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5 Essential Tools for Leading as a Person of Color

Showing up as an unapologetically Black leader in mostly-white spaces isn’t always easy, but here are a few tools to help get the job done.

June 4, 2019

Paula Ann Solis

“When I show up as a Black leader, I’m proving wrong that Black people are subordinates to white superiority,” says JuDonne Hemingway (Indianapolis ’11), a Chicago-based educational consultant and former assistant principal. “Black leadership is, by definition, a revolution.”

At Teach For America’s annual School Leaders of Color Conference, Hemingway led a session called “When the Boss is Black,” promising tools for leaders of color working with predominantly white teams. It attracted a standing room-only audience. Hemingway shared with One Day some of her essential resources for navigating the workplace as an unapologetically Black leader.

Hemingway's 5 Essential Resources

1. Black People Heal – This podcast gets real with all the feelings tied to the traumatic experiences of the African diaspora, but it’s not just a place for venting, says Hemingway. Host Asha Tarry often uses humor to share “concrete skills we can use in real life to heal.”

2. Behind the Brilliance – Host Lisa Nicole Bell describes her podcast as a place “for the intellectually curious and relentlessly ambitious.” Hemingway appreciates the advice offered by guests from a wide range of professional backgrounds, many of them people of color, as they share how they’ve risen to leadership in their industries.

3. “Dare to Lead” – This book by best-selling author, researcher, and TED-talker Brené Brown is “a thoughtful dive into the way race plays out in a person’s identity,” Hemingway says. “It guides readers to lead in their most authentic way.”

Hemingway also shared resources for white allies wanting to make their workplaces more equitable and just. “The other side has to do the work, too,” she says.

4. Invisible Knapsack – Written by feminist and anti-racism activist Peggy McIntosh, “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” helps white people examine how they may experience the world differently than people of color.

5. More Love – Laura Brewer (D.C. Region ’04), host of the podcast How To Make Love., talks with guests about how to create love and justice in the world, instead of expecting to find it. Hemingway appreciates how Brewer helps listeners understand their privilege and consider how they show up in places.

In 2018, JuDonne Hemingway founded the Foundation for Racial Equity in Education, an organization aimed at providing professional development intentionally for teachers of color. She is a Surge Fellow for promising leaders of color; a member of Greater Chicago–Northwest Indiana’s chapter of The Collective, Teach For America’s association for alumni of color; and she recently joined Teach For America’s Indianapolis team to help lead corps member development.