July 8, 2020

Last week, Summer Search students, alumni, staff, and supporters gathered together digitally for the second installment in our Black Lives Matter Community Series.

As Summer Search CEO Marc Spencer stated at the opening of the program, “Our purpose in this three-part Black Lives Matter series is to come together during this important moment to heal, learn together, and discuss how we can take action to create a world where all young people can thrive.”

Education and learning was the focus of this event, holding space to discuss how systemic racism shows up in the many facets of our lives.

“We are a learning organization and self-reflection is a part of our DNA,” explained Hermese Velasquez, Summer Search Boston Executive Director and Alumna.

Watch highlights from our Black Lives Matter Education Event »

We invite you to learn with us — below you can find key points from the conversation and resources that were shared. You can also watch the full recording here.

Daria Torres — Change is Coming

Daria Torres is the Managing Partner of the Walls Torres Group and Lead Author of The Equity Maturity Model. She centered her keynote address around the classic song from Sam Cooke, A Change is Gonna Come (which Tamar St. Julien of the Summer Search Boston team sung at the opening of the program).

Reframing that message to say that change is coming, Torres walked through the lyrics of the song and posed a question related to each of the four verses.


Question #1: What change are you running toward or enabling?

Resource #1: An explanation of the Equity Maturity Model, detailing the framework of a systems-based approach for the assurance of equity and the alleviation of inequity.

Question #2: Are you maladjusted to the “hard living” that Black Americans and other marginalized people face?

Resource #2: How racist policing took over American cities, explained by a historian – Vox.

Question #3: How are you evolving and creating an inclusive sense of belonging for others?

Resource #3: It is Time for Reparations – The New York Times.

Question #4: Do you have the strength to keep fighting for change?

Resource #4: Two visual frameworks that answer common race-related questions.

Systemic Racism in Work, Sports, Healthcare, and Wealth


Hermese Velasquez opened our panel discussion with a grounding acknowledgement of the native lands that our community was joining from. She also centered the conversation by differentiating between individual racism and systemic racism.

• Individual Racism is limited to things related to one’s choice, such as bigotry, slurs, etc.

• Systemic Racism is a systems way of creating boosts and blocks that benefit White people and harm Indigenous and PoC, especially Black people.


Michele Courton Brown, Vice President of Business Development at Blue Cross Blue Shield spoke about how systemic racism impacts healthcare and the health of Black Americans, and especially how the COVID-19 pandemic has become a “case study” in amplifying those for health disparities.

“[This is] generations of dis-investment in healthcare that all manifested itself during the pandemic. We did indeed see higher rates of Black and Brown people die from COVID as a result of underlying diseases that can be directly tied to poor healthcare for generations — diabetes, heart disease… If we don’t lift the boat for all, we are all exposed to greater disease and suffering.”

Emeka Oguh, CEO of PeopleJoy, offered insight into systemic issues from a financial perspective, sharing the following resources:

• Exploring the economic wealth gap between White and Black families,

• Studying the gender disparity in outstanding student debt owed,

• Looking at the impact of student debt on the economic wealth gap,

• African American Inequality in the US: Harvard Business School Case Study,

• The Color of Money – Black Banks and the Racial Wealth Gap, (book recommendation).

Tracy Motley, a math teacher at Episcopal Academy in Philadelphia, shared the inspiration behind the creation of her powerful opinion piece, A Letter to My White Friends.

AK Clemmons is an Independent Journalist who has worked in the Sports industry for many years. She discussed the lack of diversity in sports journalism and team ownership, as well as some of the ways that the media covers Black and White athletes differently. She also shared some additional articles:

• AK’s feature on NFL star Chris Long’s support of Summer Search for Longreads,

• Columbia Journalism Review piece on diversity in newsrooms,

• Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 2018 Op-Ed in The Guardian.

Artistic Expressions


In addition to our incredible keynote speaker and panel guests, we’re grateful to the members of our community who lended their artistic talents to our gathering.

As we mentioned earlier, Summer Search Boston staff member Tamar St. Julien once again used her beautiful voice to open the event with an inspiring rendition of Sam Cooke’s A Change is Gonna Come.

Aubrey McKinney, son of Summer Search Philadelphia executive director Sylvia Watts McKinney, delivered a passionate performance of the poem A New Song by Langston Hughes.

Alex Oliva, son of Philadelphia board member Charles Oliva, sung an original song that he wrote specifically for Summer Search and our Black Lives Matter series.


Finally, a graphic artist from a group called The Sketch Effect created a dynamic illustration live during the event, capturing significant moments as they happened.

If you are interested in obtaining a print of this illustration, please contact Annie McGuirk-Molina at amcguirkmolina@summersearch.org to learn more.

Thank you to everyone who joined us for this important learning opportunity. Please save the date for our final event in our Black Lives Matter Series – Part 3 Action, on July 29th.

Watch the full recording of our Black Lives Matter Education Event »

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