George Floyd, dead at the hands of the police.
Breonna Taylor, dead at the hands of the police.
Ahmaud Arbery, dead at the hands of vigilantes.
I say their names to etch them into my heart and mind, to come to grips with the horror of it, the inhumanity of it. These names, these lives ripped from the people who called them family, called them friend, reflect only the most recent assaults by the forces of institutional racism and the resultant brutality against Black bodies.
Our Black communities are speaking up and crying out to be heard through mass protests and demonstrations all over the country. I believe that to be silent in the face of suffering of our Black brothers and sisters is to be complicit in the acts of violence against them. Therefore, we at Cinnaire add our voices to the protest; we declare that this injustice will not stand. We will do the hard work of disrupting and dismantling this inequitable system that derails dreams and shatters bodies, and condemn the behaviors that allow and perpetuate these injustices.
Because of Cinnaire’s unwavering belief that all people deserve the opportunities to live in healthy communities, when communities across America take to the streets to express deep-seated frustration and searing anger against an oppressive system, we must listen. Black people are tired. Black people are weary. They want and need to be heard, and they want desperately to hope. They want to live in healthy communities where they are seen and heard and valued for their differences.
Cinnaire’s work is focused on making healthy communities a reality. We can only do this through the dedication of our staff and the partnerships we have with individuals and organizations whose vision and values align with our own. By listening we must – and we will – continue to labor and live only in ways built on our values of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
We pledge to continue, with renewed impetus, to:
• Support an environment where all employees have opportunities for personal growth and development.• Foster strong leadership that expects and models accountability, flexibility, and candor among all staff members.
• Provide innovative, quality products that respond to the needs of diverse customers.
• Mandate a global culture where mutual respect and inclusiveness are the standards and differing backgrounds, personal styles, and viewpoints are considered competitive assets as well as a business imperative.
• Make ethical business choices as each of us gives back to the places where we work and live.
• Become the employer of choice with a workforce that reflects the regions in which we live and work.
• Continue seeking ways to advance communities and enhance the lives and prospects of their residents by continuing to build a Cinnaire that is increasingly effective in raising and deploying capital to advance the causes of equity and justice.
May the recent headlines become our renewed call to action – We will do our part to dismantle a system of institutional racism that is breaking the backs of too many of our people, and bring a renewed focus to our work of building healthy communities and providing opportunities. Let’s do the hard work, break the chains of disparity and brutality. Make the American Dream a reality.
For me, Black History Month kicks off each year with MLK Day and all the significance that holiday holds. For the past six years, I’ve had the honor to serve as the Master of Ceremonies and the honorary chairman for the Lansing region’s Martin Luther King Jr. celebration. Lansing’s celebration of Dr. King is the oldest and largest in the country. In fact, Lansing declared his birthday a holiday to pay tribute to the leader of the Civil Rights Movement before the federal government did. This year we had over 1800 people fill the Lansing Center, and there were many moments during the powerful ceremony that I was overcome with emotion. This year’s theme was Dr. King’s quote, “There Comes a Time When Silence is Betrayal.”It’s such a timely theme and it resonated with so many. This particular quote represents so well why Cinnaire will not be silent in promoting and creating a culture that celebrates Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. We intend for our team and our work to continue to reflect that powerful declaration.
Cinnaire has made a big commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion as a cornerstone of our culture. Four years ago, we decided to ramp up our efforts and identified Diversity, Equity and Inclusion as a corporate priority. We didn’t make this decision as a marketing ploy or because it was a trending topic but as a cultural, educational, and life changing commitment. For me personally, this has been a focus of my life’s journey. Since my youth, I’ve experienced many lessons, interactions and misconceptions concerning race, class and culture and I became determined to learn from and grow those experiences. When I started this organization, I committed to building a team that viewed Diversity as an operational priority. I discovered that this was easier said than done. It required a deep awareness of the issue. It also required the organizational trust to have deep conversations with a diverse group of people to understand the true impact of discrimination and being discounted or minimized for who you are.
Since Cinnaire began in 1993, I have spent hundreds of hours having those deep conversations with neighborhood representatives, partners, and staff trying to understand how we can address the issues of race, equality and inclusion. There is no simple answer. I have come to understand it is a lifelong quest to understand and take action to address these issues. The first step in anything related to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is a willingness to even want to learn and become aware of where our weaknesses lie. We realized we couldn’t tackle this subject progressively on our own. Three years ago we hired Vince Brown of V. Randolph Brown Consulting to take us into a deep dive to shape our corporate culture to understand and address the issues of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. This has been uncomfortable work at times, but it has proven to be well worth it. We have included not only the entire staff but also our Board of Directors in intensive Diversity, Equity and Inclusion training. This has resulted in adopting more proactive hiring processes, an ongoing commitment to training, and incorporating specific goals into our five-year Strategic Plan. We are already seeing the positive results of this commitment. It’s a work in progress but as Dr. King said… “The time is always right to do what is right.”
Happy Black History Month!