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Stacey Wade on combating racial injustice: ‘Now is the time to be intentional’


Stacey Wade stood in front of the future headquarters of his thriving marketing and communications firm Saturday and stared at broken glass and graffiti. In April, Wade plopped down nearly $1.1 million for the property on Third Street, which was in a direct line of protests that erupted last weekend into flashes of rioting in various parts of Downtown, including nearby Fourth Street Live.

But instead of seeing destruction, Wade saw momentum.

“Honestly, I’m not angry about it. I’m not hurt about it,” said Wade, president and executive creative director of Nimbus Inc. “If it creates some kind of change, I’m OK with it. I played my part.”

The opportunity for change arrived last Thursday amid protests over the shooting death by police of black Louisville resident Breonna Taylor in March that received more fuel early Monday with the killing of David McAtee, a popular black barbecue restaurant owner on Louisville’s West End, by law enforcement.

Louisville’s protests, which have coincided with demonstrations across the nation sparked by the death of George Floyd, a black man after being arrested by white police officers in Minneapolis last week, have thrust issues of racial inequality and injustice into the global spotlight.

“What we all want is basic human rights. That we don’t feel like we need to do 110 percent when everyone else does 100,” Wade said. “As a black-owned agency, we’ve always had to do 110. We’ve always had to bring more to the table to even have a seat. And then you only have a foldable chair you flip out when they need you.”

In the wake of the shooting death of black residents Breonna Taylor and David McAtee by law enforcement, Stacey Wade, owner of Nimbus Inc., says now is the time to be intentional about conversations on racial oppression, and how to fix it.

The video of the white Minneapolis police officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck as he struggled to breathe is a flashpoint that has changed everything, according to Wade.

“What we do know is that it’s not business as usual anymore,” he said. “What we do know is you can’t ignore what’s in your face.”

Change has been a long-time coming for Wade, who founded Nimbus in 2002 and has grown it into one of Louisville’s largest minority-owned businesses, with additional offices in Atlanta and New York City.

“I’ve always known there is definitely a double standard on how black people are treated versus their counterparts, versus white, versus anybody,” he said. “To not acknowledge that is almost being complicit in itself. To me it’s more, ‘OK, now we know it exists, let’s stop cloaking it in a people-of-color conversation.’ Let’s pull out who is being affected directly and fix it. You got to see it and you got to fix it.”

One particular word sticks in Wade’s mind as a call to action in addressing racial inequality in America.

“Now is the time for us to be intentional. Intentionality is the word right now,” he said. “Tell me what your actions are. What’s your plan?

“Forget all the platitudes. Show me what the actions are and let’s work together on it. People have got to understand that even at a corporate level diversity is good for business. You have to have empathy. If you don’t have empathy today something is wrong with you. You’re part of the problem.”

The solution, Wade said, is “us working together to figure this out. Clearly we haven’t been able to do it separately. We’ve got to be serious about breaking some of these inequalities clear out in the open. They just haven’t been out in the open until today.”

Now that demands for change are visible in the faces of protesters of all colors across the nation, time is an ally, according to Wade.

“To me that’s where the strength is at,” he said. “You just don’t flip a switch and it’s fixed. We can work on this and do it right. Here’s an opportunity for us to work on this together. What gets measured gets done. Get together, make pivots where we need to make pivots, measure it again and get it right.”