5 Biggest News Stories of the Week: April 28

As the saying goes, the news never stops — but there’s a lot of it out there, and all of it doesn’t always pertain to our readers. In this weekly news roundup, we’ll cover the top news stories that matter most to our diversity focused audience.

1. Civil Rights Leaders Explain the Significance of Corporate Civil Rights Audits

Many large corporations have a team dedicated to diversity, equity and inclusion, but civil rights leaders argue these businesses should conduct civil rights audits to keep themselves accountable. 

On a webinar presented by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, Laura W. Murphy, President of Laura Murphy & Associates, described a civil rights audit as “an analysis conducted by firms with civil rights expertise that assess an organization’s business policies, practices and products to determine whether those components have a discriminatory effect on people who have been historically subjected to inequity and injustice.”

Murphy conducted her first civil rights audit for Airbnb. She reached out to leaders in the civil rights community to ask them a set of questions on Airbnb’s policies and practices and then went back to the company with feedback on how to improve its marketing campaigns and helped create an anti-discrimination policy. 

In order for companies to conduct civil rights audits that lead to real change, she said standards need to be formed that are similar to how the environmental community has LEED certifications for buildings. 

“I certainly want to be part of a movement that develops independent standards so we don’t have a situation like we have in the environmental community of greenwashing,” she said. “Against what standard can we measure that?”

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2. 55-Year-Old Black Woman Named Valedictorian Nearly 40 Years After High School Graduation

The Springfield Public Schools District 186 has awarded 55-year-old Tracey Meares the distinction of valedictorian 38 years after she graduated high school. She was awarded with the title in April after a screening of a documentary called “No Title for Tracey.” 

She earned superior grades in high school and shared the “Top Student” spot with a white student at her graduation ceremony in 1984. In years prior, the school named the “Top Student” valedictorian and the second salutatorian. She told CNN that she believes she was passed over for valedictorian because they didn’t want to give a Black person that honor, which still hurts her to this day. 

She went on to become a professor at Yale Law School and was the first Black woman granted tenure there. 

Jennifer Gill, superintendent of the Springfield school district, said in a statement that “when we know better, we do better.”

“By meeting Tracey and hearing about her lived experience, we know that honoring her with this title means so much more,” Gill said. “We have seen that high school experiences can have a profound, lifelong impact. It was an honor to have Tracey here and a privilege to learn from such an accomplished alumna.”

3. “The Embrace” Statue Groundbreaking Ceremony Held on Boston Common

On April 27 and the 95th anniversary of Coretta Scott King’s birthday, ground broke on a monument on Boston Common to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. named “The Embrace.” 

The 22-foot-high monument was based on Dr. King and his wife Coretta Scott King embracing after he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. King Boston, a program of the Boston Foundation, said the installation will spark new public conversation about advancing racial and social justice. 

The Boston Common was chosen as the home of the statue because this is where Dr. King led 22,000 people in a march for civil rights down Columbus Avenue to the Boston Common. The finished installation is set to be unveiled on MLK Day in 2023.

4. Boeing Publishes Second-Annual GEDI Report

Boeing Company (ranked No. 17 on the 2021 Fair360, formerly DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list) has published its second-annual Global Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (GEDI) report. 

Compared to last year, Boeing saw exit rates were within one point of each other for women, men and employees of all races. And for the first time in decades, women left the company at a lower rate than men. 

The company said it also strived to build stronger teams and achieve better business outcomes through Seek, Speak & Listen habits. Of the teammates surveyed, 74% said they feel these habits are helping them identify and address issues before they turn into bigger problems and 73% said the SS&L habits help improve business outcomes such as performance, safety and quality. 

While Boeing is moving in the right direction in terms of GEDI efforts, there’s still work to be done in several areas. As a result, the company said it is adding a performance metric to its annual incentive equation to equitable talent selections in a fair and open way, which include compensation for its Executive Council. 

The company is also continuing to partner with its Racial Equity Task Force, Business Resource Group and Inclusion Ambassadors on training on bias mitigation and guidance on conducting inclusive interviews.

5. Environmental Group Sues Mexican Government Over “Maya Train” Infrastructure

The Center for Biological Diversity has filed a lawsuit against Mexican President López Obrador’s infrastructure project for the “Maya Train,” which would connect popular vacation and tourist destinations across the Yucatán peninsula. 

The lawsuit alleges that the Mexican government failed to issue an environmental assessment before starting on the train and “challenges the waiver and the most damaging section of the train that connects south Cancun to Tulum, punching a thick, 75-mile line through key habitat for imperiled blindfish, cats and monkeys as well as underwater caves and rivers,” according to the Center for Biological Diversity. 

“This Maya train construction is already harming the habitat of jaguars, ocelots, Yucatan spider monkeys and many other imperiled animals,” Alex Olivera, Senior scientist and Mexico Representative at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement. “President López Obrador must halt construction until his agencies actually follow the law and assess the train’s threat to this beautiful, biodiverse forest.”