For something uplifting, I have three stories of positive change involving professions that heretofore have been heavily majority-race restricted.

One story is about Roderick Cox, an African-American who grew up in Macon, Georgia singing with his mother and brother in their church’s gospel choir. That experience sparked something in Roderick, who recounted that after church, he’d lead imaginary concerts in his bedroom with action figures as the choir.

Later, Roderick studied music at Northwestern University where he was mentored by Victor Yampolsky, the famed Russian conductor, who suggested that Roderick take up the conductor’s baton. (Note to reader: this is how change happens—a person in authority believes in someone from a marginalized community and pushes them along.)
Roderick now serves as an associate conductor with the Minnesota Orchestra. As such, he is just one of only a handful of African-American conductors in the world. Given that African-Americans are not widely represented in either the performance or audience sides of classical music, Roderick’s presence on the conductor’s stand reminds everyone that change can happen.

A second story involves yet another profession that’s historically been white-only—librarians. As reported by the Skokie Public Library (some will recall that Skokie’s had its own share of historical hatred), the Public Library Association (a division of the American Library Association) has created the Inclusive Internship Initiative (III), which is intended to increase diversity in “librarianship” (yes, that’s a word). The III program funded 50 high school students from 25 states, which included a kickoff event in June in Washington, D.C. and a two-day master training class in librarianship.

The Skokie Public Library’s III program interns were Ayesha Khan ad Liana Wallace, who have spent the summer better understanding the role of community libraries. As Liana observed there’s greater intellectual freedom at the library, “If you want to inquire about something that might have a stigma around it, you’re able to do that and not be worried about people tracking what you’re looking at.” She went on to note, “There’s so few people of color (working as librarians) and so (libraries) are really trying to change.”

My hat’s off to the Public Library Association for using its imagination (and money) to promote diversity; this is what it takes to produce meaningful change.

Our last story is about Carlos Moore, the first African-American municipal judge in Clarksdale, Mississippi. As reported by CNN, on his first day on the job, Moore ordered courtroom attendants to remove the Mississippi state flag (which contains the Confederate battle emblem) from his courtroom. Moore viewed the flag as state support for the Confederacy’s legacy of slavery; also, as he explained, “Most of the people that appear before me will be African-American, and they need to feel that the courtroom is gonna be a place they can get justice…That flag does not stand for justice.”

Bravery comes in a variety of forms, as each of these stories remind. Each of us has the power to be brave.