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Business leaders want accomplices, not just allies

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Business leaders know the community looks at their commitments to racial equity and diversity with a skeptical eye. That’s why they spend half of the time talking about their goals and half of the time explaining why they’re serious about it.

The team at Black Onyx Management, a Black-owned management consulting firm, recently launched Indy Accompliceship to change that by helping businesses and other organizations address outcomes in four areas: the workplace, workforce, marketplace and community.

The word “ally” came into vogue recently to signify white people, business owners and others who choose to align themselves with Black people. Indy Accompliceship is more than that.

“Allies make statements. Accomplices take action,” said Tamara Cypress, founder of Indy Accompliceship and a corporate social responsibility consultant at Black Onyx Management.

The first cohort of businesses includes Penske Entertainment, IndyStar, Borshorff and Central Indiana Community Foundation.

The businesses take a wide-ranging pledge that covers the four areas mentioned above. Businesses commit to closing the Black-white pay gap for similar positions, spending a percentage of money with Black contractors, volunteering at Black organizations and more.

Racism won’t go away because some businesses added a few more Black people to leadership roles, but Cypress said success can’t be defined only by hard numbers.

“We do not expect these companies to come up this time next year and solve racism,” she said. “What we do expect is for companies to make strides in each of these four areas.”

Indy Accompliceship will work with organizations that take the pledge but have a difficult time making improvements, Cypress said, and she hopes organizations that aren’t up to the challenge will “weed themselves out.” There is a pre-assessment for interested businesses. Learn more at indyaccompliceship.com.

Business leaders met Oct. 30 at Cleo’s Bodega & Cafe to celebrate Indy Accompliceship Day, marking the start of their journey to becoming accomplices.

Peter Kim, president and chief creative officer at MKR, a marketing and advertising company, said the company is offering free marketing services to local Black-owned business. MKR has developed marketing strategies so far for four Black-owned businesses through a partnership with Black Businesses Matter, a campaign part of Indy Accompliceship.

Venita Moore, managing principal of operations at Engaging Solutions, said the company has agreed to give 10% of its services to the community and to help develop businesses.

Indy Accompliceship isn’t the first corporate pledge program to spring up in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic fallout. A group of organizations, led by Eli Lilly, launched the Indy Racial Equity Pledge in October to promote change in the areas of health, prosperity, education and criminal justice.

Jimmie McMillan, senior corporate council and chief diversity officer at Penske Entertainment, said he hopes these efforts aren’t just seen as a “window of opportunity.”

“I don’t like that term,” he said, “because I’m tired of crawling through windows and creeping through doors to get what’s rightfully ours.”

Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.

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