This is Our Time - Crystal Ashby

Crystal Ashby, interim President and CEO of the ELC
Crystal Ashby, interim President and CEO of the ELC

Crystal Ashby, interim President and CEO of The Executive Leadership Council, gave a heartfelt speech at the ELC 2020 Gala. Crystal reflected on the harsh realities of the year 2020, but ensured ELC’s mission never subsided in the face of adversity. As an advocate for human sustainability and workforce equity, she harped on the ELC’s current and future journey of bringing diversity and recognition of Black talent in the workforce.

“The theme for our 2020 Gala is: ‘now is our time.’ Bold moves courage resilience, but I think of it differently, instead of saying ‘now is our time,’ I say ‘this is our time,’ because this time is unprecedented.

“When I accepted the role of the interim president and CEO of the ELC, I was honored to serve an organization that had given so much to me over the course of my career. I could not have imagined a time such as the one we are living in when the world would pivot so many times, where our nation would be coping with COVID-19, and Black communities would be so disproportionately impacted by this pandemic. COVID-19 is not ‘out there,’ it is in our homes, our communities where we work and worship. It has directly affected our members, their families and as such each and every one of you. But, the Executive Leadership Council and its members are relentlessly resilient and through our work we are bringing this spirit to our scholars, our talent pipeline, our communities, and even the employees and the leadership of the companies where we work.

“We created opportunities so that our members could connect and be unified at a time when they needed it the most. I’ve had members say that they were more connected to and have seen the ELC family more this year than they have in the past; the silver lining in this inability to convene physically. The need for this connectivity was glaringly apparent during a summer of racial violence that sounded a major wake-up call. A wake-up alarm where the ELC pivoted again, taking our stand against racism in America along with many of your organizations.

“Against this backdrop we continue to face the crisis that sits at the heart of our mission: the absence of Black leadership at the helm of corporate America and how those numbers must be different because there is a wealth of extraordinary Black talent out there. Don’t let anybody tell you anything different. We must all be the agents of change, that is why the ELC exists. This is our time to act and we must have the courage to do what is necessary. This is a painful time in America but it also presents opportunities and the ELC is making bold moves to help drive systemic change.

“We offered to be a trusted ally on this journey, in fact you could say an accomplice, as you try to get this done. In addition to the shared perspectives of our speakers, we shared CEO’s ‘combat racism a framework for success.’ It lays out a plan to help organizations face the brutal facts of systemic racism and create a meaningful path forward.

“The ELC will be a partner with you in this progress, we have a voice and we must use it. We have positions and power, we must use them, we cannot abdicate that which our ancestors have left for us.

“Being a victim was never an option. We are clear about where we stand. We are unapologetically Black and we are moving the dime to preserve and foster Black excellence at all levels.

“Our purpose is about ensuring Black voices and Black leadership in business and in the community we look to all of you to be accomplices with us on this journey. Because fulfilling that mission is a challenge but it is also the path to hope.

“As someone who I miss terribly would say, ‘we still have good trouble to get into.’”

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