Inclusion, Technology, Uncategorized

Blacks in Tech Make History in the State of Georgia

A Super Proud Moment in My Life & for the state of Georgia

I have been elected to the Georgia House of Representatives since 2010. I have met diplomats, Presidents, and other high level officials, traveled to 8 different countries representing the state of Georgia and been a part of some great legislative changes to help the 9 million Georgians within this state. But I have NEVER had a prouder moment, outside of being elected by my constituents, than I had on Nov. 8th, 2017 at Atlanta City Hall. Over 150 attendees flooded Atlanta City Hall Old Chambers for a historic event in the state of Georgia: The 1st EVER Georgia Blacks in Tech Policy Conference, an intersection of technology and innovation and policy making and policy makers. Epic is an understatement. (Pictured above: Me and co-chair Rodney Sampson before event.)

The Vision Is Born

So how did I come up with this event? Well, I had an opportunity to attend a blacks in tech networking event in Atlanta in May of this year. I expected there to be up to 100 blacks in tech at the event. But when I entered the room, there had to be almost 1,000 blacks involved in tech! Imagine my shock and excitement at the same time. The purpose of the event was to talk about the Atlanta black tech scene and how to move forward for creating better opportunities. After I heard presentation after presentation, while the suggestions were good, I realized there was something that was missing: policy. To be honest, for whatever reason, policy seems to almost ALWAYS be missing from the conversation whenever an industry in the black community wants to discuss change. Something had to be done to underscore the importance of involving policy makers in tech change. Luckily, I had to the ability to do something about this. And so I set to work.

NOTE: I had NO money, NO volunteers, NO co-chair, NO venue and NO way of knowing how I was going to pull this off in May of this year when I came up with this event so let me take the time to say THANK YOU to not only the planning committee, but each one of the sponsors that took a leap of faith to put their trust in me for this 1st time event.

Policy Meets Technology

No matter if you vote or who you voted for, policy affects us all….every last person in the United States and Georgia. So either you get in the game or you will find yourself only being able to talk about change without actually doing it. As it is often quoted in politics, “If you are not at the table, you are on the menu.”

I was lucky to have been just featured in a Huffington Post article by Mr. Rodney Sampson, who is one of the most politically active technology personalities I know in Georgia. In this article, he listed 25 people best positioned to scale Atlanta’s growing inclusive technology ecosystem. I thought to myself that these individuals should form the Host committee for this historic event. No vetting necessary! I was off to a good start!

After some discussions with Rodney, he accepted my offer to become Co-Chair for this event. His participation was VITAL to it’s success. I can bring the policy makers to the table but if there is no tech credibility behind this venture in the black tech community, it’s dead on arrival. So what you ended up having for this event is a leader in state policy and a leader in tech joining forces for to advance the black tech ecosystem here in Georgia through policy. This conference was well on its way. So I booked Nov. 8th for use of the Georgia State Capitol House Chambers, appropriations room, South wing and 2 of its largest rooms. I was ready to go!

No pain, no gain

Here is the ugly truth, pure D.K. style: There are those that were scared and did not want a bunch of black people at the State Capitol. Period. End of story. Nothing can change my mind about that. And they had a reason to be scared; there is POWER in numbers and 30% of Georgia is black. And we were coming with specific, policy requests from influential technology leaders in the state. I was ruffling some feathers…as I tend to do at times.

Long story short, we ended up having to change the location from the Georgia State Capitol to Atlanta City Hall. To that end, I would like to personally thank Councilman Andre Dickens and his team, specifically Ali Carter, for whom I shall be eternally grateful for helping us through the location crisis. Kiona Byrd, Logistics Chair for the conference, helped tremendously being an employee of the City of Atlanta and working on the ground everyday. Their contributions to the success of this event cannot be overstated. (For those of you that are the Christian faith, Romans 8:28 comes to mind.)

Just when you thought an abrupt change in location would be the only catastrophe that happens when planning an event, there was more in store. ANY and EVERYTHING that could go WRONG with a conference, went wrong with this one. Ladies and gentlemen, I am NOT exaggerating. And although I have planned literally thousands of events, all with their own hiccups and problems, this conference has specifically prepared me to take on ANYTHING I may encounter for future events. And for that reason, I “count it all joy” each of the problems below.

  • I had a large sponsor who tried to get out of sponsoring, i.e. paying the money, for the event at the last minute after almost 2 months of promoting and expenses incurred. Luckily, that was resolved rather quickly.
  • I lost members of the planning committee. When I say “lost”, I mean they either decided that they could no longer participate or were removed from the committee. We went from 26 people who wanted to “help” to 10, the “Talented Ten”. My standards of execution, even if on a volunteer basis, are remarkably high. I don’t do mediocre.
  • I had a caterer charge my credit card for an amount I didn’t authorize and having to wait days for it to credit back to my account. Ultimately, we went another more FABULOUS caterer.
  • The program and policy proposals had to be updated several times due to unread emails and misunderstandings. This cost us time and money—neither of which we had much to spare as a planning committee. We eventually got it all worked out.

I have never had an event where I have experienced every type of emotion there is to experience: happiness, sadness, excitement, anxiety, frustration, anger, delight, and everything in between. It was quite a learning experience—-but keep reading! It was well worth it.

In the end, we did it!

However, after all of the above, we did it! (Pictured above with Ali Carter from Councilman Andre Dickens office, Planning committee member/Logistics Chair Kiona Byrd, myself, Rodney Sampson, conference Co-Chair and Councilman Andre Dickens present us with proclamations from the Atlanta City Council.)

  • Over 305 registrants, 105 attendees
  • 27 GA legislators
  • Over 25 volunteers, including 12 full time volunteers on the planning committee
  • 14 black tech vendors displaying products or services
  • 13 sponsors, including TriNet and Microsoft
  • 8 superstar honorees making a significant impact in the Atlanta black ecosystem
  • Press: 1 interview on WABE-FM’s “Closer Look” with black tech entrepreneur Ben McFarlin, GA House Press Release and Article in On Common Ground News and UrbanGeekz article (more to come in the following weeks and will be posted on webpage)
  • Comprehensive and direct policy proposals for consideration by members of the Georgia General Assembly made up of 180 House Representatives, of which I am one, and 56 Senators

Call to Action: We are not done!

What I told attendees at the conference is what I am telling you all reading this: We are not done! The conference was only the beginning—policy proposals are one thing; getting them introduced and passed are a whole DIFFERENT ballgame. We need your continued involvement to see positive change in the state.

I invite you to sign up for my enewsletter and to join the Facebook group to stay informed about what is going on from blacks in tech from a policy perspective. I will also upload future pictures from the event and video once available.

Additionally, I have developed a follow up “Day of Action” and on the same day a Communications & Tech Symposium, hosted by the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus. These are two (2) separate events so if you would like to attend BOTH, please separately register for BOTH.

I hope to see you Feb. 6th under the Gold Dome!

Looking Ahead to 2018: Join the planning committee or sponsor

THANK YOU to everyone that made this historic event possible. And certainly a big THANK YOU to the sponsors and even more THANK YOU to the planning committee, all of whom you can see their pictures and some bios on my webpage.

As we look ahead to the 2nd Annual GA Blacks in Tech Policy Conference, I could not be more excited about making the conference BIGGER and BETTER in 2018. You can always visit my webpage for opportunities to join the planning committee or to sponsor next year’s event. I hope to see you all under the Gold Dome in the fall of 2018!

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I am Chief Diversity Activist and Consultant of Kendrick Advisory & Advocacy Group, LLC. We curate and execute customized initiatives, programs and events for organizations to meet their specific diversity & inclusion objectives and provide results. Visit us online to request me as a speaker, set up a time to chat about your diversity goals or view upcoming events.

I practiced private securities law for over a decade before this transition to more meaningful work. I was featured in the Huffington Post as 1 of 25 People Poised to Scale Atlanta’s Growing Technology Start Up Ecosystem for Black Americans and Beyond. 

I serve as a board member of the Technology Association of Georgia’s corporate development society, Founder and Board Chair of Minority Access to Capital, Inc., a non-profit dedicated to educating and empowering minorities on how to access capital to grow their business and create generational wealth and I have been elected to the Georgia House of Representatives since 2010, serving over 54,000 Georgians in DeKalb and Gwinnett Counties each year at the State Capitol.

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diversity, Policy, Uncategorized

What’s my “secret to success”? Find out what I told a room full of women.

Below is text of my speech that I gave as the keynote for this event. You can also download the PDF of my speech and share. Enjoy, like, share and leave comments!

Good Afternoon,

First, I want to thank Ms. Leverette and the Atlanta Council for giving me this opportunity to speak at this Meeting. It is always a pleasure to speak to business women as a business woman myself but ESPECIALLY important when there is a diverse group of women who want to learn how to grow personally and professionally from each other. Today is not only about me imparting wisdom and life lessons on you—but learning from you as well so I look forward to chatting with some of you after this event.

Also thank you to Dr. Sykes for her support and joining me today. Give her a round of applause. She is a part of my consulting firm’s “Givers Circle”, which is a group of diversity advocates that meet monthly to discuss a number of diversity issues and discuss solutions to race and gender problems.

Intro

This is my 1st of about 5 speaking engagements I have over the next month including 2 award ceremonies. Even though I am asked to speak numerous times a year, the pace and importance of my speaking engagements are starting to pick up so I have been wondering how to introduce myself in a memorable way. And I think I have come to the conclusion that I need Beyonce’s back up dancers to follow me around and play her song “Who Run the World” every time I take the stage. But, I cannot afford Beyonce’s back up dancers so if anyone wants to volunteer for these roles let me know. But it is true that we all know who run the world and that’s who ladies? (Repeat) It has been proven repeatedly that when women are at the table—things get done faster and better, both in business and in politics.

So if you cannot by one of my back up dancers, I have another task for you that I hope you can help me out with: I need you to snap pictures and tag me on social media. My tags are just DarshunKendrick (page on FB, Twitter @TheDiversityAct, Instagram and LinkedIn). Can you do that for me?

Now the flier for this event is a little ambitious—I am supposed to “introduce you to a proven system for success and tips to be a part of political decision making.” Well I can tell you right now how to answer the first part of that: My proven system for success IS, and write this down ladies, ….FAILURE WITH GRACE.

Proven System for Success: Failure With Grace

Now I know you are saying Dar’shun that’s not quite what we wanted to hear. We wanted to hear something uplifting and inspirational on this Saturday afternoon. Well, I am a pragmatist and I am here to tell you: failure and defeat with the utmost grace got me to where I am today. It’s often said that in life we either learn or succeed, but never truly fail so long as we are trying. That may be true, but it’s through failure that I learned to use grace to turn to what makes me happy: service to others. Let me explain.

My Childhood in the Dec

I was born at Grady Hospital and raised in Decatur GA. Not the nice part of Decatur—-the drug deal making part of Decatur, off Glenwood Road. My parents are blue collar, lower middle class folks. Neither one of them had a college degree until my mom got hers at the age of 53 a few years ago. None of my 4 grandparents have a high school diploma—let me repeat NONE of my grandparents had a high school diploma. But God got the last laugh because now I have 4 degrees, one in honor of each one of my grandparents.

The High School Blues

But the road to 4 degrees was rough. I went to Towers High School where the graduation rate at the time was 30% and I had a 25% chance of being pregnant by age 16. High school was also the time of one my first big fails in life, as I saw it. I am an introvert. No one believes me but I am very good about being extroverted when I need to. But in high school I was extremely shy, very nerdy and—check this out—-unbothered by others opinion of me, which was rare for a high school student especially a female. And for this, I was bullied physically, emotionally, and psychologically. I felt I had FAILED in high school. I was extremely unpopular.

But at the time, I could have got depressed or complained or isolated myself but what I decided to do was to get involved in student government. I was involved in elementary school but I really gravitated towards it in high school and so I emerced myself in student government activities. I could never get elected—but I always got appointed to plan Spirit Week or to plan the Homecoming Parade and Dance because the leadership knew I got stuff done. And that’s where I fell in love with the ability to serve others in a leadership capacity. Failure with grace.

The College Years As a Stormy Petrel & Bulldog

Fast forward,I am at Oglethorpe University. I work for 2 members of Congress, one on Capitol Hill in DC, work at the State Capitol for 2 years, run a State Senate campaign, work for the Democratic Party of GA and get into EVERY law school I apply for, including a full ride plus cash to one, all before the age of 22——life was good

And then came law school at UGA Law. Another opportunity to fail with grace. I wish I could tell you all that I was made to be a lawyer but it would be untrue. I ran for several positions in leadership—lost them all. I interviewed for law firm jobs—-didn’t get any. I tried to make friends—that didn’t seem to work either. So what did I do? The same thing that I did in high school. I turned to service. So with a new professor at UGA Law, I started the first ever business legal society focused on networking with transactional lawyers, not litigators. That society, ladies, still exists today at UGA Law and still thriving and I am proud to say I was the Founder. Failing… with grace.

The Perfect Storm

What happened 2 years after graduation is the story of a lifetime: In August of 2009, I came back from a cruise for my 26th birthday and none of the partners at my law firm were talking to each other. True story. And I knew that things were bad at the firm but didn’t know it was THIS bad. Long story short, the firm imploded and everyone was released by the end of the year. Bad timing too because I was just enrolling in my M.B.A. program at Kennesaw. It was in the middle of the Great Recession and, as a new lawyer with no job, I felt I had failed myself, my parents, my law school and Sallie Mae because I still had school loans to repay. So ladies—what I am about to tell you next is the ULTIMATE failing with grace story so listen carefully.

To Everything, There is a Season

Many of you can relate that since I had a law firm, I needed clients. In order to get clients, I needed to do business development and I wanted to have a business event in DeKalb where I lived. So I set up a meeting with a legislator I knew, Rep. Howard Mosby, for Wednesday around lunch time to discuss some ideas. Wednesday around lunch time, you hear me? Something came up and he cancelled. I thought “great. another delay.” I really wanted that Wednesday meeting but decided not to get upset but instead fail with grace. So, I pushed for him to immediately reschedule to that following day, Thursday for lunch.

So I get to the Capitol Thursday and we are walking down the Capitol steps to lunch and I will never forget what he turned around and said to me that literally changed my life. He said “What district do you live in?” I said” Rep. Randall Mangum, House District 94″. And he said “You are running for his seat. 2 hours before you got here, he decided to run for Governor and we need someone to run.” True story. Remember ladies, to everything there is a season.

Now, I was hardheaded, as some of us are when blessings are chasing us down. I said “no” several times. I called my friend Ted Terry, who is now the Mayor of Clarkston, to talk me out of it and he did the opposite and paid my qualification fees. My colleague in the House now Rep. Doreen Carter offered to take me down to qualify after I tried to get her to run in my place instead. On the way to qualify, I received a call from a friend of mine who was an intern on Capitol Hill in DC at the same time I was. He just so happened to work for then Commissioner Lee May who represented my district who said to me “I don’t know you. I’ve never met you. But Edmond says great things about you. If you’re ok with him, you’re ok with me. You have my support.” Ladies, failing with grace has served me well.

I went on to qualify 30 minutes before the deadline and at age 27 became the State Representative from then House District 94, beating out 5 other competitors.

So to conclude—-my secret to success is simple but a hard reality: Failure, because it teaches you to be creative and makes you stronger. Remember that pearls are made from friction and diamonds are made from pressure. But take it a step further and concentrate on failing wit

That’s why my consulting firm has several initiatives like:

That’s why my consulting firm has several initiatives like:

  1. The GA Path Program, which is an initiative to expose more minorities and women to careers in professional lobbying. We are still accepting applications for that program until Oct. 11th. I will talk more about this program later.
  2. We also have our Corporate Board Training program to train and mentor minorities and women to be on PAID, corporate boards. We are in talks with a large NGO in New York to partner with us to make that happen soon so stay tuned if interested.
  3. And last, a Wonder Women Confidence Conference that I am planning with some wonderful women for March of 2018…complete with capes…to focus on empowering and teaching women who are in male dominated industries.

So in conclusion, I pray each of you find your failure and then find your grace…. in service on boards, in your community or any other capacity you see fit.

Tips to Be a Part of Political Decision Making

So change of topic a bit. How to be a part of political decision making, another one of my favorite subjects.

This is less anecdotal and more of a teaching experience so take out pen and paper. Here we go….I have 6 “action items” for you to be a part of the political decision making process.

  1. Vote. This the very BASIC thing that each of us can do, the very LEAST that each one of us can do to participate in the political process. So vote often in every election and vote fully all the way down the ballot. Now you are a group of active women so I am sure that if I looked you up on Votebuilder, you all would be what we call “super voters”, those voters that vote often. Yes, you are more likely to get picked for jury duty but guess what—-that’s being a part of the decision making process as well. Who decides who gets locked up—juries, who are made up from voters. If you don’t like how the judge conducted the proceeding, you can vote them out.
  2. Lobby (paid or unpaid). As a private, unpaid citizen, you have a right to come down to the Capitol or anywhere in your local or federal government, and tell your elected official what you want as many times as you want. You can email them, call them, write them or, my favorite, tweet them and let your voice be heard. Now…what I want to spend some time to talk about is the PAID opportunities. Many forget that lobbying is an actual profession with the same opportunities and challenges as any other profession. Every major corporation has a lobbyist. Every large non-profit organization has a lobbyist. Every powerful group behind key pieces of legislation has a lobbyist. So while people think that lobbying is some nasty word filled with visions of back off deals and endless food, (1) that’s not true most times and (2) it’s how government works. Lobbyists, or Governmental Affairs professionals as we call them, serve a vital purpose in our policy making infrastructure—one that is necessary. Because let’s face it. Not all of us regular people can spend the time to influence politicians and provide information and so we pay someone, just like any other profession. That’s why I created a program called the GA Path Program. It’s the first of its kind in the state and its an initiative from my firm to encourage and expose more minorities and women to paid lobbying opportunities. My GA Path Program is having its first class in October. Applications are technically close but we have a few spaces open for the 7 month program with a absolute Oct. 17th deadline to apply. We have 37 professional mentors of various backgrounds ready to provide insight into this world and what is means to be a professional lobbyist. If you are interested, take a look at my website and apply if interested.
  3. Join like minded people. If you don’t want to quit your day job, find a few issues you are passionate about and I am almost 100% sure that there is an organization or a few organizations that support your issue. If you don’t know of an organization, google them or ask someone then get involved. You will be surprised the leadership roles and the activities that will support your particular issue. You can support with your time and talent. I am sure any organization would be thrilled to have you ladies.
  4. Give money. Now, I know this sounds bad because of what you hear and see in the media and the horror stories you may have heard but think about this. If you have a favorite candidate, whom you trust to do what’s right for you and your family, and they decide to run for office…how are they going to get elected? The dean of the House and a friend of mine, Rep. Calvin Smyre who has served for over 40 years in the State House, he says “It takes coal to run a train but it takes gold to run a campaign.” We may think that money is evil but even the Bible says the LOVE of money is the root of all evil. Focus on using money as a tool to accomplish your goal of electing good people. Don’t be afraid of it.
  5. Volunteer. If you find an organization or a public official that you like, volunteer for events and initiatives and programs. You would be surprised how much you learn just by showing up. I have a gentleman that was a former federal lobbyist who has been helping me on several initiatives. He shows up to special events I can’t attend, sits in on my behalf at meetings and events and through all that, found out about an executive role in government and policy that he is interested in that I am going to recommend him for. Volunteering is a great way to access opportunities. My first volunteer opportunity was working in then Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney’s district office as a 17 year old—which made my resume for other positions take off and here I am today.
  6. Run for office. I often joke that you have to be a little mentally unstable to run for office—at to some extent that’s true because it’s a rough existence. But if none of the other things I said work for you, running for office is always an option. Now, your timing has to be right—because timing is everything in politics (How we got Trump)—but is a viable option for some special and disturbed people. I put this as the last option because other people will always push women especially to run for office and let’s face it, we do a darn good job at it so I am not surprised. However, it is not for everyone. But if you do feel like running for office is in your future, do it! No hesitation please like I hesitated! You know, men have an amazing ability to get up, tie their shoes and all of a sudden believe they can run for President of the United States. Women can have several degrees, award winning results and we still, like in my case, have to be asked several times to run. Don’t let that be you if you know you want to run. Just do it!

So just to recap……ways to get involved are….(call them out)

Call to Action

You can receive a copy of this speech if you sign up for my enewsletter which goes out every Wednesday at 10 am. I also encourage you to follow me on social media—you will both be inspired and entertained.

Conclusion

So again thank you ladies—for taking the time to hear me today. I hope that you found some inspiration of how to “fail with grace” to move you towards your destiny and also that you will take up the “call to arms” to get involved in YOUR…YOUR political process. And remember—-who runs the world?!

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I am Chief Diversity Activist and Consultant of Kendrick Advisory & Advocacy Group, LLC . We curate and execute customized initiatives, programs and events for organizations to meet their specific diversity & inclusion objectives and provide results. Visit us online to request me as a speaker, set up a time to chat about your diversity goals or view upcoming events. Also, learn a little bit more about me.

I practiced private securities law for over a decade before this transition to more meaningful work. I was featured in the Huffington Post as 1 of 25 People Poised to Scale Atlanta’s Growing Technology Start Up Ecosystem for Black Americans and Beyond. 

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Politics, Uncategorized

Georgia Governor’s Race Has 2 Super Heroes…and they both happen to be women

Super women reside in Georgia

You may have heard that it’s that time of year in Georgia —the time to pick the next Governor for the State of Georgia. You may also have heard that the movie “Wonder Woman” opened up last week with rave reviews and topping box offices. (Source) Well, what you may not realize is that we have many “wonder women” right here Georgia. They are in every level of government from both parties. So, you don’t have to look to Hollywood to be inspired. There are super women all around you. However, I’m especially proud to announce that we have 2 super heroes running for Governor…and they happen to be women.

Now as good lawyer let me give you what may be a SHOCKING disclaimer: I am a Georgia bred, fierce Democrat. But this article is not about partisanship—-I am writing to celebrate diversity in our political process. We have 2 wonderful women running for Governor on the Democratic side that I want to highlight. (Sidenote: If you know of anyone other than a white male running on the Republican side, please let me know. I’ll be waiting…)

Noted candidates on the Republican side include Senator Michael Williams (pictured above) whom just served with me on a TAG Corporate Development Society event on Venture Capital, current Secretary of State Brian Kemp who has moderated a TAG Corporate Development Society panel, current Lt. Governor Casey Cagle, and Senator Hunter Hill. And I am proud to say that I personally know them both, having served with them both for the past 6 years in the Georgia House of Representatives. It’s a lot of “Girl Power” that’s about to be unleashed. Are you ready?

Why am I so excited about this race?

It’s Georgia. It’s in the DEEP South. You know, home of Dr. King AND the KKK. Georgia elected its first Governor in 1776, Governor Archibald Bulloch. Fast forward 241 years and you will see something very consistent….and not in a good way. ALL. WHITE. MEN. (Source) Come on folks. It’s 2017. We just finished 8 wonderful (I warned you I was partisan) years of the first black President of the United States, President Barack Obama. And we almost….almost….*sheds tears…..elected our first woman President. I’m excited about the prospects of a change in the Governor’s mansion in Georgia. This is particularly since “progressive” is not necessarily the adjective that comes to mind when people think about my dear home state. And I am not just saying you should support them just because they are women—-but they are QUALIFIED women. THAT should excite you, especially if you are another woman. Now in yet another disclaimer (lawyers are good at those), I am supporting Stacey Evans for Governor for a variety of reasons. But I could not be prouder of these 2 super hero women that I have served with for the last six (6) years.

Introducing the 2 super heroes: Minority Leader Stacey Abrams and House Democratic Caucus Chair Stacey Evans

“The Year of the Stacey”

Let’s get rid of the OBVIOUS elephant (or donkey depending on your political preference) in the room. Yes, both of them are named Stacey. What are the chances right? It’s the “Year of the Stacey” here in Georgia apparently. If your name is “Stacey”, you should be proud. These are amazing women. Both caring, both super smart, both young and did I mention both women?

Stacey “Barrier Breaker” Abrams

Have you met Stacey? If you have, I assure you you’d remember it. She’s very witty—and I think I am pretty witty but she gives me a run for my money. She is currently my House Minority Leader in the Georgia House of Representatives, leading 62 Democrats in an 180 member House. I have often remarked that I don’t see how she does it. Leading followers is one thing; leading other leaders is a task that seems terribly impossible and exhausting. But she was up for the job and was elected to lead our caucus in 2010, when I was first elected.

Current title: Minority Leader of the Georgia House of Representatives

Elected Since: 2006

Residence: DeKalb County (where I was raised and currently serve)

Profession: Tax attorney (Attorneys that understand math are the world’s 8th wonder of the world) and romantic suspense novelist (that’s just bada**)

My Memory of Stacey: When she drove “all the way to Lithonia” (which note is NOT as far as you ITP [Inside the Perimeter] people think) for a fundraiser breakfast at my House. She’s the Leader so I am sure she was extremely busy that day and could have went elsewhere. Since then, I am the legislator that lives “out there” which is fine. I know where the Governor’s Mansion is—and I accept invitations.

Her Superhero Powers: The ability to SHUT DOWN illogical arguments. Whether you are a Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, or one of those tree people, when Stacey rises to ask you a question on the floor or in committee, you had BETTER have your arguments and facts together. No “fake news” will be getting past her. You can disagree with her politically—just make sure it makes sense and you can back it up. Otherwise, by the time you are done, you’ll leave retreating with your tail between your legs. I’ve seen it happen numerous times folks. It’s not a pretty sight.

More about her campaign: Stacey Abrams for Governor

Stacey “Hope for All” Evans

Again, have you met Stacey? If you have, I assure you you’d remember it. She is currently my House Minority Caucus Chair in the Georgia House of Representatives, chairing 62 Democrats in an 180 member House. We were elected at the same time in 2010 and sworn in in 2011. Stacey Evans and I have a lllloonnnnggggg history. We both served in Young Democrats of Georgia at the same time. We also both went to UGA law, although not at the same time. We both went through the White House Project’s “Go Georgia Run” program. Also, we both ran for office at the same time and both got elected at the same time.

Current title: Minority House Caucus Chair of the Georgia House of Representatives

Elected Since: 2010

Residence: Cobb County, which went to Hillary this last cycle (Source) and home of the new Braves stadium

Profession: Securities Litigation Attorney (Since I do securities work as a lawyer, we speak the same language which is refreshing.)

My Memory of Stacey: Lots of them as a personal friend. But most memorable was as a 19 year old sophomore at Oglethorpe University. I interviewed for a position with Young Democrats of Georgia as their Youth Coordinator for the 2002 cycle (ugh—the bad memories of THAT political beating). Anyway, I entered a room at the Democratic Party of Georgia headquarters when it was off Spring Street in Atlanta. There at a table were 3 people: Tharon Johnson, Rashad Taylor and Stacey Godfrey, as was her name at the time. Long story short, they gave me my first political job! Since that time, there have been baby showers, karaoke (we have done a Salt and Pepper duet that will go down in history) and weddings that we have shared. My latest memory is Stacey being on a panel I put together for the Technology Association of Georgia (TAG) Corporate Development Society, where I serve on the Board, to discuss venture capital policy in Georgia. She didn’t have to take time out her busy day and away from her daughter Ashley, (whom I refer to as “Little Dar’shun”), but she did.

Her Superhero Powers: The ability to WORK WITH Republicans. Now, anyone who knows me know I am a work in progress when it comes to this. Luckily, Stacey has figured out how to work with people of different perspectives and sometimes annoying reasons. Because of this, she has been able to pass some meaningful legislation. The biggest of these were the HOPE Scholarship and Grant reforms in 2011 and other pieces of HOPE legislation during that time. (Source) For those of you that don’t know, HOPE is Georgia’s scholarship program for Georgia students based on merit that gives scholarships and grants to high school students if certain GPA requirements are met. (See more info) Listen, the reality is that this is admirable and necessary in a state that is currently controlled by Republicans in the House, Senate, Governor’s mansion and EVERY STATE CONSTITUTIONAL OFFICER. Now hopefully that changes soon…very soon. But until then, it is what it is.

More about her campaign: Stacey Evans for Governor

Wrap Up, Call to Action

Maybe I am over exaggerating over the prospects of having Georgia’s first female Governor or, hold on to your seat, our first female AND African American Governor. Maybe because of my “day job” and civic volunteerism, I see the disparity and gap in quality policies that affect me as a woman because women aren’t at the table making the decisions. But maybe, just maybe, this is an opportunity to rally around smart, capable, experienced women to give a new perspective to Georgia politics. It’s probably a combination of all these things.

Either way, I’m ready for the “Year of the Staceys” for 2017 into election year of 2018. I hope you will consider expanding your horizons to consider supporting diversity in ALL levels of local, state and federal government. We do well as a state and nation when we have a variety of opinions and perspectives within the halls of power.

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I am a Diversity Consultant & Owner of Kendrick Advisory and Advocacy Group L.L.C. providing “hands on” consulting services to organizations that want to promote diversity in business and government decisions. More information can be found online at www.DarshunKendrick.com about our vision for “Driving Diversity in Decisions.” I was featured in the Huffington Post as 1 of 25 People Poised to Scale Atlanta’s Growing Inclusive Technology Start Up Ecosystem for Black Americans and Beyond.

I am a lawyer by trade, owner of Kendrick Law Practice, business attorney. I have 2 B.A.s from Oglethorpe University (2004), a law degree from the University of Georgia (2007) and a Master in Business Administration (2011).

I have been elected to the Georgia House of Representatives serving East DeKalb and South Gwinnett counties since 2011 where I serve as the ranking Democrat on the Small Business and Job Creation committee and chair the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus Economic Development Committee.

In my spare time, I am also a board member of the Technology Association of Georgia’s corporate development board, the first sitting legislator to sit on any TAG board, and I am also the founder and Board Chair of a non-profit organization to EDUCATE and EMPOWER minorities on capital access called Minority Access to Capital, Inc.

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Uncategorized

The Black Woman’s Dilemma: 7 points about choosing between my race and my sex

If you are a black woman, or any woman of color, reading this article, you already know what I am going to say. It’s that age old choice that I, as a black woman, have to make on so many occasions. According to some, I have to decide between my RACE and my SEX. And I am often not given the option to choose both. That’s because there is this idea that I CAN or have no desire to choose both. This dilemma applies to both law and politics, two industries that I am entrenched in at the moment. However, the discussion around diversity is ever present when deciding policy and laws. So, therein lies the challenge because the choice is ever present. But, as I am never one to back down from a challenge, I have decided to address some concerns that have plagued my legal and political (and now consulting) career for a while.

 Case Study: “Why can’t you just focus on black people?”

Nothing brings home the point I am trying to make than a real life case study. So for example, I am planning a conference in July in Atlanta focused on capital raising solutions and growth strategies for minorities AND women. I can’t tell you the amount of strange looks and inquiries I have gotten because I have decided to not focus only on black people. [As a sidenote, I am planning a Blacks in Tech Policy conference in November at the Georgia State Capitol so their fears are unwarranted, whatever they may be.] Why exactly do people think that humans can extricate themselves from one identity? Can I not be BOTH black and a woman? What is the problem with identifying with both? Let me be blunt: There are experiences no black man will EVER experience as a woman. Just as there are experiences no white woman will EVER experience as a black person. Those experiences are not and cannot be exclusive of one another in the skin and sex that I have been given. And even if I could separate the experiences, I don’t want to–they make me who I am.

7 Points about My Black Woman Experience 

1. It’s MY experience.

That’s right. I am unapologetic about experiencing being a black woman—the good, the bad and the ugly. No one has to second my experience. And no one has to approve of my experience. Therefore, no one has to validate my experience for me to feel what I feel. It’s my experience and mine alone to own and embrace. I do it fully and without regrets. And as long as there are ears to hear, I will share my experience for all to listen and learn.

2. In business, we [women] start with less.

Women start with less than HALF of the start up capital of men, on average. Additionally, women receive only about 2% of outside capital vs. men who receive about 18% (Source: National Women’s Business Council, 2012 Report, https://www.nwbc.gov/research/nwbc-2012-annual-report, last assessed 5/17/17) Not only is this a fact based on statistics, I see the differences all the time in my business dealings. There is a bond that comes from knowing most of us [women] are starting at a disadvantage from men. And with that bond comes the instinct to support other women, no matter the race, in this tough business world.

3. I am invested in the Civil Rights Movement.

Now obviously I wasn’t born during the Civil Rights Movement (CRA). My parents were barely born. But it doesn’t mean I am any less vested in the Civil Rights Movement. The challenges of being a woman in the civil rights movement are well documented from other black women. Examples include most of the focus of the movement being on the oppression of black men and men receiving most of the credit. (Source: The Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/collections/civil-rights-history-project/articles-and-essays/women-in-the-civil-rights-movement/, last assessed 5/17/17). I’m proud of the movement but let’s be serious—being a black woman in the CRA was a different experience and had a different outcome than that of a black man.

4. I am invested in the Women’s Rights Movement. 

Again, I am not saying that I participated in the Women’s Rights Movement as I was not born yet. However, I am very much vested in what happened during this period of time, including the experiences of black women. It is undisputed that black women were heavily involved in the women’s suffrage movement but often faced racial discrimination. (Source: Rights for Women: The Suffrage Movement and Its Leaders, https://www.nwhm.org/online-exhibits/rightsforwomen/AfricanAmericanwomen.html, last assessed 5/17/17) But no matter how frustrated I could have been with this movement, I had an obligation to be involved. The outcome affected who I am as a black woman and so active participation was imperative to my well being.

5. We [black women] can help you. 

Listen up black men and non-black women. This can and should be a partnership. Black men should be able to gain knowledge from black women to be better advocate for the whole black race. Conversely, white women should be able to use the wisdom of black women to relate to other non-white women. My proposition is that smart, forward thinking individuals should see us as an asset to gain insight and not as a liability. The black woman as much to say and contribute. Think about it.

6. You are not qualified to write my story.

This seems pretty self explanatory. But, to be clear, you cannot tell ME what it is to be a black woman. Therefore, you are unqualified to tell me why I have to choose sides and which side to choose. Period. End of story. No discussion to be had. Nope—this is not even remotely up for a discussion. I will not tell you what it means to be a man or a white woman and you will not try to educate me on the plight of black womanhood. Deal?

7. Being a black woman is not exclusive.

This is the most important point of this whole article. I cannot separate being black from being a woman. It’s who I am. Therefore God has given me the unique challenge of being both. I can both advocate for black issues AND women issues. I can empathize with being black AND a woman. And I can support my black AND women community. Imagine that! A black woman can actually do multiple things at the same time! In conclusion, being identified with one does not, will not and cannot exclude identifying with the other.

Call To Action

Let me be. It’s hard enough to do the work that I do without having separate factions nipping at my ankles telling me to “choose. choose. choose.” In fact, I implore you all to not only go passive—but be active. Find a way to reach out to women of color and intentionally support them and their efforts. We are all in “this” together—so uplifting one another in our unique positions is key to all of us rising. I hope you will answer the call.

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 About Me

My name is Dar’shun Kendrick and I am a business attorney and owner of Kendrick Law Practice, helping businesses raise capital the LEGAL way. I have 2 B.A.s from Oglethorpe University, a law degree from the University of Georgia and an M.B.A. from Kennesaw State University. Additionally, I have been elected to the Georgia House of Representatives (East DeKalb/South Gwinnett counties) since 2011 where I serve as the ranking Democrat on the Small Business and Job Creation Committee as well as Co-Chair of the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus Economic Development committee. I am also a board member of the Technology Association of Georgia’s corporate development board, and featured in the Huffington Post as 1 of 25 People Poised to Scale Atlanta’s Growing Inclusive Technology Start Up Ecosystem for Black Americans and Beyond.

I am also the founder and Board Chair of a non-profit organization to EDUCATE and EMPOWER minorities called Minority Access to Capital, Inc. Furthermore, I am an Economic Justice Advocate and Owner of Kendrick Advisory and Advocacy Group L.L.C. providing consulting and advocacy services on policy and initiatives across the nation for those that want to reach minorities.

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Economic Development, Policy, Uncategorized

The State of Minorities’ Access to Capital (2017): Call to Action!

You have heard how severally underrepresented minorities are in the pool of those that have received capital. But you have probably rarely ever seen the statistics behind that statement or the details of what that means.

Setting the Stage

Below is the text of a presentation I gave January of this year. This speech was given at Minority Access to Capital, Inc. (my non-profit’s) first meeting which was titled “The State of Minorities’ Access to Capital”. Some of the information below MAY shock you; unfortunately, others will not. But I believe that knowledge is power. So, it’s necessary to have a starting part of knowledge in order to be able to come up with deliverable metrics by which to measure minority progress in the area of capital access.

Minorities: How do we measure up?

The Minority Business Development Agency states in a 2012 survey that there are almost 8 million minority firms in the United States. They have combined gross receipts of $1.4 trillion, a 38% increase since 2007. However, only 11% of minority-owned firms have paid employees compared to 22% for non-minority firms. Other takeaways include:

  • According to an Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation report, businesses started by people of color perform differently than white-owned businesses as white-owned businesses had double the number of sales. One of the reasons includes industry difference, with black-owned businesses being overrepresented in less successful industries. But entrepreneurs of color also started their business with less capital than their white counterparts. Additionally, this Kauffman brief revealed that education was an impediment as well. Asian and white Americans were more likely to have college degrees—50% and 29% respectively–and therefore more likely to have sales, than their black and Latino counterparts (18% and 13% respectively).
  • More than 2/3 of entrepreneurs use personal savings as a source of funding and more than 1 in 5 rely on family for funding.
  • Research also suggests that approximately 15% of the difference in startup rates among black and white Americans can be explained by differences in assets.
  • According to the Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs, about 82% of firms that started with at least $100,000 in capital were white-owned, 13% Asian-owned, 4% Hispanic-owned, and 1% are black-owned.

Women: How do we measure up?

As of 2016, it is estimated there are over 11.3 million women-owned businesses in the U.S. generating over $1.6 trillion in revenues. (The sources for the information below: From American Express OPEN: The State of Women-Owned Businesses Report (2016) and National Women’s Business Council Report (2012))

  • The growth in the number of women-owned firms surged in the aftermath of the recession. (Growth was 9.2% for non women-owned firms and 45.2% for women-owned firms)
  • Among women of color, Latinas lead the way in the growth of number of firms, Asian-American women lead in employment and revenue growth. African American women-owned firms constitute a 61% majority of African American owned firms.
  • In a 2012 report, the National Women’s Business Council found that on average, men start their businesses with nearly twice as much capital as women ($135,000 vs. $75,000). This disparity is slightly larger among firms with high-growth potential ($320,000 vs. $150,000), and much larger in the Top 25 firms ($1.3 million vs. $210,000).
  •  The same report found that high-growth potential firms started with about twice as much capital as other firms, and were more likely to rely on outside financing, both debt and equity. However, controlling for other variables including growth potential, men still used significantly higher levels of capital than women from 2005 to 2007.
  •  The biggest difference in amount of capital between men and women was with regard to outside equity, even controlling for other factors. Women received only 2% of total funding from outside equity, compared to 18% for men. This gap also occurred in both the high-growth potential firms and the Top 25 firms. As growth potential increases, so does the dollar amount of external equity used—this is true for both men and women, although the rates of increase differ.
  • Regarding demand for credit (i.e. outside debt), women were more likely to be discouraged from applying for loans due to fear of denial, particularly during the financial crisis of 2008–2010. This fear was somewhat justified: in 2008, women-owned firms were much more likely to have their loan applications denied than their men-owned counterparts.

What am I doing about this?

For anyone that knows me, you know I am a DOER instead of a complainer. So this is why Kendrick Advisory & Advocacy Group, LLC was started—to provide a unique experience for minorities to engage with one another and others in accessing capital. You can join the cause too! You can sign up for our enewsletter, follow us on social media, volunteer or DONATE to the cause. It takes all of us doing our part to make this happen.

Here are some IMMEDIATE opportunities to get involved below:

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My name is Dar’shun Kendrick and I am a business attorney and owner of Kendrick Law Practice, helping businesses raise capital the LEGAL way. I have 2 B.A.s from Oglethorpe University, a law degree from the University of Georgia and an M.B.A. from Kennesaw State University. Additionally, I have been elected to the Georgia House of Representatives (East DeKalb/South Gwinnett counties) since 2011 and I serve on the committees of Juvenile Justice, Interstate Cooperation, Judiciary Non-Civil and as the ranking Democrat on the Small Business and Job Creation Committee. I am also a board member of the Technology Association of Georgia’s corporate development board, a writer for Black Enterprise magazine and featured in the Huffington Post as one of 25 people in Atlanta to improve diversity in the ecosystem for African Americans in technology.

I am also the founder and Board Chair of a non-profit organization to EDUCATE and EMPOWER minorities called Minority Access to Capital, Inc. Furthermore, I am an Economic Justice Advocate and Owner of Kendrick Advisory and Advocacy Group L.L.C. providing consulting and advocacy services on policy and initiatives across the nation for those that want to reach minorities. More information can be found online at www.DarshunKendrick.com about my platform.

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Uncategorized

What Does “Economic Justice” Mean to You As a Woman or Racial Minority?

The answer to this question is simple to me. It means economic parity—parity in access to capital for minority businesses, access to economic opportunities through employment and sustainability for minorities and any and all things in between. Since focusing my law firm on capital compliance for small businesses and since being elected to the Georgia legislature, I have seen vast differences in the capital raising pipeline, access and process between minorities and non-minorities. It has been concerning so I decided to do something about it.

That is why I launched Kendrick Advisory & Advocacy Group, LLC (“KAAG”). This is a full service consulting and advocacy firm for groups and individuals who want to fight for economic justice in their community for racial minorities and women. We help with event planning, advocacy consulting and general consulting on economic justice matters that matter to you!

KAAG did a “soft launch” in February but we have been busy since that time. Here are a few highlights:

(1) I became a Black Enterprise Magazine contributor in January of this year and have published three articles so far, with a 4th one PENDING on an Atlanta based company using technology to connect citizens with issues and policy markers:

Make sure you SUBSCRIBE to my blog to receive my Black Enterprise articles as soon as it posts.

(2) I built an enewsletter called “DarshunSpeaks” with a strong following of over 140 committed people to the cause of economic justice. It continues to grow by the day. You can view the past enewsletters below:

Make sure you SUBSCRIBE to keep up with all the activities of KAAG and be the first to know about specials and events.

(3) I scheduled a series of events starting this spring. First one coming up!

April 18th Meet Up- Register online today!

View other events online which include, but not limited to, May 2nd Twitter chat on “The State of Minorities Access to Capital” and an end of May Book Club and Investment Club meeting.

Will you join the cause?

I am pleased to announce our signature event on July 25th in partnership with the Chick fil A Foundation, TAG (Technology Association of Georgia), the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus and Minority Access to Capital, Inc. on minorities raising capital and growth strategies at the Georgia World Congress Center. *Sponsorships are available for each of these events so visit us online to learn more.

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My name is Dar’shun Kendrick and I am a business attorney and owner of Kendrick Law Practicehelping businesses raise capital the LEGAL way. I have 2 B.A.s from Oglethorpe University, a law degree from the University of Georgia and an M.B.A. from Kennesaw State University. Additionally,I have been elected to the Georgia House of Representatives (East DeKalb/South Gwinnett counties) since 2011 and I serve on the committees of Juvenile Justice, Interstate Cooperation, Judiciary NonCivil and as the ranking Democrat on the Small Business and Job Creation Committee. I am also board member of the Technology Association of Georgia’s corporate development board.

Currently, I am also Founder and Board Chair of a non-profit organization to EDUCATE and EMPOWER minorities called Minority Access to Capital, Inc. . Furthermore, I am an Economic Justice Advocate and Owner of Kendrick Advisory and Advocacy Group, LLC providing consulting and advocacy services on policy and initiatives for minorities across the nation. More information can be found online at www.DarshunKendrick.com about my platform.

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