Boys Hope Girls Hope Creates Space for the African-American Experience to be Heard and Valued

Boys Hope Girls Hope Creates Space for the African-American Experience to be ‘Heard and Valued’ 1

As the world grapples with the senseless murders of Black citizens and debilitating effects of systemic racism on communities of color, Boys Hope Girls Hope is demonstrating its commitment to dialogue and action to promote healing, understanding and equality.  To signal the importance of this work, the first 90 minutes of the Network Board of Directors Meeting on June 26 were opened up to all Boys Hope Girls Hope board members and executive directors across the US and Latin America to discuss “The African-American Experience and Boys Hope Girls Hope.” 

Following opening remarks by Board Chair Joe Koenig, President of World Wide Technology, and a prayer from Rev. Chris Collins, SJ, Saint Louis University’s Assistant to the President for Mission and Identity, President & CEO Kristin Ostby set the tone.  “Working to make sure all members of our human family are heard and valued is who we are,” Kristin said. “That starts with our own scholars, team, and board members.” 

Kristin then shared feedback from a Boys Hope Girls Hope network-wide equity and inclusion survey, along with the demographics of Boys Hope Girls Hope’s scholar and collegian population compared to that of its boards and staff teams.   She noted her firm belief that diverse teams make better decisions and that narrowing the diversity gap between our youth, teams and board can improve programming outcomes, staff retention and board retention. 

Next, Kristin moderated a panel discussion with AfricanAmerican directors from the Boys Hope Girls Hope Network and affiliate boardsRepresenting the Network Board were Dr. Eddie Anderson, Retired Cardiologist; Thomas Stanley, Chief Revenue Officer at Tanium; and Greg Scruggs, Defensive Line Coach for the University of Cincinnati and a Boys Hope Girls Hope alumnus and Cincinnati affiliate director. The affiliate perspective was also shared by Anissa Gilbert, Digital Product Manager for PNC Bank and a Boys Hope Girls Hope of Pittsburgh alumnae and director, and Juanita Logan, St. Louis board member and World Wide Technology Senior Director of Corporate Development. 

The panelists shared their encounters with racism in their lives and work, from the sneers of a supermarket checker to dealing with a patient demanding to be seen by a white doctor.  A vigorous discussion took place over how to enlist more persons of colors on boards and teams, as well as opportunities to examine organizational policies and procedures that present unintended barriers.   

While it was noted that the June 26 session’s purpose was primarily for listening, Kristin emphasized that taking action is essential and shared highlights of the work ahead.  This includes implicit bias training for boards; dialogue and service by scholars, collegians and adult coaches on issues of anti-racism through the new ALL In (Act. Learn. Lead.) program, and equity/inclusion training at the Annual Leadership Gathering in September for all teams and boards.  A new Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee is being formed on the Boys Hope Girls Hope Network Board that will be open to participation among affiliate teams and directors.