Friday, January 18, 2008


I just received the e-mail posted below from a close friend concerning Pricewaterhouse Cooper's (PwC) decision to stay open on MLK day and their “reasons” as to why and below that is the response I gave to my friend. I’d like to open it up to you guys and see where you stand on the matter. Curious about this one.


Hi All -

Please check out this email that my former employer (PwC) sent to its employees regarding MLK Day. It is quite an interesting take on why they feel their employees should work on this day, despite the fact that it is a nationally recognized holiday.


----- Forwarded by H US/ABAS/PwC on 01/18/2008 09:26 AM -----
01/18/2008 09:13 AM

"Reply to All" is Disabled
To: PwC US Staff

Subject: In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

This coming Monday, we commemorate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., one of the preeminent leaders in the civil rights movement. At the age of 35, Dr. King was the youngest person at that time to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, and he is widely known for his work toward ending racial segregation in public schools and promoting meaningful civil rights legislation, including a law that would prohibit racial discrimination in the workplace.

Dr. King was a remarkable speaker, and his "I Have a Dream" speech is considered one of the most impactful dissertations of all time. But there is another quote he delivered that I think is particularly important for us as a Firm:

"Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable... Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals."

Many US companies have decided to give employees the "day off" in commemoration of Dr. King's birthday. But as you read the quote above, you realize that Dr. King believed that the efforts around basic human rights could never take a holiday. As a result, we consider Dr. King's birthday as a "day on;" a day to take action; a day to recognize that progress is not automatic.

Throughout many of our offices this Monday, we will be hosting talented high school students from our local markets. The intent of these gatherings is to introduce these students to the vast array of career opportunities that are available to them, not just in our profession, but in the business world in general. In keeping with Dr. King's passion for equal opportunity, I believe this is a fitting tribute to his work.

I'll leave you with one final quote from Dr. King; "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." Equal rights cannot be taken for granted, either personally or collectively as a Firm. I hope that you will take a moment to reflect on the significance of this holiday and find some way to recommit to the equality and respect for all individuals that Dr. King talked about so many years ago.


My response

I honestly don’t know how I feel about this. If PwC is truly sincere in their outlined motivation and desire to use the holiday as a vehicle of enlightenment and access to children whom might not have had an opportunity normally to visit a top firm and see the possibility of future career opportunities outside of blue-collar aspirations. In its actual work setting, instead of with a representative in your classroom giving a long drawn out speech, with Kings dream of progression for us as a people on all fronts – education, community, and career as the basis, than I believe it to be a good and noble action.

Honestly, how many people do you know who take MLK day as a day of reflection and self-enlightenment? In fact, how many people do you know whom take any holiday with its origins entrenched in the pain and sacrifice of a people for anything other than barbequing, partying, and drinking on a Sunday with no work on Monday? If this was a black firm I Believe, by many including myself, that it would be perceived as great idea that could work to show young children of color reflections of themselves in the work force and I don’t believe there would be any uproar over it.

Now, on the other hand, if this is just a tactic to make an extra buck instead of having to lose a full day worth of labor over “the death of some n&gg&r that deserved to die in the first place” then where are we meeting and how many picket signs do I need to bring? It’s all a matter of perception based on whoever is reading. Unless you know the intent of the author, we all just exist in a state of speculation.



Belle is... said...

if the kids are black and/or underpriviledged then i see where they are going with this. it's introducing a handful of bright children who could be limited by their economic circumstance to a brighter future. it's "hey, little colored boys and girls, you too can work like a 1859 field slave (sun up to sun down), but this time around with a check and in front of a computer for this lilly-white firm someday. look at the opportunities now available to you, now that yous got rights!" it's very in keeping with King's tireless efforts to make Black folk equal and get them opportunities they'd been denied.

if it's kids of any color who would probably end up working there anyway because they're already in prep-school and college bound, then this was some underling HR worker's way to get a raise by increasing work hours in direct disregard for employee morale. And i say the black people at PWC "Rebel!" like Lauryn Hill advocated for on the Unplugged album. Take a sick day or something.

Yvette said...

I think this would indeed be a fitting tribute to Dr. King providing...

1 - Most of the attending students are children of color.
2 - PWC has a large employment percentage of minorities...allowing these children to witness the success of their own.
3 - This isn't just a "walk through tour" of the office space. Dialogue/presentations should be a part of the program, engaging the students about Dr. King and society today.

Start the movement!!!

Stef said...

This is a bunch on nonsense. How do we commemorate the memories of Lincoln and Washington on President's Day or war vets on Veteran's Day? If the intent is to uphold that "the efforts around basic human rights could never take a holiday", what does PWC do to demonstrate their 365 day commitment to human rights? What the ignorant haters should recognize is that King is not a Black super-hero. He is a champion of human rights, who along with countless others forced this country to uphold the ideals set forth in the constitution and the declaration of independence. Dr. King is an American hero and a global icon of peace and equality. We should all proudly elect to celebrate his life, and those that fought alongside King to set the precedent of what justice means in America.

So where are you going Sunday night ;)

I AM GVG said...

“We should all proudly elect to celebrate his life, and those that fought alongside King to set the precedent of what justice means in America.”

Wouldn’t the best celebration of his life be to progress his dream in the hearts and minds of the children he spoke of giving a better future to by showing them there is a different reality out there for them?

P.S. I think you should resend this as a reply to all. People should read your sentiments. They were very well said.

Gym Nazi said...

This is BULLshyt! What kinda of progress can be made working for Pricewaterhouse?? Absolutely none! They simply didn't want to give the day off to employees, but clearly masked the reasoning behind it. True many people don't take the day to reflect( their own issue), but PWC certainly didn't think about their love for King and his work when their HR group crafted this. No surprise nonetheless.

I AM GVG said...

Ok Dave, let’s say that is that case and it’s just a good piece of fiction to stop their employees from rioting. The question I pose to you and anyone who feels like you is if as a by-product of their devious ways, some of those kids they use as a pawns to mask their ill-intentions use that moment and experience to see the possibility of a better future and that take advantage of the meeting as a future contact or access to an internship isn’t it worth it? Alternatively, do you believe sitting on the block or in the backyard, playing slip and slide is just as fundamental to that child’s existence?

I AM GVG said...

Belle and Yvette,

"hey, little colored boys and girls, you too can work like a 1859 field slave (sun up to sun down), but this time around with a check and in front of a computer for this lilly-white firm someday. look at the opportunities now available to you, now that yous got rights!"

We have to laugh at the truth of such things to stop from crying. That is funny though. I think we agree on this. If the intentions are good, I think the action is as well. If not, let’s get it on!


Gym Nazi said...

If that is their "true" intent, then I by no means am against it. Exposing children of color to opportunities that they have not had exposure to is excellent. But I still don't buy it. Sorry. It will very interesting to see how this plays out. I'll email the sister who sent his out on Tues( I've known her since college ) and ask her how this "enlightening" project went. Will def let u know how it went. As for kids sitting around chillin, doing nuthin you know me well enough to know I'm certainly not for that either. Come now, let's be real.

I AM GVG said...

LOL. Gym, I do know you that’s why I wouldn't allow for just the kneejerk reaction on either of our parts. I said it once and I'll say it again - if the intentions are good, then I'm all for it. If not, let's get it on!

stef said...

I believe that exposure & education are obviously key, however, I believe that this is just a cost-effective way to save face. Do they track these students? mentor them? recruit them? You know, Keeping "developing nations" indebted to us is also something "we" justify with good intentions.

I AM GVG said...


Those are all very very valid questions, which I will pose to my friend whom actually works for PwC, because I have absolutely no idea.

Gym Nazi said...

Haha! Maybe this is also why my azz will be in front of the PC on Mon as well. I may need to forward this to my HR connect. Don't think them selling more diamonds has anything to do with King's legacy. Hmmm.....

I AM GVG said...

"Don't think them selling more diamonds has anything to do with King's legacy." CCCTTTTTFFFFUUUUUUUU

I AM GVG said...


P.S. Aren't all elementary schools prep school? Honestly didn't realize there was a differene.

Belle is... said...

what?! no.

there's regular school like P.S. whatever. then there's private school. then there's prep school. 3. different tiers, my dear.

I AM GVG said...

Was that list created in any particular order? Ok, seriously, I understood that on a fundamental level - Public and private schools were different in the sense of - you get what you pay for. However, I honestly believed they all served the same overall goal of collegian and life preparation for their students. I remember as a kid going back and forth between "prep" and "private" schools and I thought the only real difference to be the uniforms.

My prep school did have a banking class where you were given your own bank account to manage. It started in third grade and continued straight until you left in twelfth, to teach kids how to manage their allowances. These were the days before ATM cards, so you got your own little bank book, that you had to learn to balance and keep a correct tab on your deposits and spending. Which to this day I believe was one of the greatest classes I ever took. That should be mandatory in all schools, to teach kids wealth management and financial responsibility. “If Billy spends all the allowance he got on Sunday, on candy on Monday, Billy won't have any candy until Sunday comes again.” That’s a lesson you never forget if instilled properly and can translate to everyday finance management. I had that Dime Bank account all the way up until about 1999 or 2000, when they were bought by another bank and started charging for accounts. Hmmm…

Isis said...

What should be sent back to PWC:

And that should be suggested.

Props to Vaskeezy on that one.

NBeans said...

I'm coming out from under my rock because it's Friday and Gardy keeps me in the loop despite having dropped off the face of the earth. ;-) Anyway, my two cents are that bringing high schoolers to PWC for the day hardly constitutes "providing opportunity" and is a piss poor excuse for not taking the holiday. Yes, many people, including many of us do not take the holiday as we should--even here in his birthplace, Atlanta and at his alma mater, Morehouse. Ok, so my experience came from across the street at Spelman, but neither institution did much compared to what I found at Univ of Michigan. Despite my discontent with the state and Ann Arbor, in general, I have to give the predominantly white, affluent institution its proper due. The school takes a "day on" with dedicated celebration that extends well beyond Monday. Check the schedule

I wish I could go. Instead, I will be drumming up ways to teach my five year old niece that MLK's dream was much different than the dream she had about dragons with yellow braids.

Belle is... said...

private and prep are essentially the same, i think. i've been in prep since 8th grade and did private up to that. my private school had uniforms, my prep school didn't. the private school had a college attendance rate of 75% and more black people; the prep school had 99.1% (like two people in the history of the school didn't go to college. both went to work in their dad's multi-million dollar biz) and fewer negroes.

regular public schools prepare you for the regents in NY and in MD, they prepared you for graduation. there was no great emphasis on college, hence why most of the graduates don't go to college or if they do, go to community college. only TAG schools and the techs and styvuesants prepare you for anything beyond graduation.

i had a "checking account" through the school since 8th grade. i didn't think about it, but that is prolly the reason i have a good sense of money today. when i get my checks. before i spend anything, a chunk goes to savings. mother got me a checking account when i 15. sometime around 25, i discovered she'd had a savings account for me since i was a baby. i discovered it, moved all the money to an online savings account with a higher interest, closed the checking account and let it grow. glad we're having this convo. i haven't checked on that thing in months.

reg said...

I don't know about this one. How long have we been celebrating the holiday of MLK? How long has PWC been doing this? You can't just one year switch it up on the world and claim its for a noble reason? Secondly, who did the recruiting for the kids to come to PWC? Is this some publicity stunt or are they really reaching out a hand to help the children open their eyes? I'm curious how this all unfolds but I'm JUST NOT BUYING IT? Then again our economy is suffering and they need all the help they can get and while others are resting..they'll be making money! Hmmm!

I AM GVG said...


Those were mostly the same things I noticed and experienced, except my private school had the full on uniform with the school patch on the blazer and my prep school had a “dress for success” dress code where you had to wear dress slacks/skirt, dress shirt, and a tie. My private school was mostly all white and my private school predominantly black largely from affluent black families – two completely different worlds – serious culture shock going from that private school to that prep school.

Neither school heard of such a thing as not going to college for their students, nor did you hear it from your parents or the parents of your friends. The question was never are you going to college, it was which college are you going to. The funny thing I also noticed as an adult was when it seemed as if all friends were prepping for MCATs, GMATs, etc at the same time - my first question was when do you start your test prep courses (i.e. Kaplan, etc)? However, for those that went to PSs or didn’t have the same background as me, there’s was the thought of if they were going to do it at all. I realized that went back to those private/prep school days, because for us all the “extras” were part of the standard package. Everyone went to Saturday test prep courses for the specialized HS exam and later the prep courses for the PSATs, and SATs. I remember in eighth grade how huge a deal, it was that one of the kids in my class was going to a fine arts school for painting instead of Stuyvesant, Brooklyn Tech, or Bronx science. We were amazed and envious that his parents would have let him do such a thing. I didn’t know LaGuardia – the school of the performing arts a.k.a “The Fame School” was a real school until my sophomore year and even then, no one was trying to hear about my black ass transferring.

We had around the same graduation rates as you did and all for the most part played our roles and went on to higher education, then biz, med, and/or law school, a couple of PhDs in there, then onto corporate America. I was always the artsy weird one, so you know where I ended up. In the end, I realize I got much much more from my black prep school days then I could have ever gotten from my private school.

I really do believe the school student-banking program is a great idea and should be standardized, amongst a bunch of other things to prepare these kids for the world that awaits them. How many of our friends have the crazy first day on campus bombarded with credit card offers and there credit is effed up my second semester stories?

Anonymous said...

I am an employee at PwC and African American. When this email was sent out it was all the buzz in the office among other African Americans in the office. Pwc has never given MLK day off but you have to know for accountants this is now our busy season. We are not allowed to take vacation or time off between the months of January through April. PwC also does not give us Presidents day off. PwC is a GREAT company to work for and it is pretty diverse. Yes they did have the MLK thing for the kids today but they also do a lot more during the rest of the year.

I say all of that to say that YES this email was sent and was in poor taste. We already know we were not getting the day off and it really doesn't bother us but we did not need the BS explanation that was sent to us. To say that this is a "day on" is what really made us upset. We feel that he took MLK's words and somehow tried to use them to apply to to us having to work but it SADLY missed the point. Nothing should have been said and we would be ok. Also note that pwc has now blocked any forwarding of that email as well as another article about the email that was on another website. Before emails are sent out by the higher up in our company they are supposed to be checked by our diversity committee. How this email slipped by is beyond us. Its really the wording and the "day on" thing that is offensive to us

Anonymous said...

oh and to answer the question as to what kind of kids were there. It was a diverse group. I'm not sure if they were underprivledged or not but they came from various schools. This was not a one time thing for this company they do things like this year round for the underprivledged. There is something going on in our office almost everyday. I try to participate in some of the things. I have done the christmas gift program they had for underprivledged youth as well as making food for the homeless. One thing I can say about PwC is they STAY helping communties. So this email is just one thing in bad judgement

Rich said...

Time for my $0.02:

Sometimes I think we as blacks in america (I detest the term african-american, which is a topic for another time) want to try and fight the good fight for no reason sometimes. True the messaging behind PWC's intentions were ill-advised, but the fact that they have this program (and the ideaology behind it) in place is commendable. I applaud them for giving under-priviliged youths the exposure to a field they would normally find unattainable under normal circumstances. But my main concern is the "what happens next" part of this process. I hope that PWC brings this program to the forefront of their community initiative not just for today but throughout the year. Lets hope that their commitment to educate and infranchise inner city youth extends beyond just one day.

Ok, I'm off my soapbox. Have a great night everyone.