As Dan Baum, a Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship (CASE) Fellow from the Duke MBA class of 2012, emailed with some of his fellow classmates to plan a virtual reunion, George Floyd was brutally killed, and their entire conversation shifted. Just as so many have reignited discussions about racial injustice and police brutality in the United States, Baum and his classmates began examining the need for all of us to do more about systemic racism. As he thought about it more, he realized that they could do more than just talk about it – together, as a Fuqua class, they could commit to action.
“The uprisings following George Floyd’s death have brought the discussion of race to the forefront in a moment where there’s openness and an opportunity to galvanize more action,” said Baum. “Whatever issue you care about, it’s almost guaranteed that race is a predictor of who is most affected by it and, as Fuqua graduates, we have really important roles to play in advancing racial justice, which is why we wanted to take action together.”
Baum, in collaboration with a team of 2012 classmates, including Chad Harris, Courtney Lareau, Vivian Nasamu-Odior, Alicia Hummel, Misa Fujimura-Fanselow, Nicolas Maya, Beca Driscoll, Anthony Ware, Jen Gomez, Laura Heilenday and Joanne Sprague, launched Fuqua 2012: Taking Action Together for Racial Justice to combat the devastating impact of systemic racism in two ways. First, they asked their class to join them in raising $10,000 for Color of Change, the nation’s largest online racial justice organization, moving decision-makers in corporations and government to create a more human and less hostile world for Black people in America. Second, they asked their class to commit to taking at least one new action to advance racial equity as a professional and share it with the group.
“We decided to engage Team Fuqua because it’s a network that has always been about doing more together than any of us can alone,” said Baum. “It seemed like a good place to go to try and catalyze action beyond what any of us might be able to do individually and we were right – even in the middle of a pandemic, our class responded right away and really helped us spread the word.”
Despite COVID-19 and the busy lives that many of these alumni lead, the class of 2012 surpassed their fundraising goal, raising $10,625 for Color of Change from 100 classmates who participated. The class of 2012 also committed to a robust and growing list of actions to take against racial injustice, including everything from researching ways to ensure teams and work environments are truly inclusive to changing hiring practices to be more equitable.
“What jumps out in the list of commitments from our class was that there are opportunities at any level to do this work and a deep need for courageous leaders to make hard decisions that shift power and opportunity more holistically through every part of what an organization does,” said Baum. “We hope these actions lead to lasting, tangible changes in our workplaces and spheres of influence and that they encourage all of us to deepen our ongoing commitment to learning to address racial injustice.”
As the members of the class of 2012 continue to grow and learn how they can sustain their commitments and actions, they’re also issuing a challenge to other Fuqua classes to raise $10,000 for a racial justice organization of their choosing. Offering their message and resources as a template, they hope that others use their fundraiser as an inspiration for action to carry this impact further.
“This is not a one-time issue, and as we continue to grow in our careers, we’ll have more and more opportunities to take the consequential actions that change our spheres of influence for the better,” said Baum. “There is so much work left to do, but if we can cultivate and sustain this level of action, we can continue to contribute to positive change.”