Week 215 in Detroit. I’m writing this on Juneteenth. Juneteenth is having a moment. I hope it is a moment that becomes a memorial. Juneteenth is the day many Americans consider Independence Day. President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. However, it took over 2 years before the last slaves in Texas were freed by Union troops. One account estimated the freedom of over 250,000 people that day, June 19 ,1865.
If none of us are free until all of us are free, June 19, 1865 is a day of freedom, of independence. Functional freedom, functional justice is still something we’re fighting for in 2020.
It’s possible Juneteenth becomes a national holiday. Many companies recognized it as a holiday this year. Many more provided paid time off to honor Juneteenth.
Congress has a moment to recognize Juneteenth. The end of slavery — not the legal end, but the day the last slaves became aware of the end of slavery — is worth commemorating. Only by recognizing our history, admitting the horror of it, and stating a commitment to be better, to make progress, will we actually incentivize that progress.
So many existing incentives discourage us from challenging the status quo. It becomes a sort of “game theory” that makes coordination difficult. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about incentivizes versus disincentives. As a conflicted optimist, I cannot deny that I’m always drawn to positive incentivizes.
Police brutality and systemic racism, specifically in criminal justice, has proven that positive incentives failed. Since 1865, positive incentives for equality have not worked. The majority has not been incentivized to change. In politics, identity is a stronger incentive than both fact and outcome.
It’s also a solution.
Who are you and who do you want to believe you are.
I write often about being intentional. Who you want to be is intention.
Most politicians are followers.
Reactive to the people not leading the people. The incentive is popularity. At least 1 vote more popular than the other party. The formula does not incentivize true leaders. True leaders have to make difficult choices and difficult choices sometimes mean risking popularity.
Consider your favorite musician. Is that artist known for chasing the popular sound or creating a new sound that defines the future? The incentive, for some, is sell a lot of records. The incentive, for others , is to express an idea. Being intentional can bring success in either pursuit.
Musicians that try to be popular or sell a lot of records risk ending up either generating mediocre music or outright failing, just like everyone else. Musicians that follow their vision and deliver you a feeling that you didn’t even know existed; those are the musicians that change your life. They find others follow them.
The politician with the idea and ability to change your life, is rare. We forget that in politics, unlike art, we can demand the change.
We can incentivize the creativity.
Politicians will chase what is popular. Before you subconsciously differentiate your favorite politician from that group consider how politicians reference polls, public opinion and their support. For most politicians everything is a comparison to the other party or the other guy or “the other.” Us vs them.
That’s the power associated with “We the People.”
The ballot box.
The cash register. (I guess we’re going to have to update that to “the cart.”)
We can incentivize change.
One exciting part of the Saturday Cup of Joe has been sparking new relationships and deepening existing relationships within my network. It has given the opportunity to talk about ideas, businesses, mindset and leadership with a growing, diverse group of people.
One question that’s been coming up a lot since I wrote about the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis is “what can I do?”
Last week I wrote about some of those things — reading, voting, spending and listening.
Here are a few examples that just happened to cross my desk or my mind this week:
History — I’m embarrassed to admit that there is a lot of black history in this country that I did not know until I was an adult. Some I just learned about this year and much more, I’m certain, I’ll continue to learn about. Last year, HBO debuted the show The Watchmen. Early in the show, there is the story of the Tulsa Massacre in the city of Tulsa, Oklahoma, May 31-June 1, 1921. Tulsa had a wealthy and prominent African American community in the Greenwood District known as “Black Wall Street.”
After a black man, Dick Rowland, and young white woman, Sarah Page, rode in an elevator together in downtown Tulsa, details and rumors of the encounter spread throughout town. Police arrested Rowland on suspicion of assault. Mobs gathered outside the courthouse until shots were fired. White rioters drove blacks back into the Greenwood District. Over the next 2 days, 35 city blocks were burned to the ground and anywhere from 150–300 people were killed.
Prior to watching the show and researching it, I had no idea it had ever occurred. This week I thought about it as an example of something that can completely change your perspective in two ways. First, understanding that it happened and how opportunity has been consistently stolen from black Americans for generations. Second, the simple fact that I could study American history and political science without being asked to memorize the event, the dates or the impact is evidence of the point.
It wasn’t until the last 10 years that the state of Oklahoma mandated the story as required teaching in history class in the public schools there. I’ve since tried to continue to research and read on the event. It’s just one of many examples, though, of when you think you know something — American history, generally — and realize you don’t.
Book — My Vanishing Country: A Memoir by Bakari Sellers. I have not read this book, but I downloaded the Audible.com edition a few days ago. I heard an interview with Bakari Sellers on a podcast and want to continue to read his experience. I am recommending it here, without having read it yet, based on the interview and the fact that I think many people are looking for things to read that will provide perspective on these important issues.
Policy — Congress is looking to pass two pieces of legislation before the election. One focused on police brutality and one focused on infrastructure. Active support (and subsequent voting in November) is a great way to “get involved.” The infrastructure bill is called The Moving Forward Act. The Moving Forward Act covers all kinds of investments from highways to schools to housing to broadband to water.
The US House of Representatives passed The Moving Forward Act. Next stop, the US Senate. Housing is a key component of infrastructure — communities, economic development and stability. Within the bill is neighborhood investment funding. Originally introduced as the Neighborhood Housing Investment Act (NHIA), this piece of the overall legislation would revitalize distressed urban, suburban and rural neighborhoods with federal income tax credits, mobilizing private investment to build and substantially rehabilitate 500,000 homes for moderate- and middle-income homeowners over the next decade. The communities where this investment can go are the same communities historically overlooked by federal funds. Support it!
Quote, I’m pondering — “I think there’s so much cult of personality. It’s one of the ways in which the business world is so not rational and is so emotional. People are believers in other people, and sometimes because those other people really have figured it out and sometimes because those people just have a really compelling way of presenting their vision.” — Bethany McLean
Last week, I made the conscious choice to continue to address the urgency of our collective response to police brutality and racial injustice while also writing about some of the topics that I saw in articles or in my work as well. These articles — ESG investment or retrofitting commercial real estate as residential — pale in comparison to fundamental questions of humanity and who we will be as a country.
One reason I choose to do that is that I do not want this struggle, this protest to be a moment. I don’t want the Summer of 2020 to be “that time” there were a bunch of Black Lives Matter marches. The more this advocacy, this justice because part of who we are as individuals and as a society, the more we will make systemic and lasting change. In my mind, I want to incorporate this fight into what we already do — our lives. The intentional decision to change historic racism and systemic inequality must occur as part of our decision-making, every decision, to ensure we see the change we believe in.
Part of that thought-process for me is to continue to write about what I see or think about each week as an example that it’s all part of lives we’re trying to lead and trying to protect. That’s why in addition to Juneteenth, it was important for me to write about Father’s Day. Sure, there’s the gift-giving guides for what to get that hard to buy-for Dad. I’m not interested in that stuff, especially when all you really need is a list of top hot sauces.
I thought the best way to commemorate Father’s Day was to honor my Father.
My father was born in 1953 in Mineloa, NY. For those keeping score at home, he turned 16 in the Summer of 1969. Between 1953 and 1969, he moved from Long Island to the shoreline of Connecticut and met my Mom. Yup, they were high school sweethearts. According to legend, they met when my Dad tied my Mom’s ice skates before skating on the frozen pond behind his house. They were 12–13 years old. They first “went steady” the day before Valentine’s Day. I mention that because they still gave each other an anniversary card on that day after 40+ years of marriage.
I mentioned 1969 because I try to think back on what that must have been like. A high school kid in 1968 when the country was torn apart by assassination and racial injustice. A college kid watching the draft in the basement of your freshman dorm at Northeastern University in Boston. The uncertainty of the next few years as he got his first job and married my Mom. His stories are rarely about the fear and anxiety that must have been present then. Instead, my little brother and I heard about his Summer job painting houses, what it was like living on the same floor as the hockey team, catching the Grateful Dead at Watkins Glen, NY, and watching the Red Sox in the World Series against the “Big Red Machine.”
And, of course, we heard about my Mom. His love for her was obvious. They were a team.
My Dad had a way of saying what he was trying to say with a twist that conveyed the point to two boys who were not always the best at paying attention. One example was when I was giving my Mom a hard time about something and he said, “Listen kid, she was my girlfriend way before she was your Mom. Watch yourself.” I’ll never forget that…which, obviously was his point.
His lessons did not stop there. My Dad made sure to be a part of my life no matter way. Unconditional love. Tough questions. Challenges. Encouragement. Jokes. Trips. Sports. We share an incredible bond built over time on that love and support but solidified through communication and friendship. One time I was complaining about how I thought I was being treated by the teachers at my high school and he said “If you have been wronged, there is NO ONE you want on your side more than me. But if I find out that you are not telling me the whole story, or you are being selfish, you are not the kinda guy I want on my side.” Boom.
Before I was born, my Dad and Mom gave their lives to Jesus Christ and faith has been a huge part of his life. He and my Mom were active in the same church where he still attends. I watched the Church support him as we lost my Mom and continue to show up for him in the year since. When my best friend Brad was sick with kidney cancer, my Dad asked if he could sit down and talk with Brad about the Gospel. I was moved watching them interact for hours on the topics of the Bible, Salvation and Heaven. It turned out that was only 21 days before Brad passed away. The intention and care they showed for each other that night is something I’ll never forget.
My Dad has been a support to my friends, a calming partner to my mom and an example to my brother and I, who now both have families of our own.
This time of year is a tough time for my Dad. Mother’s Day several weeks ago is a reminder that we lost my Mom, that he lost his girlfriend, almost 2 years ago now. Their anniversary, June 12, is in between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Another reminder of our grief and his loss.
Then comes Father’s Day. I know it’s not the same for him without her by his side. I hope it’s enough to say “thank you, Dad, I love you.”
I know Mother’s Day and Father’s Day can be difficult for many people suffering or unable to celebrate or unable to be a father or a mother. I wanted to share this as much as a part of who I am as a Father’s Day tribute. We are all thinking about how to be better toward each other and should be focused on how to show love and compassion for our families, our communities and our country. I hope this does that for you.
My Dad is a Dad of Dads and we’ll celebrate him and each other this weekend. I hope you can do the same.
Quote: “Don’t speak to be understood, speak not to be misunderstood.” — Bill Emerson
Continued success and continue to answer well,