“Cuba was magical! I never understood the importance of Cuba and it’s beautiful, rich, extraordinary history until I traveled there in March of 2016. Everything I read and most of the stuff I learned in school about the revolution, its people, and the embargo was lopsided and not entirely true. I was indeed, reeducated.
Cuba is moving at warp speed onto the world stage and its people are both excited and scared. The Cubans we met are fiercely proud and resilient. They want a relationship with America, but they are in no hurry to have us come down and build gated golf course communities, buy up all the antique cars or turn their hotspots into spring break hangouts with drunken college kids taking over their towns.”

 

My Re-education

The revolution was a perfect storm that happened in a climate that sort of resembles a lot of current climates around the world: 1% of native Cubans and foreigners controlled much of the wealth and the people rebelled. Yes, there are dissidents, but the majority of the Cuban people are extremely gratified that they took their country back.

Visiting a 300-year-old sugar mill where people from China, Africa, India and other islands were enslaved to work under horrific conditions by colonials helped me understand the deep resentment they still have for multinational corporations and why they are skeptical of allowing outsiders to own and operate companies in Cuba.

The U.S. embargo not only banned American countries from doing business with Cuba, but it also forbade other countries from doing business there. As a result, we gave them no other choice but to do business with Russia and China, who ignored our embargo. I never understood how it was okay to do business with harsher communist regimes around the world, but not Cuba.

Bernie Sanders would be in heaven: education is free through postgraduate studies and 97% of their population is well educated. They produce some of the best doctors in the world and 67% of them are women! Health care is free and doctors still conduct home visits.

The embargo forced them to become masters of green spaces, sustainability, innovation, creativity and organic farming. And though many are not happy with the food basket system and low wages, few go hungry in this country, crime is extremely low and there are no homeless sleeping on the streets.

My Journey

When we first arrived, we spent a few days at a resort in Santa Clara, and though it was beautiful, I could have been anywhere in the Caribbean. It catered to European and Canadian tourists and there was no hint that you were in Cuba except for the people working there. Our daily excursions took us to villages and farms that restored the magic.  Local families prepared our meals and people were eager to discuss America, especially the political scene.

As we trekked throughout the country, the evidence of their ingenuity was everywhere. We traveled on an air-conditioned, high-end bus with a bathroom and passed most Cubans on 50-year-old bicycles, horses pulling carts and every contraption you can imagine that has been turned into a mode of transportation.

We then spent a few days in Havana and it was off the chain! The city was electric and in constant motion. We drove down the street singing in beautiful old convertible cars and ate and drank and ate and drank until well, it was time to go home.

The food in Havana is scrumptious and the best of it is tucked away in nooks and crannies in places called paladares. Basically, the government has allowed a lot of people to convert their front porches and the roof decks of their homes into restaurants to meet the growing demand of tourists, and they can cook! The nightclub scene, artwork, historic lectures, cultural seminars, cigars, rum… yep, all there. The highlight of my trip was a visit to a small town outside of Havana where a bootleg juke joint still exists. We partied with people in their seventies and eighties who danced us under a table.

Not Perfect

Be very clear, Cuba is still a communist country.  They monitor and track everything. We did not get a chance on this trip to visit Santiago, where most of the Afro-Cubans live. Racism is alive and well and though the revolution claimed equality for all, Cubans of Castilian background still hold a lot of the power and benefit from their relatives who are allowed to wire money back from the United States to help out. Yes, Western Union is front and center.

They are not ready for the onslaught of tourists who want to visit. We experienced three rolling brownouts and everybody on our trip ran out of money. As of March, you still could not use a credit card, get money from an ATM or use the American banking system. You have to really plan well; when your money is gone, it’s gone! The first American cruise ship arrived a week before us, and the entire city of Havana ran out of drinking water, Coca-Cola, ice, and more.

Their beautiful buildings are falling apart and are in desperate need of supplies to restore them before it is too late. Many of the younger Cubans we spoke with want more Internet connectivity, travel freedom and access to the outside world, but even they do not want their country to change too much and don’t want to leave permanently.

Final Thoughts

I took my 12-year-old daughter and goddaughter on this trip because I wanted them to experience Cuba before the inevitable happens. Change. There are several major hotels and resorts under construction, and JetBlue, United, Royal Caribbean, Google, Visa and many others are all gearing up. Cuba will need these services and many more in order to meet the growing demand of international tourists that they desperately need in order to stabilize their country’s economy.

I can’t wait to go back! I love the spirit of the people and beauty of the land. I am still learning and grateful for my re-education.

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I can’t put on my business face today. I can’t watch the news or the videos of black men being shot. My father was a policeman during the turbulent ‘60s and my heart weeps for the loss of five policemen and the pain their families must be feeling. I am so very tired and I constantly worry about my father, husband and all the black and brown men who now drive and walk in fear.  With all my training, education and skills, I don’t know what to do and I am scared.

I no longer feel that a petition, protest march, blog, livestream video, or anything will have a long-lasting effect and bring about any change until we face the realities of gun violence in our country. Congress quickly created five different committees in one day to keep the Hillary Clinton e-mail scandal alive after she was cleared, and yet there has not been one hearing on gun violence and Congressman Paul Ryan is afraid to hold a vote.

 

Social media has brought gun violence to life in a way that jolts you into an uncomfortable reality.  Videos portraying the indelible images of the gun are etched in my mind and I can’t shake it: a man being shot in front of a four-year-old, a man pinned down and shot like a dog, policemen being shot like sitting ducks in a pond. I want to scream this morning, “Somebody, somewhere, wake up and do something!”

 

At the root of all three incidents over the last 48 hours in America are guns in the wrong hands. Trigger-happy policemen with no diversity training and little regard for black lives are armed with guns and are walking time bombs. Crazy, insane, open-carry laws that allow people to purchase weapons over the Internet and gun shows with no background checks have fueled fringe elements stockpiling for race wars. Powerful, rapid-fire, military-style, police armor-piercing guns sold to anyone with a driver’s license who could be terrorists, mentally ill or domestic abusers are turning our beautiful country into a shoot-em-up, ask-questions-later O.K. Corral.

 

After a shooting in Chicago, a friend said to me, “You shouldn’t worry so much. This would never happen to you; you come from a good family.” This is my family! It is my 6’6” nephew coming home at midnight after pulling a double shift as a chef and being constantly pulled over. It’s my father in a raggedy pickup truck who can’t hear as well anymore being harassed for not answering fast enough. It’s my husband on the weekend, dressed not as a doctor but in sweats, dropping our daughter off at a sleepover and being asked if it’s his Lexus SUV and why is he in a particular neighborhood. It was my mom’s best friend, Ms. Alice, well educated and enlightened, staying in an abusive marriage and being gunned down by her deranged husband.

 

Our conundrum: guns are everywhere and we are three times more likely to die from them. Police brutality, black-on-black crime, domestic violence; it doesn’t matter. We are at greater risk and it doesn’t matter who we marry, where we go to school, where we live or what career we choose; being black in America puts you at greater risk to be killed by a gun—period.

 

I can’t push it down or move on today. I need some time. When I do move on, I will focus on voter registration drives and help candidates, who are committed to real change, get elected. I am Trayvon Martin’s aunt. I am Eric Garner’s cousin. I am Alton Sterling’s wife. I am police officer Brent Thompson’s widow. They ARE my family, and I am Dunn Talking!

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It finally happened.  A very well-meaning, dedicated, white, female executive–who lives, breathes, and sleeps diversity–got an appointment for me with a decision maker at her company.  For over three years, she worked tirelessly to get me and others in the door.  I met Mr. Decision Maker for lunch and it was like ‘Let’s Make A Deal!’  He had read my proposal from cover to cover, called our references, and I just knew I was walking out with the deal.

 

And then…

 

When the lunch was almost over he asked, ”Which of the presidential candidates do you like?”  Oh, no he didn’t! I am not falling for that.  If you think I am going to discuss presidential politics and sabotage this deal, hell will freeze over first!  So I replied, “I don’t really follow it much this early.  I am waiting for things to settle down.”  He knew I was lying, so he continued on with, “You know, I wouldn’t vote for Donald Trump, but I do agree with some of the things he is saying.” Lord Jesus, now I am levitating.  I’m still not going to take the bait.  But, before I could change the subject, he came at me again.  “Why do you people hate Donald Trump so much?”

 

I took a breath and responded, “I don’t know him personally, but I would find it hard to support someone who called Rosie O’Donnell a fat pig, disrespected Megan Kelly, picked on the disabled, and rants and raves against my Muslim-American brothers and sisters.”

 

He did not miss a beat, asking,  “Why do you call yourselves Muslim Americans and Black Americans. Why can’t you just be Americans?”  Now I know I have got to get out of there before I clock him, so I pulled out the phrase that every woman regardless of race, age, or circumstance can rock with confidence. I say, “Excuse me, but I have to go to the ladies room.”

 

I ran to the ladies room, called my assistant and told her to call me in three minutes and follow my lead. I should have won an Academy Award for faking my daughter’s stomach ache, requiring me to leave immediately to pick her up. We shook hands and I ran to my car.

 

I called my female executive that night and told her the story.  She replied, “I thought you were the one business I could get through!”  She continued, “He disrespects our CEO’s vision and personally sabotaged one of our successful minority vendors.  He is a nightmare.”  We spoke from the heart.  The current political climate of say anything, curse out loud, and beat up on women has spilled over into the last bastion of civility, Corporate America. It has given certain men and women, who thought their company was too focused on diversity and inclusion, permission to speak and start acting out in ways that were previously unimaginable.

 

My female executive resigned.  She sent a few close friends a note stating that while she remains committed to diverse initiatives and was proud of her accomplishments, without the right budget, staff, and backing from the E-team, little could be done to really change things.  She was tired of fighting and ready to move on.  She landed well.

 

Last week, Mr. Decision Maker called. He wanted me to know how impressed he was and that he was now ready to do business. I informed him that we have grown so fast that we could no longer handle any additional business at this time.  He understood and asked me to keep in touch.

 

Ten years ago, I would have never turned down his business. I would have armored up and pushed my feelings down. Ten years ago, no one would have asked me to publicly explain why I call myself a Black American in my first client meeting. I reminded myself that I started my company so that one day I would be the decision maker and determine with whom I would do business. Things change, people move on, and I had to admit: I am tired of fighting too!

 

Seriously,

I am Dunn Talking

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While scrolling through Yahoo yesterday I saw an article highlighting the controversy surrounding the CEO of Sam’s Club, Rosalind Brewer, and the comments she made concerning diversity.

When asked how she promoted diversity in her company, Ms. Brewer stated: “”It has to start with top leadership… My executive team is very diverse and I make that a priority. I demand it within my team.”

Now, people are posting hateful messages on the Sam’s Club Facebook page, and taking her to task all over the internet.

Stop! This must be a bad dream.  Rosalind Brewer, a racist? Are you kidding me?

Okay, let’s put it right out there on the table, Walmart is a longtime Odyssey client, and I am a huge fan of Rosalind Brewer.  She is a brilliant, elegant, hard working CEO.

The fact that she happens to be an accomplished African American woman with a background in engineering makes her rise to the top even more significant.

The reality is, diversity and inclusion is hard work.

Task forces, committees, and awards are nice, but focusing on tough issues – like who gets through the door to pitch a product, and what does a company look like – is not for the faint of heart.  The corporate path to diversity is littered with many who have tried.

For the record, I don’t always agree with everything that Walmart or Sam’s Club does. I am, however, very proud of the fact that they understand the diverse populations that shop in their stores, and why the people who design, manufacture and supply their products and services must also be inclusive and embrace diversity themselves.  It would be hypocritical of them not to.

Rosalind Brewer is not known for overly championing any one cause or group; she has a reputation for being authentic, thorough and fair.

However, she brings her whole self to work every day and in doing so it would be impossible for her, an African-American woman, to function as the CEO of Sam’s Club without consistently trying to improve upon her own company’s diversity and inclusion efforts.

Okay, I’m awake now, and it was not a bad dream.

It was a reminder that change is hard, and real diversity and inclusion happens when people like Rosalind Brewer question the status quo.

I Am Dunn Talking!

 
Full interview with Rosalind Brewer on CNN

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I love the uniqueness of my African and American heritage.  Observing the world through my colorful lens has afforded me the opportunity to appreciate other cultures, and the contributions they have made to the great American tapestry and the world.
Often, I have wondered how we as a country could have ignored the sacrifices and contributions of Asian Americans, and rounded them up to place them in internment camps after Pearl Harbor. What were we thinking?

 

I can’t fathom how the world stood by in the beginning and watched thousands of Jews be marched to the gas chambers. Surely that could never happen again!

 

In this day and age, the ongoing crises in Africa, Haiti, and Syria, and millions of refugees living in sub-human refugee camps for years must be an anomaly. Hopefully the UN, Europe, America, or somebody will do something, right?

Maybe not…

 


I don’t understand how well educated, professional, God fearing people can so easily buy into hateful, racially-charge rhetoric, and stop caring about other human beings, cultures, and kindness.
It is not easy for me to comprehend how politicians who call for tracking Muslim Americans in databases, denying orphans admittance to the US, and cutting foreign aid to Africa can actually win the hearts and minds of decent folk. It seems that fear has made us forget how many of our own ancestors traversed to America to escape their own climates of conflict and terror in search of a better life.

 

There is no doubt that we are all getting overwhelmed with so many global crises being played out on the 24-hour content hungry cable shows. It has left many of us feeling helpless, and doubting if we can make a difference.

 

But we are not helpless. Women in particular have always stood up.  

Now more than ever, we must focus on things that can make a difference.
To name a few: voter registrations and turnout will help rid our nation of hate-mongering politicians. Donating to United Nations organizations will help sustain entire cultures. And, most importantly, voicing out loud our opposition to racial and religious hatred will help us bring it to light, so that justice can be served, and our values of peace and tolerance can be preserved.

I Am Dunn Talking and ready to re-engage, how about you?

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The Auto-Pilot Trap

As I look around I can’t believe how stressed out and overscheduled so many of us are. Why do we constantly take on new projects, sign up for new committees or overcommit ourselves with only 24 hours in a day?

Many of us are on automatic pilot, moving from one activity to the next, and we seldom stop to ask:

“Do I really need to do all this stuff?”,

“Why am I so busy?”

and, most importantly,

“Why can’t I say NO?”
There are the usual suspects that contribute to our crazy schedules; overbooked kids, demanding careers, lofty social calendars, extended family traditions, and so forth.

But there is one often-overlooked element that can wreak havoc: “Time Pimps.”

 

Enter the Time Pimps

Time Pimps are ingenious, clever people.  They can spot you a mile away and hone in on your psyche, your need to belong, you inability to say no and hook you before you know it.  With the wave of their magic wand a Time Pimp can make you think you are the only one who can lead the purple ladies fundraiser, head the family reunion, take care of grandpa, take on other folks work, or volunteer as a school mom.
Time Pimps will not take NO for an answer, and even if you try to gracefully bow out, they’ll use everything in the book —from flattery to guilt—to get you to devote time you simply don’t have. Time Pimps come in many shapes and sizes, from small screaming little people to loving friends and family.

 

But they all have one thing in common: they want more of you then you have to give.

 

 

The Power of NO

I finally found a solution. I learned to say the word NO!  What a powerful word that is so hard for so many successful, intelligent, well-meaning women to say it — and mean it.

So many of us are the take-charge types — the ones responsible for our families and our businesses. We get used to being the “only one” who can get things accomplished. I fell into this trap, too.

But after practicing to say NO, I realized that when I sat down, others rose to the occasion. And everything worked out.

 

 

Your Time, Crunched.

A coach helped me do the math for a typical 24 workday hours. We didn’t count weekends, as we assumed they are for religion, organizing garages, fun, and family. Here’s what a typical workday looks like for many of us:

A Workday = 24 hours
Sleep = 7 hours
Quality time with kids = 2 hours
Quality time with husband = 1 hour
Work = 7 hours
Meditate/Relax /Workout/Read = 2 hours
Eat = 2 hours
Spontaneity = 3 hours
But, when we added up each of my work days, I was usually minus 8 or 9 hours per day.

What was sacrificed was time with my husband, working out, eating well, and leisure activities. Basically, all the fun stuff.

 

The Turn-Around

Once I realized that my time was being eaten away by obligations that weren’t serving me (and many of them were asked of me by Time Pimps), I made a decision. I was going to start saying NO, as often as I needed to, in order to maintain my sanity and protect my precious family time.

An amazing thing happened when I learned to say NO: the Time Pimps moved on. (Hallelujah!)

Not only do I have more time, I now have clarity on what I can and cannot do — and my ego got back in check!

 

I challenge you to practice saying NO!

I’m sure you’ll see amazing results.

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