Society needs to widen its lens. We must be able to fathom that people of color earned and deserve recognition. This goes back to a seat at the BIG table. Acknowledge what people of color bring to the table. Celebrate their wins! Award them for the positive aspects they bring to their field, team, company and/or community.
Aspart of our series about ‘5 Steps We Must Take To Truly Create An Inclusive, Representative, and Equitable Society’, I had the pleasure to interview Dr. Lanetta Greer.
Dr. Lanetta Greer has served as the director of Home 4 the Heart, Inc. since she started the nonprofit organization in October 2007. She earned her doctorate from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and a bachelor’s and master’s in social work from Washington University in St. Louis. She has worked as a social worker, psychotherapist, educator, trainer and author. Dr. Greer has co-written and volume on multicultural learning and teaching for the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Her facility, Home 4 the Heart, Inc., received 2019 Best of Milwaukee Award in the social services organization category. She lives in Milwaukee and has one beautiful daughter, Klayton Grace. Dr. Greer has been with her fiancé, Thomas, for over 10 years. He has been a support system since Home 4 the Heart, Inc. received their occupancy permit and opened site 1.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?
Igrew up in a two-parent home with my brother, Charles, who is 6 years older. Our mother (Betty) worked as a welder for A.O. Smith. Our father (Earnest) worked as a laborer for construction companies. Our parents instilled in both of us a strong work ethic. My parents were never too proud to do any type of work if it was honest. For as long as I can remember my parents have always owned and lived in the same home. My brother and I attended the same Lutheran schools (Walter Memorial Lutheran and Milwaukee Lutheran High School). I played basketball and ran track. On my sixteenth birthday, I was hired (on the spot) to work at Walgreens (Northridge Mall). This job led to other retail positions at Mayfair Mall (Designs Levi Store and Boston Store).
In August 1995 I left home (for the first time) to attend Washington University in St. Louis, MO. I studied psychology, receiving a bachelor’s degree in 1999. I loved the university so much that I applied to graduate school at George Warren Brown School of Social Work and got accepted (in one of the highest-ranking programs in the country). However, tragedy struck the semester right before graduation, my father would be diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. I remember coming home for vacation, attending a doctor’s appointment with my mom/dad, only to hear that my dad needed his right leg amputated (above the knee). Everything happened so fast, between the diagnose, driving to the hospital in Madison and poof the leg was gone. And, I returned to school to finish my last semester. However, my family not only survived but thrived.
After college, I returned to Milwaukee and accepted a position with Catholic Charities (working alongside my brother). I was hired to work in schools during the day and return to the office to see clients for therapy sessions in the evening. My goal in life was always to pursue my doctorate, so I thought there was no time like the present. I pursued a Ph.D. in Urban Education from UWM. This degree would open up several other doors, namely, to teach at the university level, conducting research, publishing research, presenting research and a partnership with Home 4 the Heart (that would allow social welfare undergraduate/ graduate students to complete their internship). However, tragedy would strike again. I was down to my last and final semester of course work required for my degree, next would be prelims and then my dissertation when my father became ill again. This time it would be mini-strokes and surgery, but unfortunately, this hospital stay would be his last. On May 12, 2006, our father (Earnest Clayton Greer) passed away. However, I would go on to complete my final exams, final papers, pass prelims, defend my dissertation and graduate (with a ton of bumps and bruises along the way).
To say that I followed in my brother’s footsteps would be an understatement. I looked up to him (literally because he was so tall) for as long as I can remember. I felt so cool having a big brother! We both played basketball, attended the same elementary/high school, chose social work as our careers, taught social work at the university level and only have one child (both girls). He is a HUGE inspiration in my life!
It was my brother, Charles, who initially came up with the idea to open a group foster home for teenagers. Charles had worked within the Child Welfare System for over 25 years. Charles saw firsthand the needs of children and families and suggested that I would be the perfect person to fill those needs (especially for teenage girls). The licensing process was a huge undertaking, but I was excited to give these young ladies a home (the same home that I grew up in). However, I learned quickly that being a business owner and caregiver (for this population) would be a huge challenge.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
“The Women Who Raised Me” by Victoria Rowell had a significant impact on me because it truly speaks to the importance of caregivers. This book shows the everlasting effects caregivers can have on someone’s life. Ms. Rowell pays such a beautiful tribute to the women who raised her.
Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?
Don’t get too high with the highs and don’t get too low with the lows. As a business owner, you experience financial gains and financial strains. The goal is to stand the test of time.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
Leadership is…..keeping a level-head, instilling hope, being physically/emotionally available, being a mentor, finding the bright side of things, talking your staff off the “ledge,” sharing a smile/laugh, and most important of all, loving what you do!
In my work, I often talk about how to release and relieve stress. As a busy leader, what do you do to prepare your mind and body before a stressful or high stakes meeting, talk, or decision? Can you share a story or some examples?
The best way to release and relieve stress is preparation. I often over-prepare myself. I try and think outside of the box, be creative and bounce ideas off my team.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the focus of our interview. The United States is currently facing a very important self-reckoning about race, diversity, equality and inclusion. This is of course a huge topic. But briefly, can you share your view on how this crisis inexorably evolved to the boiling point that it’s at now?
This very important self-reckoning about race, diversity, equality and inclusion evolved after decades of Black people feeling like our lives do not matter. People of color, especially Black people, have felt marginalized, pushed back and even pushed out of the way to make room for white people. Black people have been made to feel they are just not good enough, no matter their accomplishments or achievements. This is evident in schools, the workplace, corporations, government and the justice system. The justice system, which was designed to serve and protect, has become a new form of slavery and justification of harsh treatment towards people of color.
Can you tell our readers a bit about your experience working with initiatives to promote Diversity and Inclusion? Can you share a story with us?
For several years I worked on Divine Savior Holy Angels High School’s Diversity Task Force Committee designed to increase student and teacher diversity in recruitment. I also served on the board of directors for two terms for Lutheran Special School and Educational Services, which prepares students with unique learning challenges to maximize their God-given potential.
This may be obvious to you, but it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you articulate to our readers a few reasons why it is so important for a business or organization to have a diverse executive team?
A diverse team is important because it allows you to consider things/ideas that (like-minded individuals) may not always see. A diverse team gives you the opportunity to learn from other people. A diverse team gives onlookers, the hope that they too could one day be in that position.
Ok. Here is the main question of our discussion. Can you please share your “5 Steps We Must Take To Truly Create An Inclusive, Representative, and Equitable Society”. Kindly share a story or example for each.
- Educational Institutions (even for the youngest of learners) must encourage multi-cultural education. This allows students to learn and value different cultures. Schools also create spaces to have conversations about cultural, religious and ethnic differences. Teachers encourage students to explore their strengths, resilience and creativity.
- Become a mentor. One of the most powerful acts of kindness we can do is show someone the inner workings of our operation. A mentor is a lifelong commitment. A mentor allows an individual access into spaces they may feel they don’t belong or even have access to. For many people, access equals hope; hope that one day they too would be in this position. We need to take Bring Your Kids to Work Day to a whole new level by bringing People to Work Day.
- Allow people of color a seat at the BIG table. The goal is to have diversity from the bottom to the top of the corporate ladder. Once given an opportunity inside, people of color must be allowed to create, lead and direct. Their voices must be valued. They must be given the tools and support needed to accomplish professional goals.
- Give back. Appreciate the humanitarians, the activists and change-makers. These are the individuals on the front lines. These people give of themselves so graciously. These are the people who lobby to change legislation, march, protest and volunteer in hopes of creating a more inclusive and equitable society.
- Celebrate each other’s successes. Society needs to widen its lens. We must be able to fathom that people of color earned and deserve recognition. This goes back to a seat at the BIG table. Acknowledge what people of color bring to the table. Celebrate their wins! Award them for the positive aspects they bring to their field, team, company and/or community.
We are going through a rough period now. Are you optimistic that this issue can eventually be resolved? Can you explain?
I feel like a resolution will take a lot of time, energy and sacrifice; but is possible when we are ALL invested!
Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Victoria Rowell! Most people know and love her from Y & R as the actress (Drucilla). After reading her book you see she is ALL that and MORE!
How can our readers follow you online?
Facebook Profile: Lanetta Greer — https://www.facebook.com/lanetta.greer
Facebook Page: Dr. Lanetta N. Greer — https://www.facebook.com/Dr-Lanetta-N-Greer-106475347797721/
Linkedln: Dr. Lanetta Greer — https://www.linkedin.com/in/dr-lanetta-greer-3872a113/
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Linkden, and website (www.home4theheartinc.com)
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!