Dec 2, 2021 · 7 min read

‘Better Is Possible’: How a New DEI Program Associate Plans To Make an Impact in His Role

Tyrone Fleurizard brings his values in making space for different perspectives to his role building upon grant-making processes that put racial equity at the forefront.

A man wearing a yellow shirt reaches for a bright green lime on a table with other colorful treats.
Tyrone Fleurizard, a program and operations associate for diversity, equity and inclusion at CZI, has been on a journey to explore new perspectives and fix inequitable practices long before he began his current role. (Photo courtesy of Tyrone Fleurizard)
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The people closest to our society’s most pressing issues should be the ones to inform solutions and drive change. So when we say to “stay close to the work” at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, we mean it. Our teams partner with diverse educators, families, community leaders and organizations, scientists and more to make sure the voices of those impacted are always heard.

In this edition of Stay Close to the Work, we speak with Tyrone Fluerizard, a new program and operations associate for diversity, equity and inclusion. Discover how Tyrone plans to put his experience in building DEI infrastructure and passion for creating systemic change in inequitable policy and practices to work at CZI.

I am passionate about helping organizations be more humanizing in their practice, and in doing so, be better at what they do. I show up to work with a deep reverence for the people who came before me and for the people on the front lines struggling for change.

Tyrone Fluerizard

Tell Us About What You Do at CZI.

Last year, CZI announced its bold $500 million commitment to advance racial equity. It was partly in response to our country’s moment of racial reckoning that saw more than 25 million Americans protesting racial injustice. We heard directly from Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan, CZI’s co-founders and co-CEOs, that we can’t make good on the promise of our mission to build a better future for everyone without centering racial equity. They tapped Belinda Stubblefield to head up DEI.

Against the backdrop of this news, the Racial Equity Working Group, a cross-functional group of CZI employees committed to equity and justice, had been building the foundation, framework and fulcrum of the racial equity grant-making work in phase one, and establishing guiding principles and criteria for how to provide support to organizations supporting racial equity in phase two. The result was a massive undertaking that saw more than $40 million in racial equity grants dispersed in 2021.

We’re now in phase three of the work. Thato Ramoabi, our DEI program manager, and I will manage the racial equity grant-making while supporting CZI program teams as they embed racial equity into their strategy. I’m so, so excited to be working alongside Thato, my team and the entire organization as we continue our collective racial equity grant-making efforts.

Also read: A Note to Our Grant Partners

How Did You Come To Be a Part of the CZI Team? Tell Us About Your Journey.

I knew I wanted to be a part of the CZI team when I saw the organization make its $500 million commitment to racial equity and heard Priscilla say, “luck is not a national strategy.”

Before joining CZI, I studied education policy and management in grad school and worked as a consultant helping organizations build out their DEI infrastructure. In school, I wanted to understand better the causes and consequences of inequitable education policies. As a consultant, I wanted to help organizations reimagine their work while building a better workplace environment.

A large group of children smile and wave at the camera.
Tyrone worked as a Fulbright English teaching assistant in Malaysia, where he had a chance to reflect on and interrogate race and racism in the U.S. and around the globe, which now informs his work at CZI. (Photo courtesy of Tyrone Fleurizard)

This desire to understand systems-level processes and use imagination as a framework to facilitate change comes from my time as a Fulbright English teaching assistant in Malaysia. Being 9,000 miles away, in one of the most ethnically and racially diverse countries in its region, provided me the space I needed to interrogate race and racism in the U.S. and globally.

I read a lot. I wrote a lot. I thought a lot. I cried a lot.

While working with students and local and state education officials to provide English-language immersion programming, I learned how policy could be a lever we pull to create meaningful change and how we should never infantilize the people close to the problems we hope to solve. They know what they want. They know what they need. We must listen and trust and support them.

Above all, I am passionate about helping organizations be more humanizing in their practice, and in doing so, be better at what they do. I show up to work with profound reverence for the people who came before me, and the people on the front lines struggling for change.

I learned how policy could be a lever we pull to create meaningful change and how we should never infantilize the people close to the problems we hope to solve. They know what they want. They know what they need. We must listen and trust and support them.

Tyrone Fluerizard

How Does Your Work at CZI Relate to Who You Are and Your Values in Life?

In work and life, I care deeply about making sure that places and spaces enhance the way we express our humanity. And I’m all about making room for different voices and perspectives. So I couldn’t have found a more perfect alignment in CZI. I’m working on an inclusive, participatory grant-making process that pulls in different perspectives in service of racial equity and necessitates a shared belief that the work we do can enhance people’s lives.

Three adults who all wear glasses, pose and smile together.
Friends and family play a significant role in Tyrone’s work-life balance, which includes spending time with his siblings to unwind and connect. (Photo courtesy of Fleugame Photography)

We Know Balancing the Demands of Work and Life Can Be Challenging. What Are Some of Your Favorite Ways to Prioritize Self-Care?

The four F’s that sustain me are family, friends, food and fragrances — sometimes separately, sometimes all together. After a long day, my siblings and I like to decompress by going on late-night joyrides to pick up Jamaican food. We’ve also been on a candle kick lately. So, there can be several candles lit around the house at any given point throughout the day —10/10 recommend.

My friends and I picked up gaming during the pandemic as a way of connecting, and we send a bat signal in the group chat when we need to get a game in. My next project is to build a PC! Stay tuned.

What’s a Project in Your DEI Work That You Really Enjoyed and Why?

I really enjoyed working on a mural with my school community in Malaysia. With the help of students, teachers and staff, we erected a mural on the athletic facility that highlighted Muslim athletes who fundamentally changed sports. The mural featured Muhammad Ali for his audaciousness, Mohamed “Mo” Salah for how his presence decreased prejudice towards Muslims amongst Liverpool Football Club fans, and Ibtihaj Muhammad for becoming the first Muslim woman to represent the U.S. at the Olympics wearing a hijab. I wanted to show my students examples of what it looked like to be bold and change the game —on the field and in life. It was one of those rare moments in life when you get to witness the power and beauty of a community working towards a common goal.

A gif of children putting colorful handprints on a wall that shows a Muhammad Ali quote.
While working in Malaysia, Tyrone and fellow staff and students created a mural to honor and learn about Muslim athletes. (Video courtesy of Tyrone Fleurizard)

How Do You Hope to See CZI Evolve and Grow Over the Next Five Years?

I believe we have what it takes to make a positive contribution in the racial equity grant-making space. In collaboration with our grantee and philanthropic partners, we can innovate and contribute to the norms around racial equity grant-making in the field.

Better is possible, and I know we can get there.

Want to help us build a more inclusive, just and healthy future for everyone? Explore CZI career opportunities now. And for more Stay Close to the Work content, visit the series page.

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