I often say that the path to the Global Chief Diversity Officer role at Walmart began long before I was born. I learned about hatred and intolerance because my parents were from two very different religious and socioeconomic backgrounds. Relatives felt comfortable making negative comments and expressing inappropriate stereotypes.
My parents made several purposeful parenting decisions that shaped me into the person I am today. When I was five years old, my parents moved one thousand miles away from relatives to stop the cycle of negativity and disrespect. When I was twelve, my parents who were strong supporters of the civil rights and women’s rights movement, moved our family to a neighborhood that was predominantly African American and Hispanic. I was the only white girl at the slumber parties I attended.
My family was not welcome in our new neighborhood and we experienced acts of vandalism at our home and family business. I was never afraid; I just wanted to make friends and fit in. I wanted someone to sit with on the school bus every day.
Our family lived in the neighborhood for 30 years and it taught me a valuable lesson: we are all more alike than we are different. Each of us want to be respected, valued, included and loved. I have made it my life’s mission to be inclusive and to help others be inclusive of all people.
I joined The Harwood Institute in 2015 as a member of the Board of Directors. The Harwood Institute’s mission is to create communities where everyone comes together amid their differences to bridge divides, build capacity, and tackle shared challenges to create a more equitable, fair, just, inclusive, and hopeful path forward. Additional information about The Harwood Institute can be found at https://theharwoodinstitute.org/mission.
For over the past thirty-five years, The Harwood Institute has worked in communities such as Flint, MI; Jackson, MS; Newark, NJ; and Newtown, CT after the tragic mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary. Rich Harwood, President and Founder, has authored two books which describe the approach and impact of The Harwood Institute: Stepping Forward and Unleashed.