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Candace Marie's Black In Corporate Initiative Aims To Erase Anti-Blackness In Corporate Spaces

"I want the corporate sector to take the steps and actions to be an authentic ally for Black Individuals."

BOSS UP

Who knew Nina Simone singing, "To be young, gifted and black. Oh, what a lovely precious dream," would be the anthem for melanin millennials. Watching Candace Marie dominate Fashion Weeks all over the globe and be her pro-black self in luxurious spaces is exactly what our ancestors' dreams are made of. This powerhouse of a woman uses her respected voice in the industry to champion for people of color behind the corporate walls.

The Arkansas native shared, "During my 10+ year career navigating from company to company in the corporate realm, I saw not only a lack of Black colleagues but the systematic racism that was embedded into the guidelines, policies and practices that propelled white individuals towards success and Black individuals towards failure."

Courtesy of Candace Marie

Recently, the social media consultant and professor created Black in Corporate, a much-needed initiative for Black people looking for relief, support, and guidance in their jobs as well as those who are looking to help bridge the gap and be an authentic ally for Black Individuals who are currently working in challenging corporate structures.

xoNecole had the pleasure of speaking with Candace about being a Black woman in corporate, why she started the initiative and how self-care fits into Black in Corporate.

xoNecole: What does being a Black woman in the corporate world mean to you specifically?

Candace Marie: Being a Black woman in corporate is such a beautiful and powerful thing. Black women are the most hard-working, compassionate, clever, and creative beings that I know. Therefore, to be able to be a Black woman fully within a corporate environment, the opportunities should be endless, because whatever we touch grows. Unfortunately, the reality of being a Black woman in corporate oftentimes reflects as being the only one to look like you, [as well as] the feeling of isolation and exhaustion from being overworked and from being underpaid.

"Being a Black woman in corporate is such a beautiful and powerful thing. Black women are the most hard-working, compassionate, clever, and creative beings that I know. Therefore, to be able to be a Black woman fully within a corporate environment, the opportunities should be endless, because whatever we touch grows."

Can you share the moment you decided to start Black in Corporate?

There was a collision of happenings, events and life experiences that ignited something in me to start Black in Corporate. So much was weighing heavily on me. The killing of George Floyd, the ever-feeling of isolation within corporate spaces, seeing how distraught my Black colleagues were, as well as witnessing what was reflected on social was not reflected inside of corporations - I thought to myself if there was ever a time to act, now was the time.

 How has your perspective lended itself to the vision of your new venture?

My perspective as a Black woman by far helped frame what Black in Corporate has and is becoming. As a Black woman who has been within a corporate environment for over 10 years, I have dealt with experiences of being the only one that looked like me, not having the appropriate resources for upward trajectory and lacking in connections and mentorship. All of this has guided me to think about what I wish I had on my career path and how I can provide that back to Black individuals in similar situations.

You have always been yourself unapologetically in whatever rooms you take up space in, including corporate rooms. What are some ways you would dare Black women who might fear they aren't 'professional' to do the same in the corporate world?

I must first start by saying that I was not always like this and that I understand the burden that weighs on Black women. It has been a 10-year plus journey. As Black women, we have to go above and beyond and most times that still is not good enough. Even being unapologetically us is taxing and draining. Nevertheless, to this I say we have to rise to the occasion because there will be Black women after us who will have it easier and women after them. I'm optimistic that it won't always be like this and that me wearing my hair natural or a wig won't have to come with an education class as well as over-executing my work.

"As Black women, we have to go above and beyond and most times that still is not good enough. Even being unapologetically us is taxing and draining. Nevertheless, to this I say we have to rise to the occasion because there will be Black women after us who will have it easier and women after them."

Speaking of professionalism, do you think the concept of professionalism is anti-Black, why or why not?

The idea and concept is definitely anti-Black - especially when it comes to Black hair. Black individuals are raised and trained to think that in order to be "professional", not only do our mannerisms need to reflect that of a white individual, but our appearance does as well. When I reflect on my experiences going into interviews, I always wore my hair straight or slicked back because I was told that my natural hair was messy and not professional. We have to change this stigma.

How is self-care and mental health interconnected in Black in Corporate?

The interconnection is vital to the point that it is our survival tool. For years, Black individuals have shown unwavering strength and tenacity within corporations that have failed them repeatedly. Sadly, the mental toll that this system has taken on Black bodies has been astronomical. The effects of systematic racism and racial trauma on Black mental health in the corporate sector is real and cannot be ignored. One thing is certain—Black self-care within corporate spaces is VITAL.

What do you want the world to take away from the current social justice movement when thinking about Black faces in corporate spaces?

I want the corporate sector to take the steps and actions to be an authentic ally for Black Individuals who are currently working in challenging corporate structures. I want them to think about cultivating the current Black staff to grow and thrive. I want the corporate sector to publicly be a white ally by recognizing and calling out microaggressions from fellow coworkers and bringing anti-racism into the workplace every day. Recognizing and acknowledging that Black individuals have been disproportionately penalized in the workplace and that white people had have greater access. At the end of the day, I want them to actively help make existing systems of oppression more equitable by opening up paths of opportunities to Black workers who previously did not have access to them.

For more of Candace, follow her on Instagram @marie_mag_. Also, be sure to follow Black in Corporate on Instagram to keep up with pertinent information and resources.

Featured Image by Candace Marie

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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Featured image by Shutterstock

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