Written by: Virgil Roberts
January is often considered the month for resets. It is the month when people make resolutions to do better—to lose weight, stop smoking, change jobs.
In the spirit of new beginnings and in my capacity as a co-founder and chair of the African American Board Leadership Institute (AABLI), I’ve been thinking about the past and future of our hardworking organization.
AABLI was created in 2010, when the country was still feeling unsteady in the aftermath of the devastating 2008-2009 Recession. Yvette Chappell Ingram and I spent many months discussing what could we do, with limited resources, to produce a positive impact on the Black community.
We both had spent years working in the nonprofit sector. We knew that the needs in our community revolved around education, housing and homelessness, criminal justice reform, income inequality and employment opportunities. We also knew that many of those needs were exacerbated by anti-Black racism.
Yvette and I agreed on a few basic facts:
- The philanthropic world is populated by many organizations that purportedly exist to address issues adversely affecting Black communities.
- A substantial, growing amount of money in the philanthropic sector is potentially available to attack those problems and issues.
African Americans are woefully under-represented in the rooms where decisions are made. We took a close look at the manner in which philanthropic assets were being deployed, and we saw an urgent need for change.
Accordingly, we decided to create an organization that would recruit and prepare African Americans to serve on boards and commissions where decisions are made about how assets and programs are put to use in our communities. Hence, AABLI was born.
Under Yvette’s leadership, the last decade saw AABLI grow, prosper and become an important player in the Los Angeles philanthropic community. We are enormously proud that its impact today is national, with alums from Canada, the Caribbean and states throughout the USA.
Yvette retired in 2021 after years of demanding work and groundbreaking achievements. We now have a new, dynamic president in Jonathan Sandville. So this January I find myself thinking about next steps. What will AABLI be and do in the coming decade?
First, we will expand our footprint. We will become a national organization, providing our services nationwide.
Second, we plan to expand the services we provide. We will become a solution for public and private corporations who want to diversify their boards of directors by welcoming more African Americans as active, productive members.
Third, we will continue to provide outstanding leadership training for Black professionals in a number of different settings. We will work with HBCUs and research universities located in the greater Los Angeles area to ensure that we maintain our standard of world class leadership training for Black professionals. We will always strive to be best in class.
Fourth, we will approach alumni networking with a fresh sense of fun, vigor and purpose. AABLI alums represent a special group of highly educated and motivated individuals who collectively are making and will keep making a positive difference for our communities. Those who have gone through AABLI’s Board Leadership Program are not only our most valued assets, they are like family members whose mutual admiration and respect run deep. They enjoy the stimulation of each other’s company, and we aim to provide more ways to bring everyone together in groups large and small.
Finally, we always want to be at the forefront of addressing important systemic issues in our country. AABLI was addressing the issue before legislation was passed requiring that companies and organizations add diversity to their governing boards. It was speaking up before, during and after the “racial reckoning” of 2020 was ignited by the murder of George Floyd.
Our country is now considering whether we can or will continue as a democracy, as a nation where elections are accepted as legitimate, power is transferred peacefully, and political violence is condemned. For all of its imperfections, a free and democratic country has proven to be the best form of government for Black people to pursue the dismantling of systemic racism. I hope and expect that AABLI will be engaged in ensuring that American democracy will survive and thrive.
Our goals are ambitious, but under the leadership of Jonathan and our exceptional board of directors, I am confident that AABLI can and will meet them. I urge all of you readers to join us. It is good, valuable, rewarding work. Let’s get started on our next decade.
This blog is not written by aabli.org or The African American Board Leadership Institute. The author is solely responsible for the content.