A critical part of the promised land was powerfully articulated by Dr. Martin Luther King many years ago: "Look it up in your dictionary. Black is always associated with something low, degrading, and sinister. I want to get the language right. Yes, I'm black. I'm black and I'm beautiful."
Ricardo McRae thinks it's beautiful to be black -- so much so that he's taken Who's Who in Black Canada online. "What does it mean to be black in Canada? Google it or watch the news -- the only time black faces appear is when the story is about sports, entertainment, or crime. This project is a counterpoint to that."
And how. It's a growing database with hundreds of men and women of colour from across this country, doing a broad spectrum of things in the arts and the armed forces, government and farming, law and business, media and education, and much, much more. Like:
- Dr. Kwesi Ampong-Nyarko, a research scientist working on a bio-diesel project.
- Ivan Berry, an entrepreneur, producer, and music educator.
- Thando Hyman-Aman, principal of Toronto's first Africentric Alternative School.
Just imagine how Who's Who in Black Canada throws open a window on black excellence and achievement for the students at that high school, along with millions of others like them (and how it shifts our perspective, too).
The fact that it's online is a real bonus. "We add a new profile every day, and it's constantly updated. When Denis Simpson [an actor best known as the host of "Polka Dot Door," a hit children's TV show] recently passed away, we were able to send out a message to the community. His passing didn't make the mainstream news, but once word got out, views of his profile skyrocketed. In response, we put his story on the front page because we knew people would come looking for it."
And the interactive site acts as a different kind of resource for different people, including those looking for employees or suppliers. What if I need to hire a photographer, Ricardo? "It will drop a pin on every black photographer in your area."
How did Ricardo come to launch this new venture with partner Mhairy McLachlan? Like many New Radicals, he had a wake-up call: a beloved friend suddenly died. (For more about New Radicals, people who find ways to put skills acquired in their careers to work on the world's greatest challenges, please see my archived articles.) Within days, Ricardo had quit the corporate world to focus on being an artist. Realizing that he also needed to pay the rent, he founded a social media consulting firm. In turn, this led to purchasing the rights to Who's Who in Black Canada and taking it online earlier this year.
I asked him why he chose to focus his consulting practice on social media. "Because 98 percent of the population under 30 are online. And it's not just young people; the fastest growing group on Facebook is people over 61. If organizations aren't in this space engaging with their customers, they're sunk." I'll bet that Dr. King would've gotten that; he really understood how to connect with his audience.
Day 100 of Who's Who in Black Canada happens on Nov. 9. They're going to release a report on their accomplishments and talk about what's ahead. Don't miss out.
What's your experience with a black "Who's Who"? Are you in one? Do you have one on your shelf? Is there an online version that you like? Do they exist all over the world? And what other "I'm black and I'm proud" resources do you recommend? Ricardo mentioned The Black List Project, for instance. And isn't it great to see Ntozake Shange's work getting all the attention? (The film based on her 1970s play, "For Colored Girls," has just opened, and there's a great piece in this week's New Yorker about her.) Please share by commenting below. As always, I invite you to contact me directly via my website.
RIPE Resource: This week, I've been reading through transcripts again as I crunch through the final stages of the manuscript for my new book. Something blogger Betty Londergan said made me think her site could be a resource for boomers looking for answers to the question, "What's next?" She's writing about one world-changing organization each day for an entire year -- and giving away an inheritance from her dad. When I interviewed her, she said, "I'm learning so much, talking to all of these people, discovering the possibilities that are out there for me and this planet." Her blog is called WhatGives365. It's a joyful and deeply moving read and it comes to an end on December 31st. Catch it while you can.
Julia Moulden is an author, speaker, and columnist. Read her HuffPost archive, including the first columns about "RIPE."