Why I cut off my Locs and the politics of Black Hair

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On Father’s Day, I posted a picture on my Facebook profile of my daughter and myself.   At her daycare, they were having a small father’s day celebration where the toddlers designed a gift for Dad.

Nia Rad

Well this led to my Facebook inbox blowing up.   Not only due to the fact that my daughter is beautiful (yes I am very biased) – but due to the fact that I removed my locs.   All of the sudden, I am getting offers to attend various churches.   The assumption there is that I did this for religious reasons and that I am no longer an ‘evil’ rastaman.

On the other side, there are some who now believe that I am no longer interested in the forward progression of the Black community in Toronto because I cut of my locs.   Or in other words, “I am conforming to White Supremacy”.

The purpose of this blog post is to hopefully eliminate these misunderstandings and to avoid having to respond to every inbox message individually!

The cutting of my locs represents letting go of the past, and moving forward.

The decision to grow my locs was made in 2002.   I was progressing fairly rapidly in my career as an IT Sales Professional.   At the same time, my political and social views were evolving.   I became more aware of issues surrounding diversity and equality.   This came mainly from volunteer sessions with young people across the Greater Toronto Area.

Growing my locs had little to do with a conversion to Rastafarianism.  I am influenced by certain philosophies that are core to Rastafarianism such as the respect for Africa, knowing one’s self and understanding the spirit that connects us all   Locs were also worn by Ancient Egyptians.  In 2002, during a trip to Egypt with Kemet Nu Productions, I saw this first hand when I saw this Pharaoh with locs in the Cairo Museum.

Instead, I grew my locs in hopes of enabling personal growth.  My locs were a test for me.  A test of my resolve, my strength and my ability to overcome challenges.  I also noticed that my locs became a source of inspiration for many people, in particular young black men who never saw any Black Male in a Professional position, much less a Black Male with locs.

2009 - Beating the Odds Conference Waterloo

2009 – Beating the Odds Conference Waterloo

The other large test was going to be aimed at Corporate Canada.  With all of the talk surrounding diversity and equality, my locs would help determine if all of this talk was hype or reality.   How would Senior Leaders in Corporate Canada deal with a professional black male with locs?   Overall, I found that most Senior Executives had no problem with my locs at all.   They were focused on the value that I would deliver for their organization.

It was middle managers and peers who seemed to have a larger problem with my locs.   As I was told once by a middle manager, “…. you scare a lot of middle managers because when you are in front of an Executive you deliver your message much more effectively than most of us… which means you are a threat.”   

Turns out they were right about my ability to deliver a message.   With my locs, I was interviewed on Canada’s Business News Network-BNN, TVO – The Agenda, CBC NewsWorld, 1010 CFRB and ran a political blog with the Toronto Star for the 2011 Provincial Election.

Overseas, I had wonderful professional experiences with clients based out of Malaysia, Thailand, China, Mongolia, Indonesia, Botswana, South Africa  and Nigeria.

Delivering a workshop in Malaysia

Delivering a workshop in Malaysia

Unfortunately, my most disappointing professional experiences were with leaders in Jamaica or within Caribbean populations here in Canada. Too many Senior leaders in Jamaica had the negative stereotype of locs cemented in their minds. Turns out that in retrospect, that many Jamaicans out of Jamaica have this problem, locs or not.   But that is another topic for another time.

There came a point 2 years ago where the thought of removing my locs starting to enter my mind.   I recalled a conversation with the first stylist, Ruth years before this point.  We were talking about why R&B artist India Arie cut her locs off.   While the patrons at Ruth’s style studio – Strictly Roots, were clearly upset, Ruth stated the following:

“You need to understand why someone cuts off their locs.  The removal of your locs is a serious matter.   The decision normally surrounds a life changing event(s) and/or a deeply personal spiritual matter.   It is a matter of personal, spiritual and mental resurrection.  So don’t  judge why someone grows or cuts off their locs. “

Here was the premier natural hair stylist in Toronto standing up for India Arie in this case.   Where most stylist would have ranted like we did, Ruth did not.   My future stylist,  Glen would repeat Ruth’s thoughts many times.   I would like to thank them both for their friendship and for playing key roles in my growth!

Ruth and Glen – the only individuals allowed to touch my locs!

While facing some very serious challenges and life changing events, I seriously considered cutting my locs off.   However, more challenges of an urgent variety continued to mount.   There was actually no opportunity to prepare myself mentally to go ahead and remove years of history that were represented in my locs.

However, after overcoming these challenges with the help of family, friends and other good hearted people – I finally found the spiritual/mental space.   I made the decision to remove my locs on June 6, 2015.  The number 6 and 13 have played significant roles in my life. Thus the date of June 6th seemed appropriate.

So no, I am not looking to change my faith nor am I now a tool for White Supremacy.

The cutting of my locs represents letting go of the past, and moving forward.  It represents a fresh new start, and an appreciation for the ups and downs of life.  Life will have more tests and challenges and I am ready for them.

On to the next chapter of this journey called life.

Blog Post by Radcliffe Dockery

The Emotional impact of Job Loss

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In various social media banter, I have noticed a discussion surrounding the ways in which employers are ‘terminating” employees.  Whether a terminated employee is walked out in front of their peers, being called into “meetings” unsuspectingly or being terminated without an opportunity to respond – the process has become too cold and too harsh.

Terminations or downsizing are a part of reality in today’s business world.   Every organization has the legal right to end employment.   However, every organization should be ending employment in a respectful manner.   For most of us, a job is the life line that enables us feed, clothe and provide shelter for our family.

The Supreme Court of Canada made mention about the value of work in the McKinley v. BC Tel case of 2001.  Says Justice Iacobucci:

“Work is one of the most fundamental aspects in a person’s life, providing the individual with a means of financial support and, as importantly, a contributory role in society. A person’s employment is an essential component of his or her sense of identity, self‑worth and emotional well‑being.”

Organizations must do a better job of realizing what a job is really worth.  It is not only about salary, benefits and perks, it is also about one’s emotional worth.   When an organization makes the decision to end one’s employment it should be done within the confines of the law and with compassion.

Yesterday’s news regarding the stabbing of four employees at an office in the 401/Yonge Street area has made many in Social Media circles revisit the issue surrounding the emotional/mental strain of job loss.

We certainly hope that the victims of this crime will have a full recovery.  And we hope that justice will be carried out swiftly to the perpetrator of this violent crime.  In one of my former roles, I worked with Ceridian Canada thus the news of this horrific act was more than a news story to me – it was personal.

While we do not know the complete circumstances of this case, the fact that the perpetrator of this crime was a former employee is troubling.  The investigation will provide us with further details into the mindset of the accused.   However, if we look at the larger picture – the discussion about the emotional impact of job loss must be discussed in greater detail across all sectors.

The Supreme Court alludes to this in the above mentioned case:

“not only is work itself fundamental to an individual’s identity, but “the manner in which employment can be terminated is equally important”.

Behind the statistics and reports there are real people who are impacted by job loss.   It is up to organizational leaders to deal with his matter with sensitivity and respect.

 

Blog post by Radcliffe Dockery

Are Canadian firms afraid of BRICS, MINT?

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Forbes has spoken about itThe Agenda has spoken about.   M.I.N.T is the next hot thing in global business.  Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey are considered to be nations full of great opportunity while having particular risk factors.

The question we have to ask ourselves in Canada is, are we afraid of emerging, non traditional markets?   One of the guest on The Agenda seems to imply that Canadian businesses should only invest in nations where Canada has agreements with.  There is some validity in this opinion.   Every organization has to protect its interest and try its best to reduce risk.

However, we do need more Canadian firms to take on emerging markets, even in places that we wouldn’t consider.   Canada has an array of expertise in natural resources, construction, logistics/shipping, agriculture, finance/banking, information technology and mining that could be used to expand revenue growth.

In turn, the knowledge transfer that Canadian firms can bring to an array of markets could great help bridge the digital divide and assist with many Social Responsibility issues.

It is time for many Canadian firms to look at M.I.N.T, BRICS and others as growth markets.  Of course, we will need our investors and banks to also open up to the reality that the best opportunities out there, may not be in your traditional comfort zone!

 

 

Blog by Radcliffe Dockery

The Left and the Right need to get out of their ideological comfort zones

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Taken from the Toronto Star...

CCPAOntario has an economic problem, which is leading to great social problems due to financial stress.  And no amount of rhetoric from the left or the right will change this.  What is required is for all stakeholders in our economy from educators, unions, investors, entrepreneurs and politicians to get together and develop practical solutions.

First step, as a service driven economy our education system needs to staffed with educators who have real world experience.   This has to start in high school.  Teachers should be in more intense training or job placements for the subjects they teach whether it be arts, sciences, business and technology.  Our students use smartphones and the interest, they can see through BS quickly – thus our educators must be on prepared with real work knowledge.

Second, the private sector must start telling the truth about the skills shortage.  I know first hand what it is like when you are unemployed and have the skills/experience for 90% of the jobs in your field.  However, it seems as if many companies are posting jobs just to fill their databases with resumes.      Even worse, we often see that a company will post a job, reject all candidates then within 2 months re post the same job again – and continue the cycle over and over again.  We need to stop the hype about skills shortages and ensure that the the shortage is REAL.   Sadly, too many Canadians are spending money on training courses only to remain unemployed. Good for training schools, bad for families.

Third, Ontario has to embrace trade more aggressively.   Recently on The Agenda, there had a a great discussion about foreign markets.   BRICS (Brazil, Russia, Indian, China, South Africa) and MINT (Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria, Turkey).    Lawyer Mark Warner made the key point on the show when he stated “When entering an emerging market, businesses have to be prepared for the unexpected… it won’t be smooth, but the opportunities are there”.   Companies, investors and academic thought leaders have to embrace emerging markets more aggressively.   Export Development Bank of Canada can provide lots of support for companies entering these markets.

Fourth, Ontario has to start investing in the RIGHT sectors.   Yes, the Auto Sector is important to the economy.   However, the attitude of Ford Canada and UNIFOR towards the South Korean Free Trade Agreement is a concern.   While Ford USA embraced the deal, Ford Canada did not.   UNIFOR compared imports/exports of cars between Canada and South Korea as proof of this being a bad deal for Canada.   The focus instead should be about how Ontario plants can 1) Attract more investment from VW, BMW, Audi etc into Canada  2)  making cars that foreign markets would want.

While Ontario continues to invest money in the Auto Sector, even when they don’t want it.    – The information technology, entertainment, logistics and infrastructure sectors do not get enough attention.   Ontario needs to focus more funds on industries that will lead to great exports for our companies.

In Ontario, we are no longer a manufacturing hot bed.  Tim Hudak has a plan however it sounds more rhetorical than practical.  Premier Wynne, speaks in platitudes and Andrea Horvarth doesn’t give us much detail.

The left and the right need to stop sitting in their ideological comfort zones and start focusing on practical solutions to our economic problems.   While both sides continue their rhetoric, way too many Ontario families continue to struggle.   Stop the noise and start getting to work!

blog post by Radcliffe Dockery

 

M.I.N.T – the next frontier for Business & Policy Makers

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As many small business owners still cannot wrap their heads around BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), here comes another frontier for business and investors – M.I.N.T.

BBC News has been paying attention to the M.I.N.T. Economies.    These M.I.N.T. nations include:

Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey

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 The term MINT was coined by Economist Jim O’Neill of Goldman Sachs.  Click here to view his comments.

These nations represent higher than normal risk however also demonstrate tremendous opportunity.   For Canadian and American businesses, it only makes sense to look at Mexico seriously.   There is some concern about Canada’s relationship with Mexico.   The need for Mexican’s to have Visa’s to enter Canada is one reason for this concern.   Canada has focused most of its activity within NAFTA on the USA.  However, we now see that Mexico is surpassing Canada in Auto Production.  And despite many internal issues the economy is showing signs of improvement.   Canada has no excuse not to increase it trade relationship with Mexico.

The biggest surprise here would be Nigeria.  While known for the various email scams, Nigeria is on the verge of becoming Africa’s largest economy.  Canada’s current trade with Nigeria.   Export Development Canada states:

Canada has a well established and growing trade relationship with Nigeria. The country represents an important trade partner for Canada in Sub-Saharan Africa. Trade is of high importance to the Nigerian economy which relies heavily upon the oil sector. A strong emphasis also exists on the infrastructure sector, which requires modernization.

This information may come as a shock to the average person, however an array of organizations in Oil Gas, Information Technology, Finance and Mining are paying more attention to Nigeria.

Indonesia has a population in the range of 250 Million with a fast growing middle class.  Turkey continues to be of high interest to many investors and businesses worldwide.

The focus on MINT nations in early 2014 should shift any small business owners Sales & Marketing strategy.  Or at a minimum, many small businesses should consider conducting some exploratory research in these markets.

Who within your organization is looking at the next emerging markets to tackle?   Are your suppliers able to adapt and move into new markets quickly?

Are policy makers in Canada providing enough support to help small businesses explore new markets?    Just a couple of questions we need to ask ourselves.

Opportunity is Everywhere, and it is time to look at M.I.N.T as potential new destinations.

Blog by Radcliffe Dockery