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Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Outlook: Tyree Davis IV

Community Diversity and Equity Director, Community Partnership of the Ozarks Inc.

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Tyree Davis is a young person of color who is optimistic on the future of the local business community when it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion. He’s four months into his new role at Community Partnership of the Ozarks after earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business and health care administration from Missouri State University.

SBJ: Do you see 2020 being a watershed year for diversity, equity and inclusion?
Davis: It was a watershed for racism, which ties into all of those things. There are people that think we lived in a post-racial society and that racism no longer existed. With the pandemic going on, there weren’t very many things for us to do as a society because we were locked down. So in the news, it was the George Floyd, the Breonna Taylor, the Ahmaud Arbery, all of these instances where you see violence against a community. It was eye opening. I think that we, as a society, were already starting to recognize the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion, because the nation is changing.

SBJ
: Do you see this year being a springboard to improve the situation?
Davis: I want to believe that, so I am going to believe that. I am still very early in my career. I’m still relatively young, but even in my short years, I’ve seen things bubble up to the surface, just to be forgotten about. We have to look at things systemically. There’s so many instances where the underrepresented groups are left out. You know, Black people, we spent 400 years in shackles. We’re not even close to the same amount of time that we were in shackles as out of them. I think that people often forget, like, my grandmother could have been Ruby Bridges. These things are here. Yes, it is a springboard for going forward, we just have to not let the moment go.

SBJ
: Many organizations this year made inclusivity pledges in response to the unrest during the summer. Do you expect there to be a greater call toward transparency and accountability so that those organizations uphold their pledges?
Davis: It depends on the organization. It’s one thing to say something. Saying things is nice, and it’s important, because it is the big corporations, the big organizations, that are saying, OK, we want to say something, and that brings knowledge to the situation. But then also, they have to want to do the work. They have to want to diversify their workforce; they have to want to diversify leadership, their board of directors. They have to want to put money into organizations that are doing the work in these communities.

SBJ: Do you see our local business community making strides?
Davis: Yes, I believe that there are organizations that are doing the work. That is important and it feels good, because … I’m an underrepresented individual. [2020] was the tip of the iceberg. And also, it’s kind of hard to do all of the things that you want to do in a pandemic, because you don’t want to risk lives. There’s only so much that you could do. But I think that there are organizations that have done the work, and I think that they will continue to do that going forward. (For example,) Community Foundations of the Ozarks because of the funding they put behind diversity, equity and inclusion.

SBJ: Regarding the “racism pandemic,” where do we go from here?
Davis: We just have to continue to have the conversation. One of the most important things that people can do is have those conversations with their family members and their friends. Because it’s so easy to hear one story or one experience in the news, and be like, that may be isolated. There are things that I have experienced in Springfield, because I’m from Kansas City, that I would have never expected to happen to me personally. We just have to continue these conversations and we have to just not let it go away. These issues are ingrained into systems, into structures that are in place. It has to be intentional for us to undo it. It can feel slow. We just have to not be able to give up.

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