The 37-year-old director of asset management for Beneficial Communities has been overwhelmed by recent racial injustices across the country — the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and more, and the global protests that followed.
On this Wednesday afternoon in June in his office, Leonard doesn’t feel like being his upbeat self. The pain in his voice is evident over the phone. He’s looking for answers and how to make change.
Leonard started his career in housing 13 years ago, buying, flipping and managing residential properties. He worked for the Tampa Housing Authority for almost eight years, first as a senior asset manager and then as director of asset management, managing a $20 million budget and staff of 19. He’s since moved on to Beneficial Communities.
Has racial inequity seeped into your business transactions or meetings? I can’t put my finger on a particular incident, negotiation or arrangement where I felt like I was not getting a fair shake, discriminated against or not taken seriously. What I do experience on a regular basis, and especially in the sector I’m in, when I go to any kind of meeting … depending on the size of the meeting, if there are 100 people in the room, maybe one or two minorities are Black men or women in that room, so I feel isolated. I feel not naked, but I do feel like alright I gotta do what I can to fit in and show that I’m capable of doing whatever it is I feel I can do. You’re by yourself, and when you look across the room and you see another, there’s an unwritten rule you just acknowledge — ‘I see you.’
My wife has experienced those kinds of things. She’s an attorney, so when she goes into a courtroom, she’s not given the benefit of the doubt that she’s the attorney. She’s looked at as being a clerk or court reporter — a lower ranking person in the judicial system. So she gets that. She learned to adjust because of it, because it still stings when you go to school all these years and you walk into a courtroom to practice the law you studied and you’re just automatically thought to be the help.