MEET DR. AKILAH CADET
Can you start by telling us a little about yourself? Your background and what you do?
I dismantle white supremacy on a daily basis. I am the Founder and CEO of Change Cadet, a diversity and organizational development consulting firm based in Oakland, CA. I work with brands and global companies to improve workplace culture through strategy, workshops, and coaching. I worked in healthcare and public health for 15 years before building my own company. I am still a public health practitioner who focuses on anti-racism instead of a health system. Although it is heavy work I use humor, hope, and joy to keep moving forward. I’m from Sacramento, CA and I am proud to live and work in Oakland. I co-parent my dog Marley with my twin sister, literally all the degrees, and am a proud Beyonce advocate.
Was there a particular moment that made you realize you had to start Change Cadet?
In a one on one interview with my white male boss I was told “I didn’t think you were that smart when I interviewed you but you are smart.” When I asked him why he said that for the department that has the same name as my doctoral degree in a doctorate preferred position he apologized. I shared that I needed to rebuild trust with him and he fired me the next week. I had never been fired in my entire life. As I reflected back on my career I noticed a pattern of discrimination, sexism, bullying, and more due to being an educated, likable, Black woman. I asked myself “what could I do to assure other Black and Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) never felt that way I felt” and here we are 6 years later.
What does it mean to have privilege and do you think people can use their privilege for good?
Privilege is earned and unearned. Earned privilege is a person’s ability to acquire access to a privileged space like a special degree, title, company or learned language. Unearned privilege is granted to people in the dominant groups whether they want those privileges or not, and regardless of their stated intent. One is not more important than the other. It is just an understanding of where your privilege came from. Earned and unearned privilege are ways to map out how to use your privilege for good. For example a white woman can use her privilege as being born white to learn about ways to be an ally to a Black woman through listening to podcasts, reading books, having discussions with friends and family, speaking up, apologizing for harm caused, or coming to one of my workshops. Allyship is one of the best ways to use privilege for good.
What steps can our community take to bridge the inequality gap?
People really need to understand their privilege. For white people, they have to realize that America was designed for their success and comfort. With the murder of George Floyd last summer, many white people realized how real systemic racism is in our various communities. White people need to realize that having the most privilege and power is not a bad thing. It is an opportunity to have the most power to make the most change to get to a place of true humanity and equality for Black people. BIPOC needs to have boundaries around how much support or education to offer others. It is 100% fine for Black people to educate or not. Remember to also use your voice when safe to advocate for yourself and other BIPOC. BIPOC and white people alike need to remember patience. We are all in different places of learning and unlearning. Be patient with others while holding them accountable. Keep in mind doing nothing when seeing inequality is racism.
Many businesses are publicly showing their support for the Black Lives Matter Movement. How do you think businesses might evolve?
Black Lives Matter is about the humanity and equality for Black people. Businesses using their platform to highlight that message are important to dismantling white supremist systems that deem us, Black people, as less than. It is important to remember that it is more than a sign in a window, post on social media, or website statement. Supporting Black Lives Matter means actions and words have to match. If a business is in support then they have to take steps to show their employees, consumer, and potential consumers that they are doing or working on ways to be more inclusive, diverse, and representative to support and uplift the Black community.
What does women supporting women mean to you?
It means taking the time to put ego and competition aside to uplift one another. Women can sometimes be our worst enemies which is why I always make time to support, amplify, and advocate for women, especially Black women. Women supporting women is being each other’s biggest fans. I am a fan for many women and always will be.
Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter. It is not for the music (which I love for the record), the fashion (I mean…), fame, or that we are Virgos. It is because she is a MF boss and unapologetic Black woman! She is a multifaceted leader who knows what she wants and holds people accountable. She gave the world Homecoming (Beychella) to educate people about the Black community and Historically Black Colleges and Universities. She amplifies and supports Black owned businesses Black Parade and her Bey Good foundation. She uses her power for good. I hope that I will be able to achieve a fraction of what Beyoncé has with her empire.
When you're not working, how do you like to spend your time?
Due to the nature of my work I have to assure that I have boundaries that support self care. I love to cook! The whole process is a way to decompress and literally and figuratively feed my soul. I also love a great binge watching session of a new show or oldie but goodie. Post COVID I look forward to dining out again, traveling, and spending time with friends and family.
Favorite fashion moment?
The 90s! I love seeing baggy jeans, relaxed trousers, exaggerated shoulders, and bright colors! It is such a fun way to feel comfortable yet stylish and fun! I love fashion as it is a way to express myself. There’s a certain amount of confidence needed to wear what brings you joy and may not be considered mainstream. Which is why I love vintage and my mom’s closet for my 90s pieces.
I am amazing. I live with major depressive disorder and chronic pain due to a rare heart condition. I advocate for the humanity and equality of Black people daily. I put myself at risk to dismantle white supremacy. What I do is heavy and challenging work. I traumatize myself on a daily basis with my diversity work and yet I get up everyday and keep being amazing.
Must-have purse item?
Burt’s Bees chapstick
Do Better by Rachel Ricketts
The Undoing, HBO
A mix between anti-racism educators and fashion anything.
What’s your mantra?
Keep being amazing!