Recently, our CEO, David Williams, released a statement about the fight for racial justice in our country. In unity with our organization’s stance, we want to share what Genesys Works NYC is doing at the local level.
Today is Juneteenth, a day when we commemorate the end of slavery in the United States and honor what happened 155 years ago in Galveston, Texas. It was on June 19, 1865, that Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston to inform enslaved African-Americans that they were free and that the Civil War had ended. General Granger’s announcement put into effect President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which had been issued more than two and a half years earlier on Jan. 1, 1863.
But as the great scholar W.E.B. Du Bois observed over a century ago – and those marching on the streets of our city remind us of today – “the problem of the color line” persists.
Last Thursday, June 11, over 150 members of the Genesys Works New York City community honored the accomplishments and tenacity of our first class of young professionals who completed their year-long corporate internships in a ceremony we call Breaking Through. These 18 black and brown high school seniors spent the previous 10 months working for Fortune 500 companies in roles such as Junior IT Support Specialist, Accounts Payable Intern, and Sales Intern in the Marketing Cloud Department. They represent the far too often disregarded talent from underserved communities in places like the Bronx. And they also represent the incredible wealth of ideas, skills, smarts, and drive that our city and our country have systematically thwarted from opportunity.
For the last 18 years, Genesys Works has sought to open doors of opportunity and break down some of the systemic barriers that black and brown students face – such as lack of access, lack of networks, and lack of training and support. Just over a year ago, we launched the Genesys Works program in New York City, with a goal of one day creating hundreds and thousands of professional opportunities for the primarily African-American and Latinx young people attending public high schools from some of our city’s most neglected neighborhoods.
The murder of George Floyd, Breona Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, Rayshard Brooks, Eric Garner and far too many others calls upon all of us to raise our voices, our consciousness, and our actions to address centuries old systemic racism, injustice and oppression.
This includes Genesys Works New York City. We can do more, we must do more, and we will do more to actively dismantle those barriers that have negatively impacted the lives of our students, their families, and their communities.
As such, we are starting by taking the following actions:
- Intentionally cultivate a team that represents our students.
- Intentionally cultivate a board that represents our students.
- Incorporate implicit bias training into our staff training and our intern supervisor orientations.
- Establish salary bands for jobs and improve transparency around rates of pay.
- Create safe spaces for our young professionals to discuss issues of racism, injustice and oppression.
- Mandate a “see something, say something” rule by which any instances of racism or other intolerance reported by a student, intern, or staff member is immediately elevated to the GWNYC Executive Director for action.
As an organization working at the crossroads of race, poverty and corporate America, we recognize it is incumbent upon us to use our platform to effect lasting change. It will take close collaboration with all of our partners to begin to change the systems that have perpetuated injustice and stood in the way of equity and opportunity for all.
There is a mountain of work ahead of us. Let’s get to work.
About Genesys Works
Genesys Works provides pathways to career success for high school students in underserved communities through skills training, meaningful work experiences, and impactful relationships. Our program consists of 8 weeks of technical and professional skills training, a paid year-long corporate internship, college and career coaching, and alumni support to and through college. Our goal is to move more students out of poverty and into professional careers, creating a more productive and diverse workforce in the process. Since its founding in 2002, Genesys Works has grown to serve nearly 4,000 students annually in Houston, Chicago, Minneapolis/St. Paul, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Washington’s National Capital Region. To learn more, visit genesysworks.org.