To play on a Langston Hughes poem — what happens to a Black founder ousted? Are they forgotten, like words on the tip of one’s tongue? Or revered like a deity and then thrown to the sun?
The topic is often awkward to ponder and layered in its probe since the reasons for a Black founder’s booting are shrouded in unknown intentions:
A Black founder could have messed up severely – but is the retaliation fair? Is it harsher than what their white counterparts would have received?
A Black founder could encounter an accusation – but was it doused in microaggressive anger?
Would things have unfolded in the way they did if the founder was white?
Each time a Black founder is removed from or criticized at their company, apprehension arises around figuring out what happened. This makes such conversations hard.
“It is in our best interest to operate with the understanding that our mistakes cost more, hurt more, and are rarely forgiven.” Oladosu Teyibo, founder of Analog Teams
For example, news broke last week that Kimberly Bryant, the founder of Black Girls Code, was fired from the organization she spent decades building. The reception was mixed. Founders who spoke to TechCrunch agreed that the employees who alleged misconduct by Bryant were right to speak out; they also said the board of BGC was too swift in Bryant’s ousting and denied her proper due process.
“Two things can be true at the same time,” Minda Harts, a consultant on equity and inclusion, told TechCrunch regarding the BGC situation. “All involved deserved better.”
Aside from Bryant, there have been a few high-profile cases of Black founders being ousted from their organizations. Marceau Michel was recently removed from his venture fund Black Founders Matter for matters still publicly undisclosed. Brian Brackeen was shown the door at his company, Kairos, in 2018, with the board citing “willful misconduct.” Other founder situations have flown under the radar; many are still too afraid to speak out.
What is known is that when Black founders are lost, the entire community suffers.