Why We Read to Lead (and Listen)

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”
— Desmond Tutu


“It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.”
— James Baldwin


As part of our agency’s professional development program, Trevelino/Keller encourages all employees to expand their horizons with a curated selection of books on topics ranging from creativity, entrepreneurialism, tales of perseverance, management and more.


Known as “Read to Lead”, the chance for our teams to expand both their bookshelf and world view took on a new meaning in the days and weeks after the murder of George Floyd. We watched protests unfold in real time around the country and in our back yard. Suddenly we were in a position to better educate ourselves on racial inequity and oppression in the U.S. and begin to learn how to be an ally for Black people in our community and our country. To effectively communicate about what we saw and heard happening all around us requires context. To participate in change, we first must understand how we got here.   To be an ally requires critical steps:


  1. Take on the struggle as your own.
  2. Transfer the benefits of your privilege to those who lack it.
  3. Amplify voices of the oppressed before your own.
  4. Acknowledge that even though you feel pain, the conversation is not about you.
  5. Stand up, even when you feel scared.
  6. Own your mistakes and de-center yourself.
  7. Understand that your education is up to you and no one else.

Adding new voices and perspectives to our bookshelf was a small but important step to let our employees listen, learn and eventually lead and advocate for change. And we were not alone in this desire--shortly after we got to reading the New York Times Bestseller list looked like the conversation at hand.


What we’re reading now helps us to create a framework to speak more openly and informed about these issues—learning what we can do to confront the decades of systemic injustice, speak out when we need to and amplify the voices of the oppressed. How can we take these learnings beyond the

workplace to our communities and interpersonal relationships to have the difficult conversations needed to make change?


What’s on our shelf?


The first group of books on our shelf include:


  • “How to Be an Anti-Racist” by Ibram X. Kendi


  • “So You Want to Talk About Race?” by Ijeoma Oluo


  • “White Fragility” by Robin DiAngelo


  • “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates


After our colleagues finish a book, they share what resonated most with them at our staff meetings and ideally take those findings beyond the office into their daily lives. We know it’s upon each of us to educate ourselves, learn to be a better ally, and do the hard work. It’s the absolute least we can do.


Other recommended reading;


  • “Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America” by Ibram X. Kendi
  • “Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor” by Layla Saad
  • “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness” by Michelle Alexander
  • Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption” by Bryan Stevenson


What else should we be reading? Feel free to let us know in the comments.


“The beauty of anti-racism is that you don’t have to pretend to be free of racism to be an anti-racist. Anti-racism is the commitment to fight racism wherever you find it, including in yourself. And it’s the only way forward.”
— Ijeoma Oluo

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