Celebrating Black History Month with Teniqua Broughton

February 27, 2024
News and Announcements

To celebrate Black History Month, we interviewed Teniqua Broughton, the founder and CEO of VerveSimone and CEO of The State of Black Arizona, to discuss the impact of the Racial Justice Collaborative and the drive behind the project.

The Collaborative developed a Racial Justice Curriculum that is now used by organizations across Arizona. The initiative not only addresses the pressing issues of systemic racism and unconscious bias but also provides practical tools for addressing challenges within leadership organizations. Broughton shares insights into the project’s origins, its challenges, and its transformative impact on communities throughout Arizona.

VL: What Principle of Doing is currently resonating with you?

TB: Integrity is the Principle of Doing that resonates with me right now. It’s important to value information, facts and critical thinking and examine your own biases when challenged. Yes, you may not always be right!

VL: Can you share a little bit of background on the Racial Justice Curriculum and the impetus for the project? What were the team’s goals when they got started?

TB: Since 2019, leadership development groups from across the state would meet once a month under the leadership of the Flinn-Brown Foundation’s Arizona Center for Civic Leadership, to discuss topics like continued alumni learning, programming topic collaboration and DEI issues. But after the death of George Floyd, and the reigniting of the Black Lives Matter movement, we decided equity work needed to take priority. We decided we needed to have a more cohesive curriculum, an approach we could unify behind, and ensure we are all being educated together as a community of leaders and learners. 

So, in the Fall of 2020, nine separate leadership organizations branched out to form the Racial Justice Collaborative:  American Express Leadership Academy at the ASU Lodestar Center, Arizona State University Lodestar Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Innovation, ASU Leadership Institute, Greater Tucson Leadership, Public Allies Arizona, Scottsdale Leadership, State of Black Arizona, Tempe Leadership and Valley Leadership.  

The goal of the Collaborative was to build a shared curriculum that can create common language for dialogue; providing knowledge around the need for more equity and inclusion practices and policies; providing shared analysis and concepts for examining and working toward racial justice; and tools for identifying how to apply a racial equity lens to one’s own leadership practice for structural or organizational change.

In the Fall of 2021, we piloted our first version of Racial Justice Curriculum with Valley Leadership’s Catalyze and State of Black Arizona’s African American Leadership Institute programs.

VL: What challenges did the team have to overcome as they started to build out the curriculum?

TB: The Collaborative team members needed to spend time getting to know each other better and do some personal and community building activities to comfortably share perspectives, lived experiences and opinions about the why for the development of the curriculum. We needed to create space for gaining trust, embracing conflict and exercising vulnerability to ultimately guide how we implement the curriculum within our own individual programs. 

VL: How have you seen this curriculum make an impact for those you’ve been teaching it to?

TB: Leaders who have gone through the curriculum have more self-awareness and are thinking more intentionally about how they lead: by recognizing behaviors and identifying how they may support, uphold, or perpetuate systems we operate within daily. And asking themselves key questions. Are we gatekeeping? Is my behavior as systemic as the system? Am I making decisions for groups I am not a part of? Am I open to understanding and supporting different ways of execution? Am I aware that where I am personally may not be where others are? Am I willing to change what I can control, using my power of agency for others and have uncomfortable conversations to shift the paradigm on racial justice? 

VL: What do you hope to see come of this Curriculum and how it will impact Arizona?

TB: When leaders are making decisions, I hope that they’ll stop to think of how it impacts or does not impact others. I want to see liberation for others (the act of someone feeling free of oppression) and self-determination: deciding who and how you want to be referred to.  Also, having the dominant culture step back and not automatically speaking for others/ Creating a seat at a more inclusive table, allowing underrepresented leaders to express and implement ideas. Shifting behaviors so we’re not making people of color assimilate to someone else’s comfort and environment, and lastly, welcoming those who are different. 

VL: How did you ensure that this racial justice curriculum encourages the practical application of knowledge within leadership organizations? How can leaders effectively translate the concepts of systemic racism, unconscious bias, and institutional discrimination into tangible actions for addressing racial disparities in Arizona communities?

TB: Equity is most successful when individuals look at themselves while evaluating how we operate systems. Our leaning into learning the shared racial justice curriculum helps us through our thinking and behaviors. For example, how we explore our own unconscious biases and how stereotypes may guide our thinking of how we engage or inhibit relationships with people or groups.  Thinking about why a person would act on their bias?  When everyday people are pushed to their limit in a situation, they say things out loud that they would not normally say. Biases come out when we are angry or pushed.​ It reveals our unconscious- subconscious thinking. 

At the end of the day, we want leaders to think about how they can embrace family, friends and their own work to identify causes, effects, systems, and solutions of racial justice to reprogram their language and thinking for interactions and decision making that is with and in service for others. 

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