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Former Founders Diversity & Inclusion director starts own company after resignation

Posted at 3:29 AM, Jun 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-12 13:24:17-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Nearly one year after Founders Brewing Company's Diversity and Inclusion Director resigned, Graci Harkema is now working on her own book about racial injustice and has even started her own company to help others.

You may remember back in October of 2019 when Harkema made national headlines after a racial discrimination lawsuit was filed against the company. She resigned from her position and is now putting that energy into trying to change the world.

"First and foremost have to acknowledge, George Floyd and the tragic murder, that the whole country and really the whole world witnessed and so it was absolutely tragic and appalling and heartbreaking," said Graci Harkema when asked about the current state of affairs.

Harkema says she was hired by Founders to try and help the company reach more into the black and LGBTQ community.

"Founders was in a place of struggling, and especially as it pertained to discrimination in the black community and also tensions within the LGBTQ community so I walked into a fire," she said

Regardless of the situation, Harkema didn't let her resignation stop her.

"Even when it's uncomfortable, even when it's terrifying, even if you're going to lose friends, even when the whole world is watching or at least the whole country is watching, that's how you really create change."

In fact, Harkema says her resignation pushed her to start her own company one month later and is now working on her own book.

"I had CEO's and executives and nonprofit directors reach out to say, 'hey, thank you for standing up, we would love to pick your brain. We would love to hire you.'

"So out of that I started my own business Gracie LLC where I do diversity and inclusion consulting and public speaking," she said.

"I'm on contract with a firm in New York City to work on a publishing deal. And then with the events of George Floyd, that sparked the whole, the whole country to realize that hey there's work to be done and so now I'm very busy again taking new clients."

"What we've seen come out of that it has been the largest civil rights movement in world history and so, I'm proud of Americans and people all over the world standing up. You know enough is enough."

"But for those especially in the black community, who've already been marginalized who've already been experiencing police brutality, who've already been racially discriminated against, just because of the color of their skin," Harkema said.

"The solution would be to break down the barriers of systemic and institutional racism, however that's going to take a lot more than just protesting it's going to take, going to the ballot and voting, it's going to take leaders to stand up for what's right and to not skirt the issues. It's also going to take accountability."