Shared a real talk yesterday with a friend of a friend.
It went something like this:
“Can we agree that Belgium is our base?
Then, imagine one day to another you land let’s say in Japan, not to marry a local in Japan but going there with your Congolese / African / Black partner. Imagine, it’s got to be traumatising right?
We can be critical of our parents. They did what they did. How they could. There was trauma with their generation, passed on to our generation. And the next generation will also have to deal with it.
But something is brewing, I see more and more in our generation who become more active and alert. I am passionate about pedagogy and happy with the direction we are going, I feel good vibes.
We are next on the line. Knowing yourself is key and you don’t get to grasp that fully when in your twenties or thirties. We get to a turning point in our life where we want to be invested in meaningful things. For me, it’s not about money, being rich. It is about my kid growing up and looking at me thinking that his dad was a real dude.”
This conversation brought back memories of an interaction with a twenty five years old, which was tense, heavy, brutally honest.
A community organiser invited me to talk to this young man. His body language was pretty close, his eyes like a gun ready to open fire. He started with this question:
“Will you tell your kids to go to university / college?”
After hearing, judging my reaction, in a split of second, he responded:
“My dad and brothers got multiple university degrees and never got a single job offer. My mother is the only one bringing money to the household by cleaning toilets and bathrooms.”
“Belgians are racists. I am growing racist towards white people. And black people have complex towards them, reason why we are in this position as a community.”
Me in a longer version, but the shorter version went as follows: “Where does this hate I feel in you come from? Brother, be sure, not all Africans / Blacks / Browns are full of complex in this city, in this country. Learn to turn that negative energy into positive motivation, find your way.”
This community organiser who’s also a teacher told me at the end:
“See, this is why it is critical for our youth to meet with entrepreneurs and professionals in corporate Belgium. Talking to older people but younger than the generation of their parents. Now, they are turning to internet for answers. Having this direct interaction with you, if noticed, had him more loose by the end of the conversation.”
Indeed, it is a special feeling to see younger people change their body language and get the eye of the tiger.
In the previous format of the project Boost Your Talent, I was fortunate to be invited to participate and I had two friends to come over, share their stories and businesses in schools. Another video for background information.
Recalling what some of them expressed, they needed to recognize themselves in Black / Brown / African professionals and entrepreneurs, more needed to come to these schools.
Give back. Pay it forward.
If you are not doing it already, I encourage you to meet up with youth (clubs or organisations) to share your experiences and hear their questions, doubts.
If you don’t know who to contact, where to go, drop me a line.
So many kids feel like they don’t have a way out, feel like they do not belong to this city, country or many professional spaces despite the nice words and discourse they have grown accustomed to hearing about equality, education while attending school and growing up in Brussels, Belgium.
Quoting Lebron James, replace African-American by African-Belgian or African-European:
“To be an African-American kid, growing up in inner-city, with a single parent mother and not being financially stable and to make it where I made it today, I think I have defeated the odds. And I want every kid to know that the youth they can do that as well… All the other kids that look up to me for inspiration and try to find a way out, and find some lead way on how they can become as greatest as they can be and how those dreams can become reality… The hardest thing in the world for me personally is raising two African-American boys and a African-American daughter in today’s society. It’s hard…”
About socioeconomic issues, equality, opportunity, when you talk to the youth, please let them feel that they should keep dreaming.
“Dream it. Become it”
Grégory Luaba Déome
Contributing to more inclusive workplaces
More from me on Ethnostratification and Talent Advancement:
Born in Congo, I am committed to developing more inclusive workplaces. My passion is to enable others to achieve their potential and to advance equity in corporate Brussels.
About eight years ago, a friend told me something like “in my company, they consider me as a high potential. I participated to the annual event of our industry, 500 people – la crème de la crème – and I was the only non-white in the room. A journalist even came to me and discreetly asked “what about upward mobility”? The problem is that in our industry, the majority of the workers at the bottom of the pyramid are non-whites. The higher you go in the hierarchy, the whiter it becomes.”
How to increase racial diversity at the top of corporate Brussels?
What is the diverse makeup or diversity demographics of your team overall? And of your management and board teams?