TEAM LEADER, ASSOCIATED BLACK CHARITIES
Diane Bell-McKoy has been a trailblazer for much of her life, earning a reputation as a forceful, effective advocate for addressing the health and economic disparities in Maryland’s Black communities.
The head of Associated Black Charities for 13 years, Bell-McKoy previously was a senior fellow at the Annie E. Casey Foundation. During her years of public service work, she led the restructuring of the child welfare system for the District of Columbia and created one of the first family development programs in the substance abuse field.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career?
I am learning the importance of making space for others. For much of my career, I have been driven by an internal drive that said I wasn’t good enough so I had to keep proving that I was — proving it to myself. With that kind of internal drive, you can achieve “success” but you do so at a cost of not making space for others. I learned that this behavior is very much mimicking a sense of white superiority; although not the intent, it was the outcome of this kind of drive.
What are your hopes for the state or your community this year?
My hopes for Baltimore, for Maryland and for this country is our willingness to be uncomfortable enough to face our root issue (structural racism) by learning what it is, how it shows up, how and why it makes us uncomfortable, learn that eradicating it actually creates a greater economic win for us as a city, state and country, then learn how to go about eradicating it in the systems and structures of our country.