Building Our Own Table: Keisha N. Jackson, J.D.
Meet the founder of RainbowHR LLC and TheBrkUpAunty™️
Here’s another person introduced to me by the fabulous Sharla Stevens and the Ancestors, featured here recently. Keisha Jackson, J.D. is working on bringing equity into HR through her RainbowHR consultancy and her TikTok account, TheBrkUpAunty. Please meet Keisha.
Keisha, tell me briefly about your background prior to founding RainbowHR.
I have been in the field of human resources law for 19+ years. Between roles in for profit and nonprofit workplaces, I have successfully executed every human resources role from assistant to practicing Labor & Employment law before courts and administrative bodies across multiple jurisdictions in the US.
Give me the elevator pitch for RainbowHR.
My business is about bringing equity into the workplace via leadership or grassroots efforts. My primary clientele in those grassroots efforts are, by intention, Black & Brown women and femmes. Helping my community strategically use US employment regulation knowledge to proactively access, what I argue should be understood as the minimum employee benefit entitlements for a healthy & functional workforce, is about being everything I needed when I entered Corporate USA as a first-generation professional.
And in more detail?
Building upon corporate new manager training offerings on core HR regulatory benefit entitlements like FMLA, ADA, FLSA, etc., I educate employees in the offensive and defensive use of employment law regulations. I also provide corporate new manager training offerings and provide other tailored outsourced HR consultancy services to small business of 80 employees or less.
While I had my share of frustrating experiences before I got my JD, the more egregious and blatantly illegal/discriminatory conduct actually presented after I began practicing law full time. Sadly, that tracks with the data regarding the phenomenon known as "pet to threat" for Black & Brown women and femmes in Corporate USA. My business reinforces my own healing practice of being what earlier versions of myself needed and truly humbles me.
What inequity were you trying to redress/address, and why is this important?
My work in HR operations and DEI has always centered around providing more leverage to workers in the employment relationship. Unfortunately, oftentimes my efforts were heavily restrained by company C-suite leadership who refused to invest the resources or change behaviors to be anti-racist.
The US has no social programs to speak of except in contrast to nations doing nothing at all. For the vast majority of us employment as a W2 employee will be how we spend a significant chunk of our time and is the only thing keeping us from being destitute. In that context given the importance of the need and the known probable consequences of loss, it becomes a citizen's right to work in that the denial of employment cannot be on the basis of an immutable characteristic.
That was a major point of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act creating the EEOC and adding discrimination in employment on the basis of race, sex, etc. as illegal and why its so tragic that anti-blackness is still the most acceptable form of violence in Corporate USA. Its pervasiveness a design of the US government and corporations because the cost of pursuing civil rights redress like a wrongful termination of employment is prohibitive for most workers and covered by insurance carriers for most companies.
In my field alone ~70% of heads of HR and 80% of Chief Diversity Officers are white presenting and that's today, two years following the 2020 proclamations of BLM. The overrepresentation is deliberate and a provocative response by Corporate USA that it has no intention of willingly changing its practices without workers following the roadmap of prior generations and iterating accordingly based on lessons learned since.
However I can package what I've learned, practice and study to provide an employee with access to relevant HR knowledge that enables them to access what the law says they're minimally entitled to, is truly my pleasure and what I will continue to do for the culture. Still we rise.✊🏾
How’s it going? What has the response been?
The response has been incredible! My partnerships with corporate and individual clients this first year as an entrepreneur has unexpectedly led to me reaching deeper levels of healing my own wounds from Corporate USA and for that I'm grateful because it fuels my passion to lean more into this work.
It certainly makes a difference for me that my clientele is almost entirely comprised of Black & Brown women and that cannot be overstated as to its positive impact in my business interactions.
Amplifying, validating and arming first generation professional Black & Brown women & femmes with HR knowledge they can use to protect and defend against the anti-blackness that is rampant in all workplaces in the US is how I choose to lend my energy to the fight my ancestors have been fighting since 1619. In that context, I'm open to all opportunities and partnerships to make tangible positive changes for my community always and in all ways. I enjoy being able to connect with other intelligent, compassionate and divine women showing how to choose ourselves in business, healthcare and life.
In relation to racism, what is your vision for the future?
My vision for the future is one of abundance for humans loving humans. I'm doing my part individually and in spaces I curate to remind my community that our humanity has never been up for debate and our work is on systems and structures. The only heart and mind we need to change is ours routing out the internalized oppression this society has fed us about ourselves and our communities.
Broadly, I think we're finally waking up as a society (those of us in the working class) to the fact that employment like health care must be deemed a human right in the USA.
Not just because the denial of employment on the basis of immutable characteristics, even in the 58yrs since the passing of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, has been used effectively in further solidifying the wealth gap between families racialized as white and those racialized as Black in the US.
But because working class people who have been racialized as white are finally examining the actual cost and benefit of their "gift" of whiteness in this Capitalist society.
As the daughter of a woman raised in Appalachia - Welch, WV, specifically- literally the poorest locality in the US, I heart me some Hillbillies for Black Lives and Rednecks for Black Lives because it's finally a sign that poor white people are reawakening to the class warfare they have been bamboozled into overlooking since they accepted their low level roles as overseers and slave catchers in US society.
One of my favorite Malcolm X quotes is, "I'm for truth no matter who tells it. I'm for justice no matter who it is for or against. I'm a human being, first and foremost, and as such I'm for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole."
What that means for me is that any community I build, nurture or design is not just pro-Black - it's pro descendants of enslaved Africans in USA always and in all ways because my lineage demands it even after reparations have been paid.
My personal belief that we must be antiracist, anticlass and multicultural is the reason I named my consulting firm RainbowHR LLC because it's past time for HR to be for and of the people. Besides, I owe Fred Hampton and the Black Panther Party for forcing the federal gov to provide me with free lunch throughout my K-12 education and for that I will ever be grateful. ✊🏾
Thank you for this powerful interview, Keisha. Folks, please follow Keisha on LinkedIn and TikTok to continue learning about her important work.
© Sharon Hurley Hall, 2022. All Rights Reserved.
I am an anti-racism writer, educator and activist, Co-Founder of Diverse Leaders Group, the author of “I’m Tired of Racism”, and co-host of The Introvert Sisters podcast. If you value my perspective, please consider upgrading to a paid subscription.
I love your, " feel good" stories. My idea of a "feel good" story may be atypical. Maybe my cynicism is operative here. A person who is united with his long lost dog may mean something to the owner, but doesn't cut it with me. Sure, I happy for the two, but in the larger scheme of things it is hardly significant to other people. To me a feel good story also has to be a significant one- one worth remembering- something to learn from. See, I told my idea was atypical.
You may remember, I am a privileged white boy, trying to desperately to abandon the myths and stereotypes of Black people I was taught in my younger years. Your stories resonate with me, telling me stories from the black viewpoint, stories before I ignored at least or didn't even know existed at the worst. Thanks to people like you, Ms. Hurley- Hall and my wife, Tracey, I am making slow but good progress toward your more rational, plain to see goal..
I particularly enjoyed you interview with Dr. Keisha Jackson, JD. Talk about overcoming discrimination while she was growing up and in the workplace and showing what a young black woman could achieve. Quite heroic. She would not be denied her dream.
As for Dr. Jackson speaking of Malcolm X was truly enlightening- a breath of fresh air. As a young boy I was told that Malcolm X was a violent, radical protester of the status quo and someone to fear and avoid for he was a " dangerous" man. Now let whites get something straight. He was radical for the time- hell, drinking from a white designated water fountain was radical. He did protest about the status quo, a white status quo which was created by white people for white people. His incisive logic was very convincing if not defensive. In 1963 in his fox and wolf interview. He reminded black people that the liberal whites were not their friends. Sly like a fox they told black people what they wanted to hear, instead of trying to understand what the blacks wanted and needed. At least it caused me a lot of soul searching- did those traits fit me?
Being someone who likes to work, "outside the box," and being an incurable skeptic, I got tired of defending white actions against blacks. I questioned the accuracy of the white myths told about black people. Besides not being not able to trust white liberals or at least question their motives, Dr. Jackson mentioned another quote of Malcolm X which really effected me. He says, "I'm for truth no matter who tells it. I'm for justice no matter who it is for or against. I'm a human being, first and foremost, and as such I'm for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole." Is that really too much to ask? That quote really changed my mind about Malcolm X. To me Malcolm x was no longer the black monster whites made him out to be. He didn't look for trouble because trouble found him. Instead he was the good guy longing for three simple concepts. First we are all human and asking for justice and truth to reign supreme for all of us. I repeat the question, " is that really too much to ask."
Thank you for today's insightful article.