Redefining Our Tribe

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This 4th of July, surrounded by loved ones in celebration of our past, I wondering with uncertainty about the road ahead for our nation and reflected on redefined tribal connections that can positively shift our future. In today's socio political landscape where gender, racial, sexual orientation, immigrant and religious inequality persist, the need to understand, empathize and connect with people who are different than us is more critical than ever.  Our tribes, the people we choose to have in our corner, help build our sense of identity and connection.  These human, and sometimes purely social, connections can also form limiting and dangerous echo chambers if kept within tight circles.  I deeply believe that we can, and we should, redefine those relationships, and expand our sense of community, to build deeper empathy and awareness of our shared realities.

My father has a tribe like no other. This group of men are deeply rooted in their early beginnings in Northern Manhattan, a community largely consisting of Dominican immigrants. They even go by the nickname "The Terminators" after the name of their softball team from decades ago.  Whenever they're together celebrating life happenings, which is often, you are likely to hear them chant the moniker that has become synonymous with their identity.  An identity forged through a lifetime of friendship - marriages and divorces, births and deaths, failure and success, and everything in between.  Their lifelong commitment to each other, and by extension the wives, partners and children they have nurtured, is a beautiful symbol of loyalty and love.

Deeply appreciating the value of these strong bonds, I have sought to build a tribe of my own, albeit with a broader reach.  My tribe, aside from my family, consists of childhood friends from the Dominican Republic and the US; teachers, mentors and advocates who have stood by and up for me over the years; career colleagues, and the extended family I have made throughout my travels.  This tribe has grown over the years in number and complexity. Stretching across almost every continent and walk of life, my tribe represents not just who I am but where I've been. They have each taught, inspired, stretched and challenged me.  And through them my sense of self and social consciousness has expanded.

In addition to the deep respect I hold for my Dominican and Puerto Rican heritage, I also honor Hindu, Islam and Jewish traditions.  I advocate for LGBTQ equality, and celebrate the wins of Danish, Latin American, Indian and American creators alike. And in honor of my tribe, I raise awareness of the profound impact of race, power and privilege in our daily lives.

As a human resources executive who leads through people and culture practices, I often encourage business leaders to expand their tribes, in corporate speak "networks".  I draw on my experiences to help them draw on theirs, to build empathy and awareness, to forge deeper connections with those unlike them.  This is work - it takes time and dedication.  To redefine and expand your tribe you must venture outside the known and comfortable to the shared and complex.  It means seeking to reach understanding, especially when there is disagreement.  It means admitting what you don't know and being proactive about building new racial muscle.  It means lending your privilege even when it hurts to admit it's the principal driver of your success. It means being a better leader.  And it means practicing inclusion each and every day.

I firmly believe we must expand our tribes because our shared realities require us to connect beyond our immediate circles. We must redefine what our corners look and feel like because our communities and corporations will thrive when we seek to understand each other, honor our differences, and works towards equity and equality together. And we can do so with the same unwavering commitment shown by my father's Terminators, and our nation's founding fathers, while making space for more to join, celebrate in and enrich our expanding circles.