Xavier Ramey can be described as innovative, impactful, and well-informed on the issues that affect communities of color. As the CEO of Justice Informed LLC, Ramey provides strategic social impact guidance to multi-billion dollar businesses, advises Fortune 500 executives, and leads Masterclasses to top-ranked graduate programs in business and executive communications. Xavier talks with the Chicago Defender about the power of the millennial perspective and what it means to be a catalyst for change.
Chicago Defender: Xavier, in your opinion what is the misconception that comes with leading any organization as a millennial of color?
We aren’t bosses, we are leaders. Bosses take the first cut, leaders take the first hit. However, I am very sensitive to the challenges and needs of my millennial peers working in industries with tiny margins and high costs. My ask is that people be more sensitive to the needs of leaders of color, rather than comparing them or shaming them for not producing what Whiteness has been shown to more likely produce in terms of financial revenues and profits. People are working with a little to care for a lot.
Chicago Defender: You serve as the CEO of a social impact consulting firm, Justice Informed LLC. What can you share with our audience regarding your company’s mission and impact in Chicago?
Our mission at Justice Informed is to “change the face of expertise” to inform the social impact consulting sector by leveraging the definitions, the needs, ambitions, and ideals of people who hold minoritized or marginalized identities. Growing a powerful team of consultants, ensuring they have meaningful compensation and professional opportunities, and ensuring the pace of social change moves at the speed of our ambitions rather than the speed of the fears of people who are racially, gender, or otherwise fragile is our mission at JI.
Chicago Defender: You do not shy away from the public light. You are seen on the forefront of many impactful moments in the city of Chicago. Why is it important that your actions are backed by your words?
My father, Paul Ramey, was a west side Precinct Captain, community organizer, and entrepreneur who also led a social impact consulting firm before he passed away. He used to tell me that you’re not truly from a city unless they see you walking that city and that you’re not from a neighborhood unless they see you walking that neighborhood. I believe that the embodiment of social justice and social impact are far more important than just valuing social change. Words matter. People who want the outcome of racial equity don’t necessarily believe in the pace many Black and Brown people are fighting for. We need people, especially allies, who believe something enough that they do something about what is happening to all of us.
Chicago Defender: What does it mean to be a DEI expert? And what is the need for these types of experts in organizational settings?
DEI practitioners are persons who have expertise in organizational change management, human behavioral psychology, and the ability to use influence and narratives to drive change forward within a workplace or community space. The mantra that we have at Justice Informed is that “we hold people as they thrash into learning about people that they did not know they were not choosing.” That is our work. It is part therapist, part strategist. DEI experts need to know how to take the pain and the harm that people experience in a workplace and turn that into meaningful, measurable strategies for organizations that still continue the work to sell or promote their primary services, while also instituting a change management function within that organization or company that fundamentally transforms its culture and community impact.
Chicago Defender: Shifting gears, with all the responsibility that consumes your life how do you prioritize self-care?
If you look at my Instagram, you’ll see that I’m always in the forest. I am always in the park. I’m always at a lake. I am always surrounding myself with nature. I’m always surrounding myself with things that breathe life into me. I relax and find self-care by stepping into the mastery of other people and nature. I see myself as someone who focuses on the mastery of understanding relationships in the civic and community space. And it brings me joy to be around other people who have mastery of their domain. I like to wander into their mastery; that’s how I get self-care.
Chicago Defender: As a Black man in America what is your hope for other Black men that operate in executive-level jobs as it relates to prioritizing peace in white-dominated industries?
Before we can consider how to have peace in any other environment (White or otherwise), we must have peace in knowing the power of who we are. I think that Black men are in a very interesting, but challenging, position right now. We are wrapped up in dealing with the challenges of racial and economic inequity, while navigating historical expectations for financial and cultural production, in a space where gender and sexuality are continually being considered. Increasingly, the conversation around safe and empowered Black masculinity and what it means to be a Black man in America is one that is nebulous at best. Our colleagues, partners, friends, and the media assume what should/could/might bring us joy. But there is little collective conversation that meaningfully includes us. And so given that struggle and that lack of definition and ownership over their very identity, I would say that for Black men in America my hope is that they step into the powerful work of imagining and self-defining who they are and what we need to be for this next age. We must create what Black maleness means for ourselves, our communities, and our companies in the future. And this includes not just cisgender heterosexual Black men. This specifically includes queer and trans-Black men as well.
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