Chandler Chamber hosting diversity roundtables The Chandler Arizonan

Chandler Chamber hosting diversity roundtables

Chandler Chamber hosting diversity roundtables
City News
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ARIZONAN NEWS STAFF

The Chandler Chamber of Commerce is hosting a series of roundtable discussions focused on addressing issues of racial diversity in the workplace.

In the days following numerous “Black Lives Matter” protests around the Valley, the Chamber announced it would be starting a dialogue with local business leaders on how the community can move forward after so much civil unrest.

Chamber President Terri Kimble said her organization is attempting to build unity and embrace diversity by holding conversations that aim to help business leaders progress forward during a period of social discord.

She also said the Chandler Chamber would participate in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce national initiative to address inequality of opportunity, including a national town hall June 25 where community and business leaders aim to plan concrete actions that government and the private sector can take through education, criminal justice reform, employment and entrepreneurship.

“Discrimination, injustice and violence allow no place for our business community to grow,” Kimble said. “Our communities are hurting, and we see it as our job to not only help them heal, but also to offer hope.”

The Chamber strives to make Chandler better, Kimble added, and will continue being an agent of change in the future.

“We are committed to doing our part to provide businesses equal access to high quality services no matter their race, religion, economic or ethnic background,” she stated.

The Chamber hosted its first virtual roundtable earlier this month with five African-American leaders of Chandler’s business community.

During the 30-minute video chat, the panelists took turns assessing the country’s current crisis and told Kimble how local businesses can take steps to incorporate more inclusive practices.

Crystal Blackwell, owner of Crystal Clear Results, said the community is at a moment where everyone should practice some restraint by keeping silent and letting others voice their concerns.

“This is a great opportunity for everyone to exercise some deep listening,” Blackwell said.

The young people leading all these recent protests have different expectations when it comes to diversity, Blackwell added, so it will be up to business leaders to listen and make changes.

The recent deaths have reignited a national debate on police accountability that’s been culminating since the Black Lives Matter movement was formed in 2013.

Peaceful protests have erupted in nearly every major city across the city over the last two weeks and even the suburban regions have begun to experience civil unrest among its residents.   

Hundreds began assembling in downtown Chandler on June 2, resulting in a series of more demonstrations around City Hall and the Chandler Police Department headquarters in the following days.

Former Chandler-Gilbert Community College Vice President William Crawford, another Chamber panelist, said he was encouraged to see so many young people take an interest in democracy by participating in the protests. It’s now up to all citizens to educate themselves further, he added, on how the justice system operates and search for reforms.

Crawford, who’s also a retired Phoenix police officer, said he understands the challenges of working in law enforcement. Yet the job’s difficult nature shouldn’t excuse any type of unprofessional misconduct, he said.

Law enforcement officers are often the most visible component of a community’s justice system, Crawford added, but there are several more layers worth scrutinizing and reexamining during this watershed moment.

“We need to make sure that we are implementing community-policing practices throughout the justice system,” Crawford said.

The Chamber’s panelists recommended businesses undergo initiatives that include training their human resources departments to eliminate any racial bias existing within current hiring practices.

Cindy Banton, founder of AVID Consulting, encouraged local business owners to reach out to their peers and to not be afraid of connecting with others who may appear to be different from them.

“Fear makes this thing ugly,” Banton said. “If we subside the fear, then things will be a lot better.”

The Chamber will be hosting more roundtable discussions June 24, Sept. 23 and Dec. 3. Members can register for the virtual events at chandlerchamber.com. 

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