We are writing to clarify some facts in the story you reported on July 8th online and in print on July 9th, regarding the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce and its Diversity, Equity and Inclusion practices.
First, we resigned from the Chamber because there are clear racial “unconscious bias” and outright bias issues ongoing with the Chamber President Tony Howard and others in leadership.
We shared several examples of those issues in our interviews with your paper. After spending more than six months trying to work with the Chamber privately to correct many of the so-called “mistakes” that they acknowledged in their public statement of July 12th, 2021, we concluded that our efforts were not leading to meaningful change at the leadership level.
Secondly, as to Board Chair Stacey Metcalf, we believe she stepped up and tried to address our concerns.
However, the printed recounting by her of why we resigned is not accurate. We let the Exec Committee know in no uncertain terms that the Board needed to take the matters raised in our memoranda (which you provided as a link in the story) seriously and that there had to be consequences to those who are unwilling to discuss or address diversity in staff hiring (which for us is where this all started and broke down), including in top Chamber leadership. Or, we would not remain dues- paying members.
We resigned when it became clear there would not be corrective measures taken on a number of levels we outlined.
As published by your paper, our resignation emails and other documents were released to the press. Once contacted by the press, we had no choice but to speak publicly.
For context, we shared some emails that document our concerns and suggested fixes that you published online. We did not want this story public and worked very hard to that end. We had hoped to handle it all internally. We are three professional business women, who do very well.
Two of us are certified in HR and DEI training and one of us has won national diversity awards in corporate leadership and training. We gave our valuable time free of charge (we asked for no compensation or “hand-outs”) and we could have helped Tony, Stacey and the leadership course -correct these glaring diversity issues.
Lastly, we take exception to Tony Howard’s flippant comments regarding what happened here. He is playing fast and loose with hard facts. We went to him first for help after that first DEI call in December 2020, when the Holocaust and reparations was raised as an excuse not to hire Black staff.
Tony told us in no uncertain terms (we shared the emails with you) that he was not going to do anything about it, or address it. He said he would correct the call notes to reflect our discussion on that call. But he never did. All Tony had to do was listen when we went to him privately and none of this would have happened.
To add insult to injury, we also want to address his public comments to the press about “wanting a mulligan — but it isn’t available”. That is exactly the problem we faced when we gave him several opportunities to change course, own up to his own insensitivities in the emails about Black History Month speakers, and take serious actions to diversify Chamber staff.
This is not a golf game. This is Loudoun County’s premiere business organization failing to reach out (see the comments of the Black barber who was interviewed in the article) and reach up to businesses of color to bring the Chamber into the 21st century.
In sum, we also find it troubling that the only person speaking for the Chamber is Tony Howard, the man who is at the heart of the conflict.
Where is DEI Committee Chair Angela Mitchell who is Black and replaced Lisa Kimball (who made the insensitive Holocaust reference)?
Let us be clear: we resigned in solidarity and protest of the Chamber’s dismissive treatment of Black and brown business, and female-owned business in Loudoun County. We have heard from many women and others in the county since the article came out who have had similar encounters with Chamber leadership and either left the Chamber in silence or just never bothered to join.
Like Professor Nikole Hannah Jones (of 1619 Project fame) we will not go where we are not wanted or welcome. We plan to launch a powerful statewide initiative for women and women of color business owners soon. We don’t have to give our money or time to organizations that do not practice what they preach.
Sophia Nelson, Vanessa Maddox and Carmen Felder