Natalie Burke is the brilliant CEO of Commonhealth Action, a non-profit organization focused on promoting health equity across the nation. On the show, Natalie details what compels her to do this tremendous work. It is a great listen particularly for those looking to find answers about how to mitigate the forces of oppression and privilege in the workplace and in their lives.
A compelling look at Dr. Charles Corprew and his quest to fulfill his mission, answering the most thought provoking question of his life, “What’s Your Revolution?”
Last week, as the bright lights descended upon the crescent city, New Orleans for the uninitiated, the word “Equality” became the battle cry for athletes, actors, politicians, and regular folk. This would be @Nike’s stamp on #NBAAllStar weekend. As social media began to light up with veiled pictures of the aforementioned, underlined by the iconic swoosh and the word equality, I began to wonder what was all the fervor about, but in the moment, I realized that one of the most recognizable brands in the world was still conflating #equality and #equity. This was evident with their slogan, “The ball should bounce the same for everyone”. For the record, equality means that everyone is given the same tool to succeed, starting at the same point. Simply, it’s giving a 3-year-old and a 9-year-old size 10 shoes and a basketball and telling them to go shoot hoops on a 10ft goal. You tell me what’s wrong with that picture? Equity on the other hand supposes that each of us needs the right tools at the right time to thrive. Thus, in my previous analogy, the 3-year-old would have shoes that fit and the right size ball, assuming the 9-year-old wore a size 10 shoe. This would continue to foster his or her love for the game because the chance of success would be far greater when given the right tools instead of the same tools as everyone else.
I applaud @Nike for using its financial and political currency to continue a national conversation that needs to be kept in the forefront of the frontal lobes of every person around the world, but I hope that @Nike did not chose the easy way out because #equity does not have the word credibility as #equality. In today’s world, starting at the same point does not guarantee the ability to thrive, particularly in world full of inequities. Yes, the ball should bounce the same for everyone, but at each stage of life, the ball may need to look and feel different in order to craft the necessary scenarios for success. I hope as @Nike, @Reebok, @Adidas, @UnderArmour, or any other major organization looks to hone their messages on diversity, equity, and inclusion, they chose the revolutionary approach instead of the one that fits easily into their marketing strategy.
What’s Your Revolution?
Most graduation speakers give students a simple blueprint to take into the world as they embark on their professional journey. Too often the words uttered by these speakers dissipate with the euphoria of graduation and the stress of new challenges. However, as I sat listening to Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Thomas Friedman during Tulane’s graduation ceremony in 2011, I realized he was not disseminating a parsimonious outline of how to be successful; he was giving me the trappings of my life’s work. Throughout his speech he wove the revolutions inspired by the “Arab Spring” into how we (Americans) in this era of economic uncertainty and insecurity could create and sustain our own personal revolutions. There is a line in the speech that continues to inspire me as a person, as a leader, and as a mentor. He stated, “How do we dig inside ourselves for that something extra that will distinguish us in this increasingly flat, competitive world…Everybody’s got something extra to offer, you just have to discover yours. You have to find your revolution.” It is the last line that propels me everyday. Too often, revolution is seen as something nefarious, but in the work I do and the interactions I have, it is the greatest synonym of change. Thus, I am constantly asking, What’s Your Revolution?, and in that moment I hope people critically think about how their personal revolution can change the world.
Founder and President – Dr. Charles S. Corprew, III.
In the wake of the Purple One’s (Prince) death, I am left wondering about how courageous it is to be the man you want to be. We are pervaded by singular caricatures of Black masculinity, stoic, violent, womanizing. And yes, many of us prescribe to one or all of these characteristics at some point in our lives. Yet, the notion that Black men lack diversity in their masculinities is somewhat archaic, but Prince’s death reiterates the idea, or well, the antithetical argument that to be Black and masculine means that you had to run fervently from the feminine. For some reason, as I think back to my whimsical adolescence, I never questioned why this diminutive figure wore bikinis, go-go boots, scarves, and pastels. I admired his ability to draw out my own adolescent sexuality.
Like many teens growing up in the eighties, where sex and sexual exploration had been overtaken by conservative ideologies, the religious right, and Reagan’s diplomacy, Prince’s music excited me. When my parents weren’t around, I would sing loudly the words to “Darling Nikki,” “Erotic City,” and “Little Red Corvette.” My mother was a bible-thumper, and those words and gyrations were forbidden in my household. Yet, at not point did Prince’s mysterious and anti-prescribed masculinity turn me off; it only served as to propagate my propensity for adolescent promiscuity. In essence, it turned me on! I “Adore”d him. His music, along with MJ’s, was – as my fraternity brother and great friend, Todd Taylor, notes – the soundtrack of my adolescence.
I remember whaling the lyrics of “When Doves Cry” as a stringy ninth grader while I prepared for my track meets. I remember playing the air guitar rifts to “Purple Rain” in front of the mirror outside my room as an impressionable young Black boy. However, at no point during those perennial years of searching for my secure Black masculinity did I come to loath the salaciousness nature of Prince’s masculinity. It was as if he was a god, and those that dared to oppose his reign were merely cast aside, proverbially shown the door.
It is also interesting that Prince rose alongside the rise of hip-hop’s superstars LL Cool J, Run DMC, Kool G Rap, and Cool Herc and their heightened levels of hypermasculinity and misogyny. However, his ascension, unlike the greats of the latter genre, transcended race, gender, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. Although LL was known to flaunt his statuesque physique, at no point would he have dared to don a pastel G-string and boots and perform love ballads that motivated the fairer sex to litter stages with their own undergarments. Prince was the alternative we needed.
Throughout history, Black masculinity has been challenged, under-minded, and emasculated, thus resigning us to look for masculinities that feel secure and protective. Too often the end of this search mirrors the stereotypes that grip us like primates as we deal with the ramifications/consequences of internalized racism, discrimination, and oppression. What we saw in Prince for the last 40 years was a man who had the courage to define his own masculinity and sexuality in the midst of a population of men who have mostly fell in locked step to the cultural and societal prescriptions of masculinity. He was a “Revolution” as well as “Revolutionary,” as he used his self-described masculinity to overthrow powerful corporations, and to stand up for albums, and books, and Black lives, because they “matter.”
The take away from the Prince’s death is that more of us need the courage to be the Black men we want and need to be. We need to stop worrying about how our actions may be perceived in opposition to the Black masculinity box that holds us so tightly. We need to stop shaming our brothers who chose to express themselves contrary to our rigid mindsets and celebrate the diversity that exists in regard to Black Masculinity. If we learn anything from the “Purple One,” it is that being revolutionary means you can change the world and bring it together all at one time if you can find the courage to be who you want to be each second, each minute, each hour of each day.