Potential Unleashed Sponsors Black Male Academic Achievement Conference by Launch Student Success

Potential Unleashed and Jahmad Canley proudly sponsor the Black Male Academic Achievement Conference, a transformative event held on February 27, 2024.

Information about the event:

The Pacific Northwest Black Male Academic Achievement Conference (BMAAC) seeks to improve outcomes for Black Males in Higher Education through networking, development, shared resources and strategies. The BMAAC is about strengthening and building communities of Black Males pursuing Higher Education and those who serve them at the many colleges and universities across the NW region.

Visit here to learn more:


Does DEIB Work? From Performative to Transformative DEI Strategy

I was asked by an organization last week to assist them with their DEIB journey.

They told me that we came highly recommended and that they had a budget and were ready to roll. They wanted to know if we would help them. As some of you know, I never automatically say yes.

In 2020, we actually turned away over 40 requests from companies that were looking to just “check a box.”

So, in this case, I asked for another meeting to learn more and interview them about their commitment, what has already been done, and to learn what their hopes are for this work.

During our meeting, I learned that they had been working with another firm but decided not to continue with them because several people complained that the work was “performative.”

I then asked for an example of the work that had been previously done.

From Performative to Transformative: Challenging Assumptions in DEIB Efforts

Upon review, I realized that the previous work was really good and had a solid approach.

Throughout our conversation, the folks from the organization made the “performative” statement multiple times, and that is why they want me and our team.

I told them transparently that I thought the previous plan was solid; that we would have done some things differently, and undoubtedly, the way we deliver is different, but the roadmap was solid.

I then asked them what their idea of “transformative” work would look like, and they were completely silent.

I waited, and they remained silent until admitting that they didn’t know.

I explained to them that this work can be messy and doesn’t always feel good.

Sometimes people want the satisfaction immediately, but true transformational DEI work doesn’t always provide that right away.

It requires deep work.

Exploring, examining, and restructuring policies.

Transforming culture.

Key Elements of a Comprehensive DEI Strategy: A Roadmap for Change

Leadership development and coaching on how to lead daily interactions through an equity lens is a completely new skill set for most leaders because they have been trained and rewarded by leading through an equal lens.

  • It requires scaling training throughout the organization (in this case, with 8k employees) in bite-sized chunks and following it up with accountable measures.
  • It requires an audit of business partners and suppliers.
  • It requires working with the board (educating them and then also helping to guide them in how they operate moving forward, including how they recruit new board members and make policies).
  • Supporting DEI teams and sometimes training them on their role.
  • Establishing associate resource groups and/or affinity spaces to create safe spaces and elevate employee voice.
  • This then requires more training of leadership on how to respond, support, resource, and partner with ARGs.
  • Following this, it requires even more restructuring within the organization so that the recommendations that come from these groups don’t die on the vine but actually have a plan to be considered and implemented.
  • It takes developing new ways of being that require and allow us to build equity into every aspect of the organization so that it becomes the horizontal lens and not a separate vertical.
  • It means doing enough work in good faith that you can actually attract a solid director of DEI who reports directly to the CEO.
  • It means restructuring your organization chart so that your director of DEI has power and influence.
  • It means acknowledging harm that has been done.
  • It means facilitating ways to begin healing.
  • It means coaching leaders and colleagues on how to hear and respond rather than react when people share their experiences.
  • It means revisiting your roadmap often and making adjustments along the way so that you can meet the adaptive needs (we must apply adaptive solutions because this isn’t a technical problem).

Oh, and by the way, we will need to revisit some of the work again because new folks will come, and the matrix always wants to reset itself and return to the status quo.

Embracing the Messy Path: Navigating True DEI Transformation

It means applying consistent pressure to the system and knowing that the amount of pressure will adjust but must never leave or go away. It means listening to the voice of the community and clients AND… SO MUCH MORE (but I think I’ve made my point).

My point to them was this…

Sometimes, because we want the feels, we end up sabotaging the real transformative work because it takes time and consistency.

We end up calling the transformative “performative” because most folks don’t understand what it truly takes to transform cultures and systems that have been in place for years and years.

The other firm had created a plan to start them on the journey.

I can’t speak to the level and quality of delivery, but I know that what they designed was not performative.

It also didn’t include even half of what I just mentioned above, but I have good faith that they were just giving them the first phase and would have added more later.

Communicating Expectations: Setting Clear Goals and Milestones

I told them that I understood their fear.

That this work is so important to them that they got scared that it wasn’t moving or moving fast enough, or that it wouldn’t be impactful.

I told them that their fears were valid because there have been so many people pimping this work, cashing checks without providing returns.

Not pushing organizations into the real work.

Those kinds of firms are irresponsible and harmful, and they make it difficult to advance the deep work that needs to happen.

They break the trust. I get it.

I told them that the biggest missed opportunities that I saw in the previous work were these:

  • The other firm didn’t help the organization set and communicate expectations.
  • They didn’t support the organization in constantly communicating to the entire organization where they were on the journey.

When you don’t see things happening because the work hasn’t reached you “yet,” it can feel like it is all performative.

Transparent Communication: Keeping the Entire Organization Informed

We should always communicate where we have been, where we are, where we are going, and when we plan to get there.

When you are traveling a long distance (cross country) with many stops, the bus driver/train conductor/pilot doesn’t only communicate with you about the journey one time.

They keep you updated along the way, informing you of weather, delays, early arrivals, next stops, milestones, sights to see along the way, and more.

Someone once told me, “Communication takes the wonder out of things.”

Why leave people guessing and wondering when we can simply communicate?

After that, they asked if they could hire us on the spot. I asked them to take some time to think it over and consider if we are the right fit for them and get back to us.

In the meantime, we will determine if they are the right fit for us and let them know.

To all of you committed to doing this work (internally as employees and externally as consultants) in ways that honor the true goals of this work, thank you.

I love you and appreciate you.

We Are Excited To Welcome Melanie Lawson To Potential Unleashed!

Excited to welcome Melanie Lawson to the team!

Melanie has over 20 years of HR experience in many industries.

A little bit about Melanie:

  • Melanie Lawson is a native of Tacoma Washington. She is a graduate of Lincoln High School who holds a BA in Human Resource Management from Washington State University.
  • Melanie has over 20 years of progressive HR experience in many industries including: banking, airline catering, technology, manufacturing, staffing, and PEO.
  • She has a proven track record of developing and implementing effective plans/policies to increase compliance, retain employees, and improve engagement.
  • Melanie has a credible history of directing teams and organizing programs to deliver exceptional HR services to achieve organizational objectives.
  • She has been instrumental in identifying problematic areas and executing solutions to mitigate risks before escalation.
  • As an articulate and refined communicator, Melanie enjoys fostering long-term relationships with key stakeholders, including business partners and executive management within organizations to further HR strategic initiatives.

She is a senior HR consultant here at Potential Unleashed. Learn more about Melanie and our other consultants by clicking here.

Celebrating The Launch Of Our New DEI Mobile App: DiverseCity

DiverseCity is launching the first-ever, long overdue, mobile platform to tackle the subjects of DEI and all other social prejudices. DiverseCity’s patent-pending technology is focused on creating a safe, educational environment for any type of institution, company, or organization. Using the latest in engagement techniques, DiverseCity is revolutionary in its ability to stimulate long-term, sustainable change. Instead of legacy techniques such as corporate “checkboxes” or one-week workshops, DiverseCity offers an ongoing culturally conscious system to ensure that the topics remain a focal point for as long as the app is in use.

DiverseCity is on the forefront of introducing behavioral modification techniques while leveraging mobile technology to deliver and foster the necessary content, and gamification mechanics to reach our overall mission. CEO and Founder of DiverseCity, Jahmad Canley explains the impact of DiverseCity as, “One of the missing links to true transformation on the topics of Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion of all kind. In my time working in this important field, I have learned that people first need knowledge/education and then a community to discuss and practice what they have learned. DiverseCity provides both.”

Company Description:

DiverseCity helps companies to successfully implement truly engaging ongoing DEI and other systemic oppressions on a mobile enterprise platform. These socially-driven activities promote cultural education and inclusion. DiverseCity developed gamification techniques that create conditions for students and employees to learn.

You can learn more about DiverseCity here:

Visit DiverseCity

Developing and Sustaining Diversity Efforts

When it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion, two of the most frequent questions I am asked are:

  • How does an organization begin its diversity journey?
  • Once an organization embarks on its diversity journey, how do they sustain the work?

I decided to present on these very topics as the keynote speaker during the Chesapeake Human Resources Association James W. Rouse Excellence in Diversity Awards event.  I will outline just a few key ideas I shared – questions for organizations to consider:

Map it Out

In terms of how to begin, start with “Why?”  It is important to get specific about why diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) are important to your organization/community.  What is the business case?  What are the benefits?  How does DEI work align with your organization’s mission, vision, and values?  What makes this work effective at organizations is making sure that it is true to your organization.

Executive Champion

Who on the executive team is going to speak up and “champion” these efforts?  While it would ideally be the president/CEO, it may be someone who has the president’s/CEO’s ear.  Having a champion on the executive team allows DEI efforts to move forward on a variety of levels.  Whether it’s helping to communicate the value of DEI among other leaders and board members, accessing budgetary support, and/or supporting DEI programs and other initiatives, the executive champion will serve as a valuable ally to this work.

Similar organizations

Organizations do not have to reinvent the wheel when it comes to diversity efforts.  Explore what similar organizations are doing.  As a diversity professional, I do my best to support other organizations embarking on this work.  We learn from each other and use each other as resources.  You do not have to go it alone.

While I brought up several other considerations about how organizations can embark on their diversity journeys, I emphasized that sustainability is about strategy.  DEI must be embedded into the fabric of the organization, ideally through its strategic plan.  Embedding DEI efforts as part of an organization’s strategic plan ensures that DEI is a priority for the organization overall.  It does not allow anyone to take the work lightly and forget about its value.

Congratulations to Jennifer Maraña, Baltimore Business Journal Leaders Diversity Awards 2020

We are proud of Jennifer Maraña and her achievement of being recognized alongside other change agents doing invaluable diversity, equity, and inclusion work. Congratulations to all awardees of the 2020 Baltimore Business Journal Leaders in Diversity Award.

More information can be found here:




Racial Equity: Examining White Priviledge

We are excited to announce this great opportunity! Have you desired to learn more about what you can do to disrupt racism? Have you been wanting a space to ask questions and learn tools for this work?

This course will examine white privilege and provide opportunities to explore and practice how to use privilege as an ally and accomplice to help dismantle racism and systems of oppression. This is a safe and brave space with a small group of peers to receive coaching and tools on this topic and is led by International Senior DEI Consultant, Noah Prince.

Please share this opportunity as we are currently offering a discount during COVID. Learn more and register here:

Examining and Unpacking White Privilege – Study Group (May 30 start)

Launch Of Black Male Academic Achievement Conference in Tacoma

Last week was fantastic.

We have just launched the first Black Male Academic Achievement Conference in Tacoma.

The conference was inspiring and impactful!

Events like this help uplift our community and move us in the right direction.

The conference gave us a chance to spend time learning from and networking with men that look like ourselves.

We were able to hear the success stories (and struggles) of men who’ve overcome unimaginable obstacles and unfair challenges to become purpose-driven leaders, husband and fathers.

It was such an honor bringing us all together and a big thank you to the men that spoke and attended for being open, vulnerable and willing to embrace their struggles on the way to success.

We have a long way to go to achieve equity and justice, but this week was a great reminder that when we work together, we can achieve anything.


Remembering MLK – A Day “On”​ Instead of a Day “Off”

Over the past several years, I have developed a conflicting relationship with the MLK Holiday. My conflict is not with the holiday itself, but with the way many of us “celebrate” it.

I actually elected not to speak at any MLK assemblies or celebrations this year. It was a difficult decision after receiving so many requests.

I wasn’t quite sure what was going on with me.

I love Dr. King and all that he did for us, but why was I feeling so conflicted?

Finally, after some reflection, I realized that I feel that in many ways, the day has lost its true meaning, or at the very least, failed to live to the potential of what it could be.

So in a sense, here is my MLK speech on 5 ways, I believe we are missing the mark in truly remembering the life that was stolen for freedom and justice and how I believe we can move forward in a more intentional way.

1) We celebrate the words over the work

Dr. King was clearly a gifted orator, but when we focus more on what he said than what he did we reduce him down to a great inspirational speaker.

Who wouldn’t want to celebrate the man who peacefully declared his dream for all people to hold hands and be equal? It is the “safer” part of his persona, the more dignified part.

What we don’t like to talk about or remember is Dr. King the radical, law-breaking, community organizer.

The man who was considered a public enemy. The man who continually put himself, his family, and others in harm’s way to fight for what he believed to be a cause worth dying for.

Even in the way we discuss his death, it is rare that people use the word murder. He was murdered for his life’s work of striving to bring justice, equality, and dignity to Black people.

2) We focus on the outcome over the goal and the work. 

The Civil Rights Bill is an outcome we celebrate, but it was not the end goal. The end goal was freedom, justice, equality.

We sometimes forget the tireless work of Dr. King and those who stood with him that made all of this happen.

So what was the work?

To sum it up in one word, it was courage. The work was fighting injustices, something that we still see every day.

Equality is something that has not been reached.

The work was speaking truth to power. The work was being hated on by some whom you were trying to help.

The work was at times wondering if it would ever truly happen and even infused with doubt but also overcoming it.

The work was changing hearts and minds. We still have a lot of work to do, and the work is not always pleasant.

It is dirty, it is sometimes confrontational, just like it was in Dr. King’s day, but the work is still so necessary.

3) We have become passive in how we “remember”

We are celebrating a man whose life was dedicated to action, and yet we have become passive in how we celebrate it.

I once learned that the word “remember” has a different translation in Hebrew than it does in our English language.

In Hebrew, “remember” is derived from the word Zakar, which means to take action.

To employ your hands, feet, and lips into the action that remembrance requires. It’s more than just remembering with the mind.

As we set aside this day to “remember” Dr. King, his life, his legacy we should be doing so with our hands, feet, and lips in action.

4) We have allowed ourselves to become satisfied with awards

First, I want to honor the work of all those who are out there every day working towards equity and justice.

I appreciate you more than I can ever state.

I also believe that awards are slowing us down. The great prize is given at the end of the race but we do need encouragement along the way.

We sometimes sit at luncheons with 300 people honoring 5 individuals who have done great work.

What if we moved that same 305 into a community service project all working together.

Let’s remember that civil rights activists didn’t sit around handing each other awards for great work.

They encouraged each other through phone calls, head nods, messages and more.

They understood that there was no time to sit around and have award banquets for the work because the work itself was too urgent.

It was too urgent then, and my people, the work is still as urgent today as it’s ever been.

5) We have allowed ourselves to believe that the dream has been fulfilled

We fill auditoriums with songs and dances celebrating diversity as if the dream has been realized.

We listen to great speakers inspire us with stories and challenges, and then…we go home.

And it is only 10%, or less, of people who even spend the day attending these things; while the other 90% enjoy a day off to do absolutely nothing or just carry on with life as usual

Do not be pacified with these things. The dream has not yet been realized

  • We still have the privatization of prisons mostly funded by black and brown bodies
  • We live in a country founded by illegal immigrants, that has decided to hate illegal immigrants and in some cases, all new immigrants
  • An argument over a parking space can turn into racial slurs being used
  • Homes and buildings are still being vandalized with racial hate being the catalyst
  • Job interviews are given to less qualified applicants with “white” sounding names than to more qualified applicants with “non-white” sounding names
  • Black Men are still a target of racial bias by law enforcement
  • Women, though qualified, still are not paid equally
  • Achievement gaps in education are still prominent among races and ethnicities
  • People are being priced out of neighborhoods and paid below a livable wage

So, what can we do to enhance the way we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day?

For Organizations:

What if instead of just giving people the day off, businesses stay closed to business as usual, but only pay their employees to participate in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion training?

Or what if we paid employees to participate in community service work that leads to leveling the playing field of justice and equity?

This would mean only receiving credit for things that impact injustice for people and would eliminate cleaning parks or planting trees.

Planting trees is a great and needed thing for our environment and they are things that can be done to celebrate Arbor day.

For Individuals:

Remember that everyone had a role to play and so can we. Not everyone was Dr. King but some

  • Boycotted buses. What business is out there today still holding up discrimination (like the NFL) that we can decide to take a stand against.
  • Some cooked and fed others meals. How can we feed people who are entrenched in the work on a daily basis?
  • Some funded the movement and posted bail. Are there organizations that have committed to the work that you can help support financially?
  • Some provide space for meetings. What do you have access to that would be an asset to the work?
  • Some used art to give voice and imagery to the movement. How can you raise the voice of this work through your talents, gifts, and profession?
  • And even more

Think of what you can do and then commit to doing it.

We can choose to “remember” Dr. King much differently in the future than how we have in years of late.

I personally have decided to donate my time today to work with an International organization around the topic of undoing systems of oppression.

I’m committed and I believe you are too.

Let’s continue to move onward and upward towards the light and remember “Everybody can be great because anybody can serve.” – MLK