A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Sharon Fusco: Reflections on Martin Luther King Jr. Day — and the color that brings the canvas to life

As we look back on the celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I am taking time to reflect on the power of diversity.

As an artist, color is incredibly important. It is not just having different colors, but it is how they are combined, layered, and connected that creates a vibrant picture that captures the eye. Warm reds and yellows combined with cool blues create rich purples, greens, and oranges that spread across a canvas to tell a story without saying a word.

Dr. Martin Luther King

Each color owns a piece of the picture. If any one color is removed, the picture loses its vibrancy and its power.

Take away yellow, and orange and green don’t exist. Without blue, we can’t make purple, green, or brown. Within each color the shades and hues are endless – looking at a sunset, we can see variations of red that span the horizon.

And so it is with people and organizations.

Organizations need people of all types: dark skin, light skin, gay, straight, binary, nonbinary, young, old, with and without disabilities, and all the many ways of being unique. And why? Because the challenges we face as business leaders are big, hairy, complex beasts. We need people to bring their power, their unique perspective and unique abilities to help us solve those problems. And to do that, we must create environments which allow for people to bring their whole selves to work. And that only happens if the environment we create is safe, welcoming, and open.

The saddest moment as a leader is when we realize that we have hired someone for their unique ability only to watch them struggle to perform because they believed they had to hide that which makes them unique. The cultures we manifest matter. The environments we foster are either safe for people to bring their diversity forward, or they are not. And, oh, how we need the power, creativity, innovation, and perspective that comes from the mixture of diversity within our organizations.

This is why at Redwood we believe uniqueness is power. It is why our values focus on relationship, passion and courage. It is why our board and leadership team have committed to a journey to explore diversity, equity, inclusion, and access within our organization. Our destination: a place where all are welcome to come, just as they are, and show their colors.

Sharon Fusco is CEO of Redwood School and Rehabilitation Center and a member of the NKY Nonprofits for Social Justice group.

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