Like all good adventure stories, ours starts with a hero, a once upon a time, and a dream of a happily ever after. This “happy-ending” hope, is his father’s. This dream where his son can share all of who he is with the world. Where he can love and grow into all he is and can be. Where he can be seen and heard and valued for who he is. Once upon a time, there was a beautiful boy; born a beautiful caramel, sweet like candy. Just seven days after he is born; his head is held in his father’s hands; he feels safe and secure. He has a heart full of love; filled by the adoration of his doting protective mother and two older sisters.
He grows not unlike any toddler: rambunctious, full of curiosity, exploring the world around him. Running, jumping, playing, growing. He has enough energy for 8 sets of parents let alone the ones he brings joy to every day.
As he grows older his parents start noticing. Little things at first. Like a puzzle with only a handful of pieces and an unsolved mystery with no fingerprints. But they notice...they see.
Especially his mom. It's that motherly intuition; she sees with her heart: the struggle socially, the challenge when he gets frustrated, the single-minded focus. She knows there is something. She can feel it. She wants to know. She doesn’t want it to be true. Because she knows the harsh reality. The world her son lives in is a world that sees your brown skin as a deficit. A world that sees your only potential as someone fit to entertain. A world that sees you as never unarmed. She knows these things because she's lived in that same skin her whole life. She has the scars to prove it.
Today right here, right now. She feels like a lioness. Fierce, loyal, graceful and protective. For she knows her son. She sees the beauty in his smile. When he cuddles up close, your heart just melts. His spirit; warm and refreshing like a spring rain. His father prays with him at night...prays it into being: “You are smart and strong and brave and safe and awesome and great and kind.” Under his breath he whispers faintly “Lord make it so”
So it is with these hopes, fears, and prayers that this mother and this father wonder aloud what the future holds. For their young lion cub: playful, wild and untamed…ready to be king.
This is not just a story birthed on a movie screen; sun rising over the Serengeti, animals grazing while the “The Circle of Life” plays, making hearts soar. This story started on November 8th, 2010 when Judah David Morgan was placed into the waiting arms of his mother for the first time. Born the son of his mother Sidney who is African American and Samuel who is white as the day is long; Judah is the best of both worlds; not just in complexion, but in personality as well.
Throughout the earliest years Judah loved to play on his swing set in the backyard; his specialty was sliding headfirst down the slide. Like any young boy he ran and jumped and played. He scraped his knees and cried his tears; and mom and dad were there to help dust him off with a hug and band aid in tow. Through it all he was always curious.
As he grew older; into and out of preschool and on into kindergarten that’s when we started to notice that he was just a little bit different. We saw how at age 4 and 5 he could read almost anything you put in front of him. At first, he loved books about cars and trucks. Reading about a car just once or twice and then he’d have it memorized. Of course, these are the things I like to remember.
What I’d like to forget is how after the first few weeks of kindergarten Sidney got a call from the school saying that Judah was having a hard time in class. He was yelling in the classroom and the teacher deemed him unsafe, and that Sidney had to come down to the school immediately. Although there was another kid (white) in the class who had violent tantrums daily, and he was not deemed unsafe. When she arrived, the school had prepared a pink slip that was to tell of a referral they were going to write for Judah. Sidney knows better.
She knows how referrals specifically for “unsafe behavior’ follow children. She knows how they stick to you like glue. Especially if your skin is brown. She knows the statistics: “African American and Hispanic students are suspended or expelled at a rate almost 3.5 times greater than Caucasian students” and that “numerous studies have shown that suspensions and expulsions have a correlation with high drop-out rates and coming in contact with the juvenile justice system.” (Rehabilitation Enables Dreams)
She knows because she has worked inside the juvenile justice system practicing restorative justice with juvenile offenders, mostly black and brown skinned boys. She knows because she has worked inside a school district practicing restorative justice to prevent those same brown and black skinned boys from trodding that well-worn road. Practicing restorative justice both to prevent harm and to react to it. She knows...and she stands and says no. Not today. Not for my Judah.
So, what will the future hold for Judah? Whatever it is, we know it will be bright. You see Judah has a superpower. All those clues, so subtle early on, are so clear now: the ability to memorize a year’s worth of soccer scores in just hours; the challenge with comprehending meaning in stories or engaging with others in topics they were interested in. The pieces all fit. Just last year Judah was diagnosed on the Autism spectrum.
Over the last year of therapy and support from his school and his family, Judah is becoming more and more confident in who he is every day. Just last week Judah came running into my office. I asked him how his schoolwork was, and he said excitedly “We got to compare numbers and put them in least to greatest order. I love math!!”
I dream of a day when Judah uses his penchant for calculating and computing as he walks through the door of The Standard for his first day as an Analyst. Like his father before him, crunching numbers with the hope that what he does helps make life better for someone else. He pauses for a moment, sits down at his chair, takes a deep breath, turns on his computer. No matter where life takes Judah, our hope is that he is confident, fulfilled, and full of joy in what he is doing.
So, what can you do to help pave the way for boys like Judah to have an equal opportunity in the corporate world? What can you do to create places where they can be seen and heard?”
Be Brave. Be curious. Let your voice be heard.
When you see hiring or promoting practices at your company that don't line up with a diverse equitable, and inclusive workforce you need to start asking questions. For example, when 13% of the country’s population is African American but only 5% of the employees at your company are African American, we have a gap that is surfaced that we need to be curious about.
One simple step is to email your manager or someone that you trust in leadership about what actionable steps the company is taking in their hiring and promoting practices to make them diverse and equitable. It doesn't have to be a big meeting or a long email. When the company puts out a survey and asks for your input into issues that are important to you; tell them one of your top priorities is to see a diverse, equitable and inclusive workforce. Just one question can start the conversation for the whole company. Just like one vote can change the direction of our country. Your voice matters. Your vote matters. Let your voice be heard. At your company and at the polls.
Those may seem like small steps. But those small steps will make a difference one day. That day when Judah walks through the doors for his interview where his superpowers can be seen and heard. It can make a difference. It can change the story. So, our hero can have a happily ever after.
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Sam Morgan is an Operations Analyst at The Standard with a growing passion and experience for Lean and continuous improvement over the last 3 years. His interest in Lean is focused on respect for people by empowering and energizing them through problem solving and an increasing desire to coach. He is especially excited about two LinkedIn experiments: his daily vlog “90 Second Purpose” and his weekly video feature “CI in 5”. He has been married to his beautiful wife Sidney for 18 years and they are blessed with three world-changing kids. He is deeply passionate about creating a creating a world where people are seen and heard no matter who there are…because everyone should be able to shine their light.