diversity, Inclusion

My Personal Pledge to “Grab My Sister Girl”…and Add More Color to Any Room

Intro: Let me get some things out the way…..

Ahem. So the featured picture in this blog post may have you going “wha….” as it seems counter to the title of this blog post. First, let me give some photo identifications to this fabulous group of people then I will explain. Going from left to right: Rep. Doreen Carter (Treasurer of Georgia Legislative Black Caucus), Bernie Dixon (President of Atlanta Tech Angels), Dana Ugwonali (President of Black Tech Foundation), Stephen Hassett (Chair of the TAG Corporate Development Society), Chrissa McFarlane (CEO of Patientory), Allyson Eman (Executive Director of Venture Atlanta), yours truly and Mrs. Jennifer Callender, (Vice President of Membership of Minority Access To Capital, Inc.) Lots of women. Lots of people of color. I smiled a lot that day.

So what’s up with the photo?

Minority Event_Get Your Ticket Today (9)

To provide some clarity, this was a joint event held at the Georgia World Congress Center between the Technology Association of Georgia’s Corporate Development Board (where I serve on the board), my non-profit Minority Access to Capital, Inc. (where I am Founder and Board Chair) and the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus (where I serve as Chair of the Economic Development committee). It was a wonderful event focused on “Capital Raising & Growth Strategies for Women and Minority Owned Companies”—-so the marketing targeted…you guessed it…women and minority owned companies. So it’s not surprising that we had a room full of black people (let’s be honest) and women. But this focused event is the EXCEPTION to the rule and frankly, I’m tired of it.

Story of my life: The only black woman

“Dar’shun, what exactly are you tired of?” Answer: Being the only black woman in a room when money is being discussed at non-targeted events. That’s right—I said it. I went to an event to bring an international angel investor group to Georgia at the beginning of August. I was the only black woman out of about 100 people that attended this presentation. I also attended an event just last Friday on corporate venture capital funding with some of Atlanta’s top corporate leaders in venture capital. It was probably 150 people in the room at the Commerce Club BUT, low and behold, I was the only black woman. As many of you know, my outlet for venting my frustration is Facebook so I posted these (see below) at the time of both events….and yall, I am tired of making these same posts because this is NOT the first time I have made similar posts.

Rant RE corporate VC only BW.png

Rant RE Kiretsu only BW

Now I did NOT write this blog post to point blame at anyone or any organization for this too often recurring situation that I find myself. However, I am placing blame on myself and holding myself responsible for making sure this happens as less as possible in the future. I tried my best to reach out to a diverse group of people to attend both events but I MUST DO MORE if I want to see black women at these events. Therefore, I am personally pledging to pick up the phone and personally invite black women. I am personally pledging to send as many follow up emails as necessary. And I am personally pledging to even pick my sister girls up on my way to the same event. I have never been one to complain about a situation and expect others to solve it. I must do more and I will do more.

Why This Matters to Me

Some of you may be saying “What’s the big deal? You see them [black women] at targeted events.” Well…well…well…

A few responses to that:

  1. I serve on a volunteer board of the largest tech organization in the southeast, the Technology Association of Georgia. There is no reason why I should be the only black woman “in the room” and “at the table”. I need to invite others that look like me to enjoy the meal as well. It is 2017. We can go where we please so we need to show up!
  2. This is not an exclusive offer. What I mean is that just because I am trying to get more black women to join me at certain non-targeted events doesn’t mean they cannot attend or shouldn’t continue to attend more targeted events. We are women—we can walk and chew gum at the same time.
  3. Optics matters. Ever heard the phrase “perception is reality.”? Well, it’s true in business and true in life. ALL presenters at both of the aforementioned events were white males, except 1 male at the corporate venture capital event. I am CONVINCED that there would be a different group of panelists and a more diverse discussion if black women had a significant presence in the room.

In closing, my self-inflicted “Call to Action”

And there you have it. I have put out what I will personally do the next time I am invited to a “non-targeted” event that I think should have the presence of black women to contribute to the discussion and the optics. I ask that each of you hold me accountable. Make sure that I do what I say I will do. It’s important, especially in these perilous times in the United States, that a diverse group of people talk with each other, respect each other and interact with each other in the same room. I hope you will join me in lighting up any room with a variety of colors and perspectives.

Upcoming Events & Initiatives

  • August 31st- Deadline to apply for GA Path Program, an initiative to expose more minorities and women to careers in Governmental Affairs (lobbying)
  • November 8th– 1st EVER Georgia Blacks in Tech Policy Conference. Registration opens Sept. 1st. Sign up for my enewsletter to receive early registration link.
  • Outstanding RFP– Looking for an organization with strong corporate ties to develop a program to train and expose minorities and women to PAID corporate board positions. More information HERE.

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About Me

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. 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. I have been elected to the Georgia House of Representatives since 2010, serving over 54,000 Georgians in DeKalb and Gwinnett counties under the Georgia State Capitol each year.

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Criminal Justice, diversity

Not guilty verdict in Castile case? Another reason I am a recovering attorney on a mission.

Collage of black facesI am tired. I work 16 hour days 7 days a week and sometimes longer. But it’s not the work days that tire me—-it’s the American justice system. As an attorney for almost 10 years, I am tired of believing in a system that time and time again over the last few years has seemed to fail me and others that look like me. From Trayvon Martin in 2012 to Philando Castile in 2017, my faith in our justice system has waned more and more. In 2016, over 250 black people were killed by police with 39 of them being unarmed. (Source) I used to be the proud, defiant attorney that said “We have the best legal system in the world. I was not on the jury so I have to trust those decide makers’ decision.” And I am not saying these are necessarily untrue statements as they may be true. But one thing is true: Our American justice system is terribly flawed. And I intend to use my talents to do something about it.

I found my passion!…..I think…..

The above paragraph is one, if not the most important, factor that is driving my decision to transition out of the practice of law. I have never practiced criminal law. In fact, criminal law was the worse grade I ever received out of the 4 degrees that I have. (I am honored to have received that distinction from Dean Paul M. Kurtz at the University of Georgia.) The point is, I have never enjoyed or had an interest in criminal law for a variety of reasons. Instead, I decided in law school that securities law fascinated me—the way that companies could raise lots of money under a variety of regulatory schemes. My fascination only deepened with the passage of the “JOBS” Act by Congress in 2012. This enabled, at least in theory, even more people to raise capital for their business, particularly people that look like me. We should all know that entrepreneurship is one of the fastest ways to wealth creation and job creation. (Source) Therefore in 2015, I decided to focus my law practice on private securities law, helping as many minority and women owned founders raise capital as possible. I became a FINRA certified non-public arbitrator and kept up with every regulatory change from the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Georgia Secretary of State’s office. Minorities and women are notorious for receiving less funding than their white, male counterparts. (Source) I had found my calling…or so I thought.

Reality Check!

For those of you that are not lawyers, particularly transactional lawyers, my life is an endless cycle of reading and paperwork. I am not Matlock. I rarely see the inside of a courtroom. I am not on camera defending clients in some flashy outfit. I am a detailed person sitting behind a desk, on the phone most of the time or filling out paperwork. This work was fulfilling at first—seeing someone take an idea and convince people to give them money to grow their business. But then shooting after shooting after shooting happened. Then in 2016 I started my non-profit with some interested parties to focus on minority and women entrepreneurs’ access to capital. It was then that I really started to examine the numbers and gap in wealth generation and sustainability between minority groups and women. (Source) And I was floored! Listen, I am a child of the South being raised here in Georgia but I am one generation removed from the Civil Rights Movement. Not sure why I was surprised, but I was. This revelation lit a fire under me that is hard to put into words even as I sit and write this blog. But I knew it was wrong and something had to be done.

The Epiphany: Money is the universal language.

It was in February of 2017 I had this epiphany. I was planning a “Signature Event” focused on women and minorities with the Technology Association on Georgia, of which I sit on their corporate development board. I always knew that economics is what made people in society and power pay attention to a people and to a cause. For example, the Montgomery Bus Boycott was an economic boycott. And I was not getting much done under the Gold Dome as a firebrand Democrat in a overwhelmingly controlled Republican state. So I thought “What would have the MOST impact on social injustices we are seeing today?” Money. The universal language of people is the same: money. Green is the color everyone wants to wear. Mess with someone’s money and you are going to get their attention. The reality is that money buys influence in elections (think judges and lawmakers), access to decision makers, and commands respect. It’s the LOVE of money that is the root of all evil but money, ladies and gentlemen, makes the world go ’round. But in order to control the purse strings, we have to have people of color and women that are in decision making positions both in government and in business. Enter my consulting firm to fulfill that mission.

My New Title: Chief Diversity Consultant

The Birth of a Mission

So here I am today as Chief Diversity Consultant for Kendrick Advisory & Advocacy Group, LLC, providing “hands on” consulting services to organizations that want to promote diversity in business and government decisions. (Website) We are looking for a few partners for a few initiatives that we have so if you are interested contact me. For example, I am looking for an organization or group of people that are interested in starting angel investor clubs or a group that would like to develop a program to train minorities and women to be on “for profit” corporate boards. (See proposals) In the meantime, we have some exciting events coming up that I hope you will participate in or share. I am but one Decatur bred woman born to lower class parents. There is always going to be someone prettier than me, smarter than me, richer than me or more powerful than me. But you are going to be pressed to find someone to outwork me. I have a mission and I hope you will join me.

#BeInTheRoom and #BeAtTheTable

The only way we are available and qualified when the time comes to put minorities and women in positions of power in government and business is if we SHOW UP. Here are a few opportunities below:

I am asked all the time about creating a venture fund to invest in black or women owned businesses. But it’s not as easy as it sounds! Let’s discuss requirements and options.

Register HERE.

This is my signature event between my non-profit, TAG (Technology Association of GA) and the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus, where I chair the Economic Development committee.

We have sold half our tickets. Get yours today!

We also have the 1st ever “Blacks in Tech” Policy Conference on November 8th, 2017. Only 200 free tickets available. Sign up for my enewsletter for more information on that coming soon.

Conclusion

Simply put: It is impossible to have a great life unless it is a meaningful life. And it is very difficult to have a meaningful life without meaningful work. I want a meaningful life.

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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  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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