When I heard that Dr. Maya Angelou had died on May 28, I was sad to hear she had passed away. She was such a phenomenal woman that all types of media outlets reported on her death, including Canada’s Globe and Mail.
That following Sunday on Oprah’s OWN network, they broadcast several interviews that Oprah had done with Maya Angelou. For three hours I listened and learned from this wise and gracious woman. I went through an entire range of very human emotions: laughing, crying, sadness, amazement, joy, hope, peace, enlightenment, courage, and love.
For Dr. Maya Angelou (The Activist, Poet, Teacher, and Artist) words are things, and the words she used said so many things that stuck with me. In particular, she sang a verse of the song “God Put a Rainbow in the Clouds” that goes:
God put a rainbow in the cloud
(God put a rainbow in the cloud)
Well, it looked like the sun wouldn't shine anymore,
God put a rainbow in the cloud.
Dr. Angelou talked about having rainbows among the many clouds she’s had, and how people can be rainbows for others who are going through cloudy times in their lives. She then encouraged listeners to be a rainbow for someone else.
As a Chief Diversity Officer (CDO), it can be difficult to be a rainbow all the time, as your power and influence is limited. If you are fortunate enough to have relationships in which colleagues, peers, and students trust you, then you might be able to impact the organization and change it for the better.
Institutional diversity is the “organizational change and systemic approaches by which higher education institutions, governments, companies, and non-profits entities develop, execute, and assess best practices in order to embed and infuse equity, diversity and inclusion into the fabric and culture of the workplace and learning environment”.
From time to time, serving as a CDO can be frustrating. Often these positions are given too narrow or too broad a mandate, having very few resources and constant political minefields to navigate. Stakeholders and constituents are looking for help, support and a strong advocate, not understanding that the role requires a nuanced balancing act between fulfilling your duties to your superiors while being a champion for those who have been historically and systemically marginalized.
In spite of all this, one can still be a rainbow. How? By listening and acknowledging the truth of the situation for someone who is experiencing clouds in their life, though it may not seem enough, it can sometimes be what is needed most. Someone who says “I’m sorry for what has happened to you and though limited, I’ll do what I can”.
Be the rainbow in someone else’s cloud.
I Want to Hear from You:
Tell me about your experience being a rainbow to someone, or how someone has become a rainbow in your life at a cloudy time?
I look forward to your responses below*, and I'd love your input.
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