Transforming the Times Through Dialogue
by Leticia Williams
Miracle Mile Chapter
In recent days and weeks, I have been thrown head first into the ugly truth about racism in our country. Unfortunately, I am no stranger to discrimination; I grew up in the Midwest, where the most vulgar racial epithets imaginable were directed at me on a regular basis.
Over and over again, I faced challenges of racial division but overcame them through my Buddhist practice. However, in the wake of the various incidents of racial violence against people of color over the past weeks—including George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Christian Cooper and many others—I was feeling more hopeless than ever.
As I kept chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo about this, one day, I had a thought: What would Ikeda Sensei do under these circumstances? He’d have a dialogue!
At work, I am the lead person of a newly formed employee resource diversity group whose focus is on education, employee retention, recruitment and mentorship. So, on May 30, I scheduled an impromptu meeting for all of our diversity group members and allies to do the following:
- Acknowledge the crisis and give each of us an outlet to express our feelings and recognize that we are not alone.
- Have an open dialogue about our current environment and how we, as the diversity group and as a company, can provide the appropriate resources to those in need.
Our videoconference started with 20 invitees but soon turned into a forum of 68, including the CEO and chief financial officer. This open-hearted multicultural discussion left many in tears, mainly due to the fact that they had no idea what we as Black people experience on a daily basis.
The CEO was so moved—feeling that everyone in the company needed to have a chance to share, learn, heal and be uplifted—that he organized a virtual town hall meeting on June 3. He asked me to participate as a panelist alongside the following human rights activists:
- John Bryant, founder, chairman and CEO of Operation HOPE, Inc., which is the largest not-for-profit provider of financial literacy, financial inclusion and economic empowerment tools and services in the U.S. for youth and adults.
- Ambassador Andrew Young, a diplomat, leader in the Civil Rights Movement and a close confidant of Martin Luther King Jr.
- Bernice King, Dr. King’s daughter, an American minister, community builder and CEO of the King Center, which is a National Historic Site that honors the legacy of King.
Close to 1,100 employees from across the world attended this life-changing meeting, via Zoom, which united us and called many to action.
Since then, we have continued to participate in numerous dialogues on race and how each of us can be the agent of change. During these unprecedented times, I cannot express with words how much I appreciate Sensei and the SGI for the amazing training opportunities and encouragement I have received—all of which have enabled me to take action with confidence.
With offices around the world, I’m determined to truly change our company from the inside out and work within my community to help transform the nation—one dialogue at a time.
As Sensei says: “There [is] no other solution to the problem of racial discrimination than realizing a human revolution in each individual. In other words, an inner reformation in the depths of people’s lives to transform the egoism that justifies the subjugation of others and replace it with a humanism that strives for coexistence among all peoples” (The New Human Revolution, vol. 1, p. 160).