Being Black In America And In Data: An Update On DAA’s Anti-Racism Initiatives

By Mary Owusu posted 11-09-2020 08:43 AM

I didn’t know I was black…

...until I was 11 years old.

It was a dark, humid day in August 1992 when my entire family (two parents and five children, ages 3 to 13) boarded an early-morning flight from Accra, Ghana to New York City.

We called ourselves Ghanaians. But it wasn’t long before we realized that in America, what we were was black.

You see, when you grow up in a culture that’s predominantly one particular race, it’s not uncommon to have a self-identity that’s defined by your circumstances and your accomplishments rather than your race.

But when you live in a racially-mixed country or when you enter a society in which your skin color aligns with the minority group, you quickly realize that you are defined by your race.

Being black is a beautiful thing. But what I learned in my early years in America--and it continues today--was that with the labeling of black in America came mistreatment at the hands of others. Micro and macro aggressions became commonplace--at house parties, job interviews, work places, in everyday life.

The older I got, the more I became exposed to blatant racism.

When my dad--a physics professor who earned his doctorate from one of the most respected universities in New York State--was fired from his first job in America at an all-boys, all-white, suburban high school because parents banded together and petitioned that his class was “too hard” for their boys...

when my dreadlock-wearing brother (who also happens to be an executive with Teach for America) told me that nearly every time he flies home to visit us, he is interrogated by TSA and dog-sniffed for drugs...

when my sister, who earned her doctorate in epidemiology, began to share with me her research into the disparity between how black women are treated during childbirth compared with white women…

when my mom, having paid for her groceries, was walking out of an Aldi and a random white lady said to her, “You people need to pay like the rest of us”...

...these everyday occurrences, along with the blatant racial inequity that black people have learned to live with and senseless killings of black people throughout this country, are the reasons why I fight for an end to racism.

They are why I serve with pride alongside my fellow DAA board member, David McBride, as co-leader of the DAA Anti-Racism committee.

I am encouraged and deeply moved by the anti-racism initiatives that our three workgroups and their group leaders have developed. I share their commitment to seeing these initiatives through.

I would like to share some highlights of what these workgroups have been up to, and I encourage you to consider joining our efforts.

External workgroup
Led by @Heather Aeder and @Jeff Burkhardt, the external group is identifying and promoting actions that DAA members can take to eliminate racism and racial bias outside the DAA community.

The workgroup’s recent accomplishments include:
  • Developing content that defines its mission and goals. They aim to increase the rate of BIPOC representation in the data and analytics field via activities and partnerships that generate interest, provide education and create access.
  • Establishing its first external partnership with Jr Achievement of New Jersey through which the group will be engaging in “Fireside Chats” with NJ students to generate interest in data and analytics careers.
As a next step, they will be:
  • Reaching out to and meeting with other organizations including Black Girls Code, historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), and BIPOC student organizations to establish relationships with DAA.
The external workgroup would like your help with the following (the workgroup will provide any materials and content you may need):
  • Becoming a speaker who presents the workgroup’s mission and goals to interested organizations.
  • Reaching out to BIPOC student organizations at your alma mater to establish a connection, share the group’s mission and goals, and invite them to partner with us.

Internal workgroup
Led by @Donna Treat, the Internal workgroup’s objective is developing initiatives that promote inclusion and diversity within the DAA membership and the analytics industry. The group has been actively working through several concurrent initiatives that involve the DAA community.

The workgroup’s active initiatives include:
  • Working with the Data and Research workgroup to develop a DAA member survey that helps us better understand the diversity & inclusion needs of our member base.
  • Launching an anti-racism book club where DAA members can learn and share in an open and welcoming space.
On the horizon is the group’s plans of:
  • Starting a panel and a distinguished speaker series, both of which aim to increase awareness of the macro and micro aggressions that people of color face.
The Internal workgroup would like your help with:
  • Speaking or suggesting speakers for the upcoming panel and speaker series.

Data and Research workgroup
With leaders @Kenya Davis and @Rachel Wright at the helm, the objective of the Data and Research workgroup is to leverage the analytical and research expertise of DAA members to drive conversation and action against racism and inequality.

The group is actively: 
  • Working with the Internal workgroup to develop a DAA member survey that helps us better understand the diversity and inclusion needs of our member base.
On the horizon is the group’s plans for:
  • Launching pay equity research.
  • Developing research on analysis bias and how it impacts business decisions.
The Data and Research workgroup would like your help with:
  • Joining the group to bring ideas and help with initiatives.

In conclusion

28 years after landing in America and realizing that I’m black, I think back to all the racist stories I have heard and lived, and I embrace them because they have brought me to this point.

In the chaos and the messiness of 2020, I am humbled by the deliberate and transparent work of DAA members who continue to show up and play an active role in eradicating racism from the analytics field--and as a direct result, from this society.

We ask you to visit the Anti-Racism page on the DAA website to see what we’ve been up to, and we invite you to join us by indicating your interest to

Mary Owusu
DAA Anti-Racism Taskforce Co-leader
DAA Board Secretary
Entrepreneur at /
Marketing Professor at Canisius College


Most Recent Blogs

Log in to see this information

Either the content you're seeking doesn't exist or it requires proper authentication before viewing.