By Kaliah Ligon, Forward Cities Local Director – Indianapolis, IN

Last week’s Forward Cities conference in Pittsburgh highlighted the need for equity and inclusion in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Right from the start conference attendees were educated on the profound impact that systemic racism has had on the health and economic equity of black and Latinx people. The dynamic black female duo, Deena Hayes-Greene and Bayard Love, that are the Racial Equity Institute (REI) led a thought-provoking training for an audience of 50+ individuals. The statistics that were presented were astounding and undeniable and the overarching theme is that race still matters. More disturbing is the fact that race impacts every system and is ingrained in the fabric of American life in ways that we have come to accept as the norm. So normal that for many it feels innocuous. However, it is anything but.

Deena Hayes-Greene, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Racial Equity Institute (REI) LLC

I had not previously been presented with such an abundance of negative statistics in one fell swoop. Let me say it was jarring, even as a black woman who has wrestled daily with the symptoms of America’s most pervasive chronic disease. I was shook. I am so glad that the delegation from Indianapolis, IN was in attendance for the training because we need to talk about it all. The statistics presented included infant mortality, maternal mortality, reduced life expectancy, educational achievement gap, income gap, school suspensions and discrimination in banking and finance. Val Tate from the Indianapolis Inclusive Innovation Council offered her appreciation of the presentation, “It was deeply moving. To the point where I’m a 51 year old black woman and I had a conversation with two 50+ white men afterward that were meaningful. We can have conversations that don’t get emotional and think with the front of our brain and not the back.”

Emily Scott reflected on a greater understanding of the challenges faced by people of color, “Participating in the Racial Equity Institute training at the start of the Forward Cities conference set a great framework with which to go into the next two days of the gathering. Being presented with so much contrasting data around a variety of outcomes for both White and Black individuals was uncomfortable at times. But that was a good thing. I came away with a greater respect for the very real health and opportunity barriers faced by so many people in our communities and thinking about the implications of those barriers on the work I do.”

Audience members during the Racial Equity Institute’s presentation
Photo by Ray Carrington

While there are many well meaning people who would say that there is a moral imperative to close these gaps and in and of itself that is enough, there are others who still need to hear the economic case for change. For those that need to hear the business case for racial equity, REI shared a great reality check- “by 2050, (I’ll be about 70 y.o.), our country stands to realize an $8 trillion gain in GDP by closing the U.S. racial equity gap. That’s trillion with a “T”. To meet the mark – the time for racial equity is NOW. 

Indianapolis, IN delegation