What Everyone Can Learn From Leaders of Color
These leaders’ assets go beyond experiences of oppression or marginalization
Hector Ramon Salazar vividly remembers the moment that brought him to his leadership role at Reading Partners, the national literacy nonprofit. It was the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and he was standing at the intersection of 35th and Foothill in East Oakland, where, despite encroaching gentrification, the faces are still Black and brown and resources are still needed. It is also the community Salazar calls home—that day, he was out getting a propane tank for the family’s grill. Salazar is first-generation Venezuelan American, identifies as Latino, and is profoundly proud of his “South American Caribbean heritage and bloodline,” which also shapes how he approaches leadership and social change.
Standing at that East Oakland intersection, Salazar got the offer to join Reading Partners as executive director of its San Francisco Bay Area program office. Well, let’s hear him tell it: “I was wearing my hoodie, sneakers, and beanie, my two youngest kids were running around in the background, I was surrounded by the sounds, the smells, and the energy of East Oakland, and I get the call. I thought for a moment and said to myself, this is what an executive director looks like,” he says, nodding his head as if he is looking himself up and down in a mirror. “And I have an obligation and responsibility to take this role and switch things up.”
The calls across the social sector to put BIPOC leadership at the forefront have always been there for anyone willing to listen. The case for the importance of proximate leadership for the sake of impact has been made many times over. Bias-fueled myths about the lack of qualified leaders of color have repeatedly been debunked. This article does not attempt to do any of that again.
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