First and foremost who is Tru Pettigrew?
Tru Pettigrew is a husband, a father, a community bridge-builder, and a man of faith.
How has your background prepared you for a career focused on community advancement?
I can look back now and realize that everything that I experienced as a child and throughout my life up until the moment that I answered the call to serve as a community bridge builder, has all been practice and preparation. So my background of growing up in Baltimore in an all-black underserved community, and being bussed to school to attend a predominately white school as part of a GATE (Gifted And Talented Education) program opened my eyes to the disparities and inequities of different communities early on in life. And I gained an understanding of how those inequities led to a huge difference in aspirations of people in those different communities. As well as opportunities and outcomes from the people in the communities that were viewed “worthy” of advocating for versus those that were seemingly dismissed and discounted.
Before we go any further, lets acknowledge the current state of affairs surrounding the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. How do you believe we can stay connected and ensure we continue to move forward in the celebration of diversity?
Given this current climate, I believe the best ways to stay connected and ensure that we continue to move forward in the celebration of diversity is to take our typical or planned in-person engagements with others to virtual engagements with others. Engage digitally and do so with intentionality. We should go above and beyond the surface timeline scrolls, and likes. Call people, email people, text people, write thoughtful responses to their posts. And now is a great time to invest in learning about those that are different than us by reading different books, blogs, and articles, or organizing online watch parties of different movies, documentaries, and films followed by online discussions about the content that was just watched, shared or viewed. Tru Access will be conducting its Heart & Art property to do just that. Our Heart & Art property is a platform where we show a film (short, film, full-length film, or documentary) that will evoke courageous conversation, and then we have facilitated dialogue based on the content that we all just watched. This is a great way to not only hear the diverse perspectives that exist but also to understand why people see things that way that they do.
How has this impacted your business and what are some unique things you’re doing to continue in what is considered this new normal?
Much like everyone else, COVID-19 has impacted the way that I now have to do business. As a speaker, trainer, and workshop leader, a lot of my business was based on me flying all around the world speaking to large audiences of people. This is clearly no longer prudent, responsible, or even allowable at this point. This has resulted in me developing online training programs and courses as an option for people to receive the information that I provide. I will also be starting a new podcast along with other digital assets that will allow people to access my speaking, training, and coaching content digitally. It also gives me more time to focus on my next book. And I will encourage others to take this time to focus on what it is they can do to create and unleash the products and services that are inside of them that the rest of the world needs. Too often we focus on the negatives of a situation. I would encourage people to focus more on what they can now provide, rather than focus on areas where they feel deprived.
Enough coronavirus (COVID-19) talk, let’s get back to the regularly scheduled interview already in progress.
What prompted you to create Tru Access and become a voice for Diversity and Inclusion?
I always knew that there were disparities in treatment, opportunities, and in many cases, perceived value for people that did not represent the dominate majority. That became even more evident to me when I was hired at my first ad agency back in the mid-90’s. Although, I did well personally, I was always viewed as the exception, and not the rule. I was often told how “special” I was, and how “I’m different”. And this was usually conveyed in the context of comparison to other black men. And that bothered me. It bothered me because I knew that just wasn’t true. Yeah, I was good at what I did. But I also knew that given the opportunity, other men and women that looked like me could be just as good and even better than me.
So this D&I journey began for me back then during my ad agency days. I was very intentional about hiring and creating opportunities for the many gifted and talented men and women of color that I knew would add tremendous value for the agency and our clients, and at the sane time, help change the narrative and begin to generate more Diversity AND Inclusion in the advertising and marketing industries. Because it was not very diverse or inclusive at that time.
Tru Access came about years later though (in 2012) with a focus to advocate for generational Diversity & Inclusion. This was a time when Millennials were getting a bad rap. And I had spent a number of years working with and studying the millennial generation as part of my professional duties to help my clients better understand this generation in an effort to market to them more effectively. And after writing my first book, “Millennials Revealed”, I started Tru Access as a consultancy to help Build Bridges across the different generations.
But in 2014 on the heels of Ferguson, my personal desire found an intersection point with a societal need, to help others understand how to Build Bridges across racial divides as well. So today, Tru Access exists to serve others by Building Bridges across racial divides, generational, divides, gender divides, and relational divides of all kinds.
You created the Barbershop Rap Session Series briefly tell our readers more about this initiative. How important is it that we create safe spaces to have real conversations and address differences?
Barbershop Rap Sessions is a Tru Access property that leverages the Barbershop (a trusted venue in the black community) as a safe space for people to meet and have facilitated dialogue on issues and matters that impact us all. These dialogues are designed to help the community and all of its members and stakeholders to co-create and collaborate on thoughts, ideas, and solutions that serve the greater good of all.
The people come together and have courageous conversations about very sensitive and oftentimes uncomfortable topics, to hear the diverse perspectives of others, and identify ways that they can all best co-exist ad move forward together while creating the safest, healthiest and most inclusive community for all to thrive. And I cannot stress enough as to how important it is to have safe spaces to have difficult conversations. Just because a topic makes us uncomfortable, that does not absolve us from the responsibility of addressing it.
If an issue exists, not talking about it, does not make it go away. Not talking about it actually causes it to fester and get worse. And most people do not address difficult conversations because of fear, confusion, resentment, and control. These are things that make it uncomfortable for people to talk about it. But creating a safe space where people do not feel judged, accused, shamed, or indicted is paramount to ensuring civil discourse can take place. That’s why theses sessions are always facilitated, by a facilitator whose only agenda is what’s in the best interest of all.
How has the journey been in becoming the bridge builder of what some would say two separate worlds? Stepping in to be a voice for the community and in some ways the LEO community. Training and advocating for everyone to love each other where they are in a time of such divisiveness could not have been easy.
The journey to becoming a Community Bridge Builder is not without its challenges. I often talk about race and advocate on behalf of our underserved and historically marginalized communities, as well as on behalf of our men and women in Law Enforcement. My only agenda is a Kingdom agenda. And unfortunately for me, that is not the case for everyone. Many people only want their agenda or issue to be advocated for. And anything or anyone that is not aligned with what they want, they dismiss, discount, and attack. I have been called a racist, a race-baiter, and Uncle Tom, a sell-out… you name it. I have realized though that this is the calling that has been placed on my life. And because of that, I know these two things…
One, I cannot abandon it. I have no choice but to be obedient to what God has called me to do. And two, I cannot fail. Because when you are doing what God has appointed you to do, you cannot be stopped. When we are called into our greatness, we should expect resistance and pushback. Because greatness by definition is achieving accomplishments above and beyond what is normal. So anything that is not normal, most people won’t understand. At least not until it has been normalized. And because it is abnormal, resistance and pushback will ensue. But if we are truly committed to achieving the greatness that God has called us to achieve, we have to realize that it has less to do with our abilities to do what other people can’t do, and much more to do with our willingness to do what other people won’t do. I accept what comes with the call because I am a willing servant.
What are some things that the public can do to educate themselves regarding issues surrounding diversity, inclusion, and policing within their community?
One of the best things that I believe the public can do to educate themselves on matters of diversity, inclusion, and policing in their communities is to make the time to engage. Simply get to know others. This includes members of Law Enforcement. Get to know the people in your community that are different than you. Different races, cultures, religions, genders, professions, etc. Too often our sources of information about people that don’t look like us only comes from people that look like us. Go to the source. We must remember… a trusted information source is not the same thing as a credible information source.
What’s one thing your older self would tell your younger self?
Discover your purpose in life and do that! I have been fortunate enough to discover my purpose in life and there is nothing like knowing you are doing exactly what you have been placed on this earth to do. I just wish I had started sooner.
As far as legacy building goes you are well on your way. What is one thing you want to ensure the world knows and forever remembers about Tru Pettigrew?
If it were up to me, I would want to be remembered as a devoted and loving husband and father that lived on purpose. My family means everything to me. Outside of my love for God, my family is everything. It’s God, family, community, country, and world. In that order.
Tell us what the future holds for Tru?
As far as the future goes, people can expect a podcast coming soon, along with my next book, and some new digital assets that are in the works.
How can we learn more and get in contact with you?
The best ways to reach me are as follows…
IG – @truaccess
Twitter – @truaccess
LinkedIn – Tru Pettigrew
Facebook – Tru Pettigrew
Website – www.Tru-Access.com
If you have any additional shoutouts or special acknowledgments please share them.
A huge Thank You to Greg Hedgepeth and Substantial Magazine for thinking of me and presenting me with this opportunity. And I would be remiss if I did not shout out my wife Tameka, and our young Prince Austin, who continues to be my source of inspiration for all that I do.
Feature image by Delmas Cooper photography