From breweries to clothing lines, businesses are clamoring to address internal biases and racism in the workplace. As inquiries pour in, local equity consultants Marisol Jiménez and Tamiko Ambrose Murray are busier than ever.
The pair met eight years ago at a Racial Equity Circle hosted by Asheville’s Center for Participatory Change. They instantly clicked, growing first as friends, then collaborators. “We’re like soulmates,” Jiménez says with a laugh. “She pushes me to grow and heal.”
Past lives as community organizers taught Jiménez and Ambrose Murray to approach consulting not just as facilitators, but as healers and social workers. Their work employs the theory of change, which entails defining and mapping out all of the steps necessary to create long-term outcomes. Services range from racial equity workshops to one-on-one interviews soliciting feedback from a business’s employees.
No two days are the same. In September, the consultants led a Zoom discussion with a client in New York City before turning around to debrief with a local nonprofit. One of their most meaningful interactions involved a farming organization in Iowa, about a month after fierce August storms ripped through the region. Course participants still didn’t have power, Jiménez recalls. But the Iowa team still wanted to talk about the equity work they were doing within their network. “In a moment of deep crisis and scarcity, backed into a corner, they were still committed to doing the racial equity work,” she says.
Ambrose Murray chimes in. “Even though they were primarily white folks, they were still committed to advancing equity, listening to others and sharing their power.”
Some businesses are genuinely ready to address harmful practices and have tough conversations; others are looking for a check in a diversity training box. The two women feel a deep commitment to this moment of racial reckoning in America, but they also know the sudden surge in demand exceeds their joint capacity. They see a need to be discerning with their clients as they decide which groups are authentic and ready to change.
“As work wives and best friends, we share many of the same values, including who we hold ourselves accountable to,” Ambrose Murray says. “This is what I am called to do. I’m committed to the community and committed to the struggle.
She continues: “This is healing work, not just for us, but for our ancestors and our children and for our children’s children’s children.”
This article is part of COVID Conversations, a series of short features based on interviews with members of our community during the coronavirus pandemic in Western North Carolina. If you or someone you know has a unique story you think should be featured in a future issue of Xpress, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.