Guest Post By: MBA student Bob Agiro. He is a Global Business Center Study Abroad Scholarship Recipient who participated in the Race, Business, and Culture Immersion faculty-led program.
The Race Business and Culture (RCB) immersion trip offered quite a bit more than I was expecting. The initial expectation was something akin to me learning more about how racial issues have interacted with American businesses and what successful strategies have been employed to address these challenges. The trip instead took a more involved approach where we took a deep dive into tracking sites of historical significance to African American heritage and listening to firsthand experience stories from individuals who participated in shifting history as we know it.
Walking through the Whitney Plantation in Edgard-LA, Burnell’s Lower 9th Ward market in New Orleans-LA, Legacy Museum in Montgomery-AL, Sloss Furnaces in Birmingham-AL, Freedom Rides Museum in Montgomery-AL etc. to name just a few of the stops made, we were ushered through what was primarily the path of multiple African American generations since the beginnings of slavery to current times. The idea was to take us through this country’s shared history, to humbly listen to stories that have not been given sufficient attention such as listening to Bob Zeller from the movie ‘Son of the South’ and Bernard Lafayette lieutenants to Martin Luther King Jr. as they talked about their uphill battles to transform society into what it is today, to help us understand how this history is a significant part of the country.
The trip became more than just another class, it became a personal journey of growth and connecting with the communities we live in, to know why race shouldn’t just be a topic we engage with during human resource training or public space etiquette. When it’s a personal idea it goes back home with you, you think about it as the TV is turned on or when having a casual chat with family.
This can only happen if you have some sort of ingrained reason as to why you should even think about racial issues, beyond what was said at work/school orientation. The person we are is a collection of deep experiences throughout our lives, they shape our view of the world and aid us in picking the paths we follow.
The religion we grew up in or lack of, our family and friends, lasting good and bad experiences, the TV shows we repeatedly quote in our minds etc., all these experiences combined create some sort of compass that we use when navigating through life. When we reach a fork on the road, we use this in-built compass to assess where to go or rather what we should do, when asked for an opinion we consult the compass, when relating to loved ones and strangers alike the compass crafts our subjective response. The RCB trip creates a deep and personal experience that from my own feedback and other attendees will add to your compass. There won’t be solutions to the challenges we face but you’ll get something that empowers you to find your own solution or participate in what you believe is the right direction, if anything perhaps with a bit more clarity. You’ll get the opportunity to continue building your compass, because we never really stop as we continue trying to figure out how to navigate the challenges in our lives and the societies we live in.