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Indigenous and Antiracist Innovators Summit: Action over Allyship

During the Indigenous and Antiracist Innovators Summit, Solve gathered an intimate group of leaders and entrepreneurs to uplift and celebrate the individuals doing important work in reimagining Indigenous and antiracist futures for the United States. The annual summit is Solve’s flagship event for the Indigenous Communities Fellowship program, now in its fifth year. This year, Solver teams chosen as solutions to the Antiracist Technology in the US Challenge also gathered at the summit.

Here are a few key takeaways from the conversations that took place: 

The difficulty of imposter syndrome

Katlyn Turner, Research Scientist in the Space Enabled Research Group at the MIT Media Lab, and the Technology Director of the MIT Media Lab’s Antiracism, Design and Technology Initiative, moderated a plenary on breaking imposter syndrome where panelists discussed how organizations or institutions play an active role in fostering this syndrome.  

Delphanie Daniels, Community Engagement Director at Best Buy shared that in past roles, she was seen as a person who got everything done but was not met with recognition or reward. She added, “It makes you question your self-worth. And then you take that trauma to another job or another role and it becomes compound trauma. Then, you live in the confines of racism every single day.”

(Left to right: Daniels, Rule, Fields, Turner)

Elizabeth Rule, a 2020 Indigenous Communities Fellow and Assistant Professor of Critical Race, Gender, and Culture Studies at American University explained that hiding data has emboldened imposter syndrome in her as an Indigenous person. She has witnessed institutions failing to acknowledge their demographic shortcomings. “My personal stance on that is, if [the population is] zero…you need to put the zero on there and show everyone that you don't have any Native people here and fix it.” 

While education can combat systems that foster imposter syndrome, Rule reminded us that expecting the most marginalized people within an organization to fix power dynamics can be depleting work. “If you add that labor of educating everyone else without compensation, that is an extractive system,” she said. 

Rhonda Fields, Senior Manager, Corporate Giving at General Motors concluded by sharing, “We work hard because we want to be seen and get those promotions, but at what cost? I don't think I’ve broken my imposter syndrome yet, but I do know that it has served me to a point, but when will it break?”

Get in the trenches to support marginalized populations

During the Allies in Innovation Plenary, Genesis Garcia, Officer, US Community at MIT Solve asked the panel what their definition of a true ally is.

Marimba Milliones, President and CEO at Hill CDC explained her point of view, “I'm not a fan of the term ally, it falls short of the word friend…It’s not enough to be friend-like. I need people in the trenches wherever they may be. If those trenches are in philanthropy, on the street, in academia, I need you in those trenches. 

On the topic of philanthropy, Meme Styles, a 2021 Antiracist Technology Solver and President at MEASURE shared, “Philanthropic racism has perpetuated the system…You look good because you gave money. We have to take a step back from it being so focused on stealing the bottom line.”

Combating oppression through unification and healing

(Summit attendees gather for dinner after the first night of the gathering)

Fostering joy and prioritizing mental health is a critical need for marginalized communities. 

Danielle Boyer, Youth Founder and Activist at The STEAM Connection shared, “In corporate settings and in business settings, it's uncomfortable to talk about mental health. We talk about mental health more and we post about it online but we don't handle or address it. I think it’s very important for us to put that into our work.”

Damon Jenkins, Senior Vice President at First Independence Bank expressed his call to action, “Just like there were laws in place to harm Black people, we need system laws to support Black people. Don’t just shell out money, shell out opportunity and resources and connections. Mental illness is a real thing. Let’s get serious about it, and address it, and put resources to it. If we had access to health care and got people to home ownership, now we’re introducing intergenerational wealth.”

(Slater addresses the audience on the first day of the Indigenous and Antiracist Innovators Summit)

What’s Next 

Boyer noted, “We talked about representation, that’s awesome, but it’s very hard to gain footing when it’s representation in someone else's system and they have power there. We need to lead our own solutions for our own communities, and this looks like different things for all of us.”

The summit created a brave space for collaboration and dialogue within these communities, while also reiterating the need for bold antiracist leaders looking to get “in the trenches” to make that future a reality.

“You can’t stand in the last hour, there is such a thing as showing up too late,” said Aaron Slater, Senior Officer, Indigenous Community at MIT Solve.

Solve will reveal its fifth cohort of Indigenous Communities Fellows and its first class of Black and Brown Innovators during Solve Challenge Finals in New York City on September 18. It will also unveil how over $2 million in funding will be invested to support the new class of Solver teams. Learn more about the event here.

Indigenous Communities

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Indigenous and Antiracist Innovators Summit

Hilton Minneapolis, MN

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