One Professional Speaker At A Time

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By Shanita Akintonde, NSA-IL member

NSA-IL is a notable chapter, comprised of professional and well-seasoned speakers.  Our members’ knowledge and insight make them amongst the most sought-after experts across the globe.   

So, what can you do to help address the issues of civil injustice that currently plagues the nation?  That is a repeated question these days.  I, for one, offer a solution.

Let us use our collective expertise as speakers, storytellers, experts, and authors, to shine a light on the need to eradicate discriminatory practices once and for all.   The senseless murders of George Floyd, Ahmadu Arbery, and Breonna Taylor have added proverbial fuel to an already highly ignited atmosphere.  For those reasons, the real work is only just beginning.

Let us use our collective expertise as speakers, storytellers, experts, and authors, to shine a light on the need to eradicate discriminatory practices once and for all. 

Shanita Akintonde

And it is your Black brethren, white colleagues, that must lead the charge. Once picket signs have been parked, and riots have receded, the back-to-business-as-usual model will require revisiting.  

In its place should be a well-designed, strategic action plan with measures and metrics to fight racism.   A multicultural manifesto that courageously staves off status quo and propels diverse excellence to the forefront.

For this to happen, however, solidarity is needed among whites in a similar vein used to fight coronavirus–a proactive PLAN steeped in science and sensibility.   

Let us deal with the science (data) part first.

NSA-IL has just over 70 members. A significant number of them share expertise in diversity-related topics. This knowledge kit presents an opportunity.  NSA-IL could create a list of speakers who are poised to address societal ills such as racism and sexism.

Our expertise might expand to include crisis-related tricks of the trade, such as best practices for virtual presentations.  Perhaps we can build on the national Black N.S.A. model and configure a repository for chapter members who currently speak on diversity-related topics or have an interest in doing so.

Now let us talk common sense.  NSA-IL members can make a great deal of progress as speakers when they open their minds to the WHO they seek connection with regardless of their HUE.  This collaboration can involve mentoring or virtual meetups.

The main idea is to listen, capture, and tell truthful stories in support of diverse communities. As speakers, we have the world as our platform. Here are some suggestions on how to use it:

  • Feature (or serve) as a diverse expert guest on a webinar. Use your voice to engage in a courageous conversation and share your own or someone else’s story.
  • Write a blog post.  Share views on what your community should be doing to engage with all races, ethnicities, religions, sexual identities, and orientations. Lift your voice to launch these critical conversations.
  • Collaborate with your fellow diverse chapter members. Our members remain apprised on issues and topics that are important to the entire world.  In the words of author Anthony J. D’Angelo, “Build your reputation by helping others build theirs.” 
  • Read. Listen. Watch.  There is a plethora of books, articles, podcasts, films, etc. on topics that address race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and identities. I have listed a few resources at the end of this blog post to get you started.
  • Reach Out   Touch base with local churches, mosques, synagogues, and other religious organizations. Contact L.G.B.T.Q. community leaders. Lead with your heart, and the rest will follow.
  • Track Your Journey. Keep an ongoing list of the diversity and inclusion activities and projects in which you can take part. Involve others, particularly young people, and incorporate them into your plans.
  • Remember why this work is vital in the first place.It is like my grandmother always told me, “things don’t happen TO us; they happen FOR us.” As speakers, we will look back on these times and realize not only how much we overcame but what we learned about ourselves and others along the way.  These are unprecedented times, but your gifts, talents, and abilities can make a difference.  

We can use our voices to help right the wrongs we see concerning the unjust treatment of others. Why not start by being the change we wish to see in our society?   The entire world, particularly our youth, is watching us now. Our combined efforts can serve as a model for eradicating racism through collaborative partnerships that shine a light on injustice and replace it with beacons of hope and love, one professional speaker at a time.  

Resources for N.S.A. members: 

Read  The New Jim CrowBetween the World and MeWhite Like Me

Watch: Jesse Williams’ speech at the B.E.T. awards

Listen:  How Should Brands Spell Diversity? R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Watch The Danger of A Single Story. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D9Ihs241zeg

About the Author

Shanita Akintonde

Shanita Akintonde has been writing since she first learned to spell her bologna’s first name. She began speaking shortly thereafter. Shanita has danced with NSA and NSA-IL for 17 years, a courtship that began in 2003, when she was a participant in the first NSA Speakers Academy (then called the Candidate U). Shanita joined NSA and NSA-IL shortly after her 2004 graduation from Candidate U and hasn’t looked back since. This 20-year Professor, author, podcast host, newspaper columnist, blogger and multiple bracelet wearer, travels the globe speaking to audiences from South Africa to San Francisco, Boston to Baltimore, Houston to Honolulu. Her college sweetheart husband, Jimmy and their two sons keep her grounded and motivated to spread messages of love.

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