I had the unique pleasure to sit down with Chris Singleton, an inspirational keynote speaker, former professional baseball player, and fellow collegiate alum, to discuss the past year as it relates to what he has seen on the front lines of discussions surrounding diversity, equity, and inclusion. Backstory here, Chris and I had similar paths in our collegiate sports lives. We were each recruited to the same small, private Christian school in Charleston, South Carolina called Charleston Southern University for their Division I Athletic programs; myself for soccer and Chris for baseball.

Here is where our paths changed…..on June 17, 2015, Chris’ mom, Sharonda Coleman Singleton, was murdered senselessly along with eight other victims in a church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina. This was a crime of hate committed by a white male who was determined to start a race related war. Chris had a choice. Let the ugliness and hatred consume him or do something better. Chris did something bigger with this. He was drafted in 2017 by the Chicago Cubs and stepped away from that opportunity in order to make an impact off the field. His platform is simple, but impactful. Teach people to love one another while simultaneously teaching principles that can help any person overcome any adversity life throws their way. He has also taken this one step further and written a children’s book called “Your Life Matters.”

Instead of continuing the hate from which this act was born out of, he took this as an opportunity to turn a tragedy into an opportunity to bring people closer instead of pushing them further apart. He has a strong belief in that “love is stronger than hate.” Chris forgave the man who murdered his mother and has continued this act of “love” by creating a platform to inspire audiences through this own personal experiences, specifically speaking to students across the United States.

Change. This was my big ASK to him. Have you seen change over the last year? Chris feels he has seen change. For the first time, people are asking “how do you feel?”, “how does this make you feel?”. This was a question no one was asking before. Secondly, he feels that people are open to hearing and welcoming discussion versus being fearful of a conversation where they might ask or say the wrong thing. The fear is declining and people are more interested in education. Not just hearing others, but truly listening. There is a clear difference between the two.

When I asked where he sees the most change, he feels the larger companies have really stepped up and owned this by creating “Implicit Bias Training”, hiring experienced professionals dedicated and well versed in the DEI initiative.  Although Chris does see change, he would like to see it happen a bit quicker. “Nobody chooses their skin color, so why would I ever hate you for yours? And why would I ever hate you for mine?” This is a quote from Chris that really places the entire diversity discussion in true perspective. It seems simple, right ?

My takeaways and own insight after my discussion with Chris was that you lead by example. Leadership sets the tone from the top down. We all have the opportunity to participate in these ongoing changes to diversity in the workplace. No excuses; true accountability for those who embrace the positive changes and direction of moving to a diverse, equitable working environment, and that same accountability for those who do not. There is DEI education and resources available and people are open to collaborative discussions. Let’s use this as an opportunity, not an opportunity missed. Be open to always learning more, bettering yourself, and relaying the things you have learned to other around you. This isn’t a political platform, this is a human platform.

– Laurie Canepa, Partner, Direct Hire Accounting & Finance