These are the sentiments I hear often in the Baton Rouge community.
“Everybody is looking for a come up!”
“There must be a clique because I can’t find out information,” an audience member blurted out a recent town hall.
Then there is the statement that combines the notions from my own circle of friends.
“I want to leave Baton Rouge, it’s not progressive, not fostering young talent, and dismisses the young professional.” Have you heard this in your circles?
Erika L. Green is a Baton Rouge Metro Council member, attorney and advocate for a cultured Baton Rouge. In this open letter she charges ” The Educated Ones” with the mission of getting connected.
We are lawyers, engineers, entrepreneurs, politicians, school administrators, and graduate students. We can sum up our adult experiences in Baton Rouge as being obsolete, unconnected, smothered by stagnated mindsets, halted by corporate growth, and ignored by the majority. “The Talented Tenth,” coined by W.E. B. Dubois, still struggles in being connected enough to use our talents to change the wealth trajectory for ourselves and our communities.
Everyone has expectations to graduate and automatically have a job. Typically that doesn’t happen. So we revert to calling our friends but our circle of contacts has a limited access to opportunities. So our inquiry doesn’t result in a job connection but yields a means to an end. The “educated” one either seeks a graduate program or settles for a non-field related job. Their passion wilts and we lose another great mind in the sunken place of mediocracy.
This causes me to think that maybe the young sister that mentioned veil of the nonexistent clique had a point. If that clique existed, we could have skipped the road less traveled of mediocre jobs or second choice education and hit the job lottery of success.
This entire hopeful notion of quick job opportunities from one call made me wonder if my white counterparts played this game of career chess. I mean when they call their friends, parents’ friends, or former employers for a job, is anyone questioning if they want a come up? Nah. They are politely obliged. Not all but enough that their immutable privilege seems to advance them over and over again.
Now, I’m not going down this road of complaining about another race’s successes and opportunity. I’m here to remove the tinted glasses from your highly educated faces and declare that we have to get connected. We have to demand a space for our black educated minds before we all catch the first Southwest flight to the closest city.
I hate statements that assert that inclusion will be the answer to stopping the brain drain that exists in this city. I wish it was that easy. Dear white people, it’s easy to hire us in leadership positions but instead put us on boards. It’s even easier to not make us wait, but don’t make us wait till you retire. Let us combine your institutional knowledge with our new wave of thinking. Let our ideas be a part of the plan, mentor us, support our crazy yet progressive visions. I mean,the truth is you can’t quite get the diversity and inclusion thing without us at the table.
But then back to you, beloved educated one, you have to use your seat the table to let someone else in, to actually voice our concerns and needs.
To be honest, we try to do it. Have you ever asked your college friends if they know of anyone hiring? Ever joined an organization to get more connected?
The Bible belt/southern table with magnolias and sweet tea, is strategically placed behind a wall. The chairs aren’t hidden and the participants love fried chicken like us. We wore a suit like them, we were invited to dine, but then somewhere in the process, they figured the invitation was enough. You have got to RSVP, get to the happy hour (where the deals are met and jobs offered), and invite a friend. Get to the table, and invite friends over and over again. Also, learn from those party goers. Duplicate their strategies, for us. They won’t tell us everything, though. Remember they think inclusion is enough.
This is metaphoric but true, our presence makes the difference….
I wish Baton Rouge would just see it.
Councilwoman Erika Green