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Black History Month Voices: Janese Murray | Commentary

During February, Maryland residents are commemorating Black History Month by studying and celebrating the past. Meanwhile, what’s being called the racial reckoning of 2020 is barely in the rearview mirror. Those recent events — Black people killed by police and marches demanding systemic change — are prompting some Baltimore-area residents to explore what needs to be done to ensure there is substantial progress toward achieving racial justice and equity.

The Baltimore Sun asked residents: What will it take to move the region ahead in 2021 and beyond? Specifically what do they want to change, and how will they help make those changes happen? Each week this month, we will share some of their comments about how they hope to move forward after a tumultuous 2020.

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The essays have been edited for clarity and length.

Janese Murray, 64, founder and president of Inclusion Impact Consulting

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Janese Murray, founder and president of Inclusion Impact Consulting, says in her Black History Month essay, that Black people have had to figure out how to live and thrive in a system that is not built for them. Credit: Shaun Anthony Williams, Clear Focus Photography and Video
Janese Murray, founder and president of Inclusion Impact Consulting, says in her Black History Month essay, that Black people have had to figure out how to live and thrive in a system that is not built for them. Credit: Shaun Anthony Williams, Clear Focus Photography and Video (SHAUN ANTHONY WILLIAMS/Shaun Anthony Williams, Clear Focus Photography and Video)

Oftentimes we want to move forward without embracing or even acknowledging history. Until we own up to our history of systemic racism as a city and as a nation, our ability to truly move forward is limited.

That is the reckoning that I try to bring into my work as a consultant and facilitator for diversity, equity and inclusion.

Increased awareness of systems that purposely advantage some and disadvantage others is the first step toward dismantling them. This must be followed by taking intentional actions designed to create and sustain an environment of inclusion and equity.

Systemic racism has morphed and changed over the years and it is still there, and it still impacts broader society and individual organizations.

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I think we are just beginning to recognize that systemic racism exists. And there has not been an acknowledgment of that. Black people are told we are playing the race card and that slavery is over. We have never really talked about it.

For me personally, it is about calling it out, not only systemic racism, but inequities, and also to recognize that Black people as a race are not broken. We are people who have had to figure out how to live and thrive in a system that is not built for us.

— Compiled by John-John Williams IV

Read other Black History Month Voices essays

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