to continue to educate themselves on the issue; there are enough people who recognize and accept that structural racism is enough of a disease that runs throughout the fabric of America for us to pick up the pace on change.
One great place to start is to commit to the real work of racial equity within institutions. We need to develop and implement regulatory frameworks that include standardized expectations for organizational equity, quality measures and key performance indicators, mechanisms to monitor and enforce the expectations, scorecards and a system of accountability that penalizes a lack of adherence to the standards.
These scorecards should be used in the same ways that we use other regulations across the public and private sectors (e.g. restaurant health and safety regulations). We can no longer expect racial equity to happen as a result of a task force or committee dedicated to talking through the issue. We have enough research, data and brilliance within our local communities to start pushing and moving a little faster.
- Is this a watershed moment?
I think it will be up to us to decide if this is a watershed moment or turning point for our country. We are currently experiencing and living through a pandemic; something most of us have never experienced before. It has led people to think differently about how we work, how we educate children, how we spend time in community, how we keep each other safe.
These are all things that some people were thinking about even before the pandemic. This fight for racial equity and justice is no different.
There are people who have been doing this work and thinking through the hard questions for a long time. However, we are now presented with a moment that has caused some to awaken from their deep sleep and are now trying to find their place in this movement. Because of this, I think we’re at a turning point needing to decide which way to turn and how to walk forward.
- Where do we go from here?
My passion is facilitating the implementation of more holistic leadership paradigms and practices within organizations. In moments like this, I tend to focus on how leaders are emerging and growing and how we can maximize this enlightenment for true transformation. I think business and organizational leaders, in particular, need to begin to have difficult conversations and begin to intentionally divest from white supremacy and its structures and systems. In addition to convening the right people to build new systems, I think leaders must begin to ask some different questions. How might they begin to incrementally shift the use of resources to fund new visions without the expectation of remaining loyal to the old structures? How might they look at budget line items through the lens of racial equity? How might you reorder your thinking about the hierarchy of importance within the organization’s talent & voices? How might you give yourself permission to dream new dreams; ones that are equitable and inclusive?