Welcome to Crazy and the King!!
Feb. 17, 2022

The CATK Interview: Andre Blackman

The CATK Interview: Andre Blackman

Join Torin and Julie in welcoming Onboard Health CEO, André Blackman

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André is the Founder and CEO of Onboard Health, a specialized executive search and advisory firm focused on creating a more inclusive future of health. A pioneering strategist with deep ties across the healthcare innovation, startup and digital strategy landscapes — André is dedicated to building the future of health through an equity lens. His work and insights have been featured in outlets such as Business Insider, Fortune, Forbes, NPR, CIO, Newsweek, U.S. News and World Report.

He was recently named a Fortune Magazine 2020 40 Under 40 in Healthcare.

Learn more: Onboard Health

Follow André and Onboard Health:




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0:00:01.1 Announcer: We've been about this work: Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Belonging. Shared through the voices of a white woman and a black man. We bring lived experiences. We have pursued D&I progress for most of our professional lives. We use Crazy and The King to cover news, tips from colleagues, and host incredible guests. Listeners count on Julie and I to transparently drive the conversation. We thank you for rocking with us. Check it. Julie, kick ff the show.


0:00:42.0 Julie: Welcome to Crazy and The King.

0:00:45.7 Torin: So it's Thursday, and I know everyone this entire week has talked about the Super Bowl and all of the money spent on commercials and all that great stuff, but I can assure you, we won't be talking about the Super Bowl here. I know how much you love football, but...

0:01:03.6 Julie: I do.

0:01:04.7 Torin: Yeah, we're not talking about the Super Bowl today.

0:01:06.3 Julie: It's okay.

0:01:07.1 Torin: We also won't talk about, still, how angry I am about January 6th. We're not gonna talk about that today. We won't talk about the fact that I had on a midriff last week, even though the weather is a whole lot better; it's so much warmer here in Baltimore. But what we will talk about... We'll talk about... Last week, the Secretary of Agriculture, he jumped in and... Actually, you know what, before we do that, did you see the story around the administration allocating the funds for...

0:01:46.0 Julie: Afghanistan?

0:01:47.8 Torin: Nope, not Afghanistan.

0:01:48.4 Julie: No? Okay.

0:01:49.5 Torin: People using methamphetamines...

0:01:52.6 Julie: Oh God, yes.

0:01:54.0 Torin: Did you see that?

0:01:55.0 Julie: Yes, and the big hubbub about how, supposedly, the US government was buying people crack pipes. Like, come on, guys.

0:02:00.8 Torin: Yeah, you know what I was mad about? What I was mad about is... Them using the word equity in that scenario.

0:02:10.5 Julie: Yeah.

0:02:12.7 Torin: And here's what really... It frustrated me around messaging, because... So many people focused on the fact that the administration said they were trying to provide equity, they were trying to make it so that drug usage could be safe in black and brown communities. But they used the word equity, and we know what that word, equity, means, they then talked about drug usage in white communities.

0:02:40.3 Julie: Well, and then we just...

0:02:41.0 Torin: And it really frustrated me.

0:02:42.8 Julie: Yeah, and on top of it, the way that the US government and lawmakers and people in power have created drug legislation to make drug usage punishments much higher in people of color, right? Crack versus, you know, powder cocaine; all of that historical stuff, and then to come out and say, "Well, now we're trying to create... " It's bullshit. It was poorly, poorly messaged, and probably poorly thought out.

0:03:12.0 Torin: Poorly, poorly messaged. Yeah, because I said to myself, I didn't see anything in there that said, "While we may be giving these centers, these places, funds to help get equipment, so that... We'll also make sure we provide beds, we provide educational training, we provide facilities and resources to help pull people off of drugs." I didn't hear or read any of that. And I said, "We totally missed the mark," but I will tell you this: There was an administration, or there was an organization in the administration that used the word equity the right way, and that was Secretary of Agriculture Mr. Tom Vilsack. He actually appointed a 15-member equity commission in response to the Biden/Harris administration's pursuit of a more comprehensive approach to advancing equity for all in the agricultural ecosystem; that's a whole lotta words to just say farming. You know what I'm saying?

0:04:12.1 Julie: Yes.

0:04:12.5 Torin: They're trying to put this commission together to study the inequities that have persisted in the farming space, and they're now trying to change some of that. And I thought that that was a beautiful announcement last week.

0:04:24.5 Julie: Yeah, and like the conversation we had around mining, again, just a place where we don't have a lot of equity and historical injustices, types of conversations in our everyday life, or in our DEI world. TikTok is getting some...

0:04:42.1 Torin: Oh, real quick, before we do that, I wanna give a shout out to my dear friend, Mr. Todd Corley. He is on that equity panel. So for the next two years, he gets to work side by side with some incredible people. And for those of you out there listening, real quick, if you are not familiar with the name Shirley Sherrod... I think it's Shirley Sherrod. I'm almost positive, and if I mess it up, just Google "The Equity Commission from the US Secretary of Agriculture." I want you to look at what happened to her years ago, and it's so incredibly rewarding and important that her voice is also a part of this 15-member committee. Shout out to you, Mr. Todd Corley. Go ahead, J.

0:05:21.5 Julie: Congratulations. So, there's a new Glassdoor. And if you don't know what Glassdoor is, it's an employee review site, or an employer review site left by employees and former employees; huge deal in our HR, TA world. But this one is called Clara, and it's basically Glassdoor for content creators, so influencers, people who get paid for sponsored content, all of those kinda things. So, Clara is basically gonna give pay transparency for those creators. So, if I make a TikTok, if I make an Instagram Reel, whatever it is, I can go on and see what TikTok is paying, what YouTube is paying, what any other random sponsor, I guess, is paying for that content, and just like with pay transparency around gender, this is really going to create some opportunities for individuals of color who are not getting paid the same level as white creators to know who they wanna work for and how to better negotiate their influencer contracts.

0:06:31.9 Torin: Yeah, it was started by 31-year-old Nina, Nino, or... I think it's Nino; Nino De Guzman. She actually was employed by TikTok, left the organization, started the company, and I'm sure she probably was like, "Look, wait a minute, I got all of this insight, I have the access to the data, I've seen the trends, I've seen what's happening, I've seen the furor that's happening on social media with Black content creators being wildly upset," and I think I'm gonna ask our guest about that later on in the show, how he feels around content creation, valuation, and TikTok and social media. So, anyway, if you are out there on TikTok, I am not, but if you are on TikTok, you can go to Clara, C-L-A-R-A, Clara, and perhaps be able to get a bit of insight around dollar bills, dollar dollar bills.

0:07:28.1 Julie: Yeah, and just kind of wrapping up transparency and stakeholder capitalism, as we've been talking about over the last few weeks, so... You know, Edelman Trust Report, and we've talked about how important our CEO is in terms of trust, and who we trust, and the information that we trust, and still a lotta commitments about equity, about bridging the pay gap, about closing some of our income disparities in this country. But, what's really happening?

0:08:03.9 Torin: But, out of 116 takeovers of companies worth more than a billion since April of 2020, not one... Zero, not one, included anything legally binding that would protect jobs or guaranteed compensation for those who would be laid off. So we have 116. None of these takeovers were... Well, let me... Let me not say that, 'cause I don't know that to be the case. Whether those takeovers were agreed to or hostile, let me say that, 116 of them, zero took care of protecting the people who were going to lose jobs, zero. And in the story, it's over on the Wall Street Journal... On the story... And there's a bunch of other stats inside on the left side of the story, but in that story, it also talks about... There was a phrase in there that said, "You know, the bottom line is, these CEOs no longer have a responsibility. You know, once I've gotten rid of the organization, I've shuttered it, private equity firm or whomever has come in and swooped it up, another competitor, we're done. We don't care." And so, it's really frustrating, but what we have to do is make sure that we continue to hold them accountable, and so, it also says in the story, we have to band together and use the strength of our voices, our collective voices. It can't just be one or two people saying, "Hey, you're not doing the right thing." It has to be sort of a chorus and a movement of individuals to make sure we hold them accountable.

0:09:38.5 Julie: Yeah, and on that note, I'd like to call out the CEO of Starbucks, who is fighting unions, raising prices, blaming it on higher wages, but got himself this week a $20,000,000 payout. And, same thing that we see with Amazon, who is raising their prices for Prime an additional year, fighting unionization all over the country, and Jeff is gonna pay to get a bridge rebuilt in Rotterdam, so his yacht can get through.

0:10:10.2 Torin: And in a flash, last week, the Senate made headway on a bill that would forbid clauses and employment contracts requiring workers to litigate sexual harassment, so we give them a hand clap. "They made me drink until I was blackout drunk," said Nicki Broderick; she tells Fortune in reference to her days at Activision. "I don't even know how I got back to my hotel at night." Sharing a story about Activision workplace, again, back in 2011. Peloton is getting the digital work, and I'm still trying to figure out why people do TikTok Panda... Panda Panda; I love that one. And apparently, COVID required folks to appreciate their own kitchens, and now, some are demanding redesigns, while others are looking for a good Bordeaux, Goodell wasn't happy, and Spotify is dropping $100,000,000 behind the voices of the marginalized. No matter how you feel right now, J and I will be right back.


0:11:12.0 Julie: Alright, so I'm excited, because we are welcoming an amazing guest that we have waited a long time to get on the show and are so happy to be able to introduce you all to.

0:11:23.2 Torin: How long did we wait? How long... Tell the folks how long we waited.

0:11:26.3 Julie: I mean, it's been at least four or five months, I think? Like, the man is in demand.

0:11:29.9 Torin: I mean, it was... And let me tell you... Yeah, in demand. You know, you gotta just accept your rotation, how that rotation comes, you know. And then of course, we gotta be fair, we gotta be fair. Holidays crept in, and we had to give some respect for the holidays and all of that, but I'm absolutely excited. Why don't you introduce our guest?

0:11:48.6 Julie: So, André Blackman is the founder and CEO of Onboard Health, a specialized executive search and advisory firm focused on creating a more inclusive future of health. He's a pioneering strategist with deep ties across the healthcare innovation startup and digital strategy landscapes. While the pandemic forced many to reckon with, right, what we know, the existence of systemic racism in healthcare, some for the first time, Blackman has dedicated his life to closing representation gaps in medicine. You can follow him on Twitter at mindofandre, A-N-D-R-E. Check it out.


0:12:39.2 André Blackman: So, my entire career has been around public health, the social determinants of health and healthcare. And after spending probably around, you know, 13, 14, 15 years squarely in the innovation space, and digital health, and things of that nature, the startup space as it relates to the healthcare industry, but also seeing this intersection a few years ago around things like the social determinants of public health meeting traditional medicine and healthcare at the innovation space. I really was just inspired by all the amazing people that I've met throughout my career who want to build the future of health with all sorts of different skillsets, so data science, or UX, UI, human-centered design, engineering, communications, and I felt like there was an opportunity here, especially, as we saw, the convergence to build a more sustainable and equitable future of health, to really kinda look at the workforce.


0:13:49.2 Torin: Welcome, man. How you feeling?

0:13:51.3 André: Doing great, everyone. Happy February, happy Black History Month, happy 2022, all that kinda good stuff. Julie, thank you so much for that intro. I'm feeling good! I'm feeling really good.

0:14:02.5 Julie: Good. Well, we're happy to hear you... Happy to have you here. So, as you said in that clip we just heard, you're not new to this world. You've been at it for a while. You launched a company back in 2007, so, let's start there, and tell us a little bit about that, if that's alright with you.

0:14:19.5 André: Absolutely. So I started, actually, writing the Pulse and Signal blog in 2007. And this is when... You know, back in the... Back in the day, if you had a blog, you were kind of an instant rockstar, right? You had something to say, you know how to put together a platform, and that was how things got started. I mean, that was my background. I'm a mix of Engineering, Communication, and Public Health. I'm still very interested in how technology and innovation was going to move that forward, but also, 2007 was when Twitter came out, right? A lot of the social media aspect was moving forward, and I wanted to see how the intersection of health and digital kinda was moving together, and so, the Pulse and Signal blog really got started in giving myself a platform to talk about these things. But naturally, I'm a people person, and I love getting into the minds of others who are just doing amazing things. And Pulse and Signal, the blog became known for my interviews with people literally around the world who were into things like behavior change, social marketing. So, basically, wearing a bicycle helmet, that's social marketing, right? How do you do healthy behavior changes through media, and things of that nature too.

0:15:31.6 André: And that's what really just kinda catapulted me into doing on-site interviews at conferences. The Health 2.0 Conference was getting started, and this whole kind of patient-driven revolution, technology and healthcare, I was deep in it, and... But I also was really excited about highlighting the voices and the people who are making big changes in this industry, and that's what really kinda led to Pulse and Signal as a digital strategy agency for a lot of these startups, and the organizations in healthcare and in public health, and its social impact, really understanding how to message, how to engage, and things of that nature too. And that was a big part of my... Those early days, for sure.

0:16:11.7 Torin: So, the early days are always great for setting the foundation, and I love the fact that you said on-site interviews, like literally in the moment, when you were at a conference, you would basically put, what, an Android device? An iPhone in front of an individual? How would you conduct some of those interviews?

0:16:30.5 André: Torin, I mean, for those of you who might remember, and I still have it, the flip video cameras were really hot, right? Back in the day, you had a handheld video recording device, and that's what I did. I went to conferences, I had my flip video camera, and just kinda had questions prepared and kinda created video components. Some of that was also by text, so I might have been on-site and just kinda jotting down notes from individuals, and then turning that into a text-based interview. But I love being there with people, because there's no substitute for body language and eye contact, and really feeling the individual and how they're feeling about what they're building and doing. So, yeah, those were fun times.

0:17:16.7 Torin: Appreciate that, and again, that's the foundation. So today, at Onboard Health, for you, it's more than looking at D&I through a product or a service lens, it's really about life, and people like you and the team, you take this extremely serious. And one of the reasons why I'm extremely excited about you being here is because of that report, and I reference it often, that Citibank report from September of 2020, that talks about racism and what it has cost the United States, and it listed healthcare as one of those cylinders. It was four of them, healthcare being one of the cylinders that we have done a dismal job of paying attention to. When you use the example, though, you use the example of the work that you do, you know, connecting the dots, data scientists, and looking at food deserts and food insecurity. Why is it that important for you and more than just a product or a service?

0:18:12.4 André: I love that. I mean, you know, even taking it back to why it went down to this pathway, like just being in this space for the last 15, 16, 17 years, and seeing the changes and the shifts. To be completely honest, medicine in this country was really focused on acute care, right? You were sick, you got help, right? Over the past several years, however, though, the social determinants of health really kinda crept in to create this kinda perfect storm of opportunities, so the social determines, really, how we live, how we work, how we play, how our cities are built, right? Food sustainability, how to get access to healthy food, right?

0:18:50.0 André: And all that kinda weaves together with chronic disease and things of that nature. And so, why this is so important is that there's a historical aspect to healthcare and medicine in this country, right? Oftentimes, exclusion was actually at the root of a lot of these things, who could get access to high-quality care, right? And, you know, looking at things like redlining, literally, in the United States, the historical aspect of literally creating geographic exclusion based off of where people are living in the communities, right? That really kinda changed the game, right? You know, literally, kinda looking at how hospitals... And this happens in education and things of that nature too, and we're seeing that now. But especially in medicine, in healthcare, who has access to these things? How do we get to our appointments? All those kinda things are still at the root of where we're at today.

0:19:41.3 André: And I tell a lot of people, especially when I talk about innovation and technology, we can't innovate on top of a hot mess. We cannot forget what happened, and a lot of... A lotta times, when we're talking about, especially with the pandemic, the Tuskegee Experiment pops up a lot, right? The amount of mistrust and distrust, misinformation that happened years ago, right? For Black communities in particular, right? And so, that's a big part of it, is like looking at the historical aspect, but also now, we're seeing all these kinda different aspects of how... Where zip codes predetermine your life expectancy, right? Looking at, you know, if you're living in a certain building, how asthma increases in certain buildings because of asbestos, or because there's a high percentage of things like cockroaches and things of that nature too, right? Irritants.

0:20:33.1 André: These are all aspects of this total package and this total view of what health looks like, and that's exactly why we're focused on those kinda things, because leadership creates the policies, right? They create the products and the services that eventually need to help the communities that they're supposed to be serving, and if representation is not there, lived experiences are not there, then naturally, the services and the products, and even the concepts, the ideas are gonna fall flat. And so, that's why we're really passionate about representation, particularly in leadership, in a lot of these organizations, especially a lot of these companies now that are coming with the resources that are tackling with tech, and using mental health, and all these kind of things. If the leadership team is not representative, then what do you think is gonna happen as far as the results for the services and products? So, that's why we're really passionate about this.

0:21:26.3 Torin: You know, Julie, before you hit André, when he said the Tuskegee experiment and how that comes up often, I think about... I think his name is James Marion, considered to be the father of gynecology, and how he was performing... He was just performing different acts on enslaved women, no medicine whatsoever, just like going in and ripping these women apart. It's... The history of how medicine has been performed, been deployed, been accessible, like André said, is extremely problematic. And so I'm glad that you're here. Go ahead, J.

0:22:11.2 Julie: Yeah, well, and I... And... You know, just to tackle on that too, is I think, and I've said this before, so many of us in the white community are ignorant to those things, and I... And I don't think that it... I'll speak for myself. It's not a lack of care, it's a lack of knowledge a lotta times, so telling those stories, like when we talked about Bruce's Beach, and those historical inequities, I had so many people reach out to me and say, "I had no idea that this happened." And that's just a really important forum that we have to keep talking about things that we know, because the vast majority of us... Of white America... The white world doesn't know about those... That historical savagery, right?

0:22:52.1 Torin: And many in the Black community. Let's be very fair, many in the Black community. I mean, again, I grew up in Davenport, Iowa. I've learned more in the last 15 years, maybe 20, than I've learned in the first 30 years of my life. And so, it really is... And it's not always nefarious and, you know, with animus, you just don't know what you don't know, unless it's placed in front of you, so... Yeah, so I would say it's not just the white community. This education is something that should be happening in all communities.

0:23:24.3 Julie: Yeah, no, absolutely, and we're fighting that fight every day. André, if you have listened to the show or you know anything about me, I have mental health disabilities, chronic, multiple, that I'll live with for the rest of my life, and I know that I've been fighting the conversation in corporate America, in my personal life, that, like, hey, mental health is a real thing. We need mental health parity in our insurance, we need it in the way that physicians are treating people, and... The pandemic is... Has obviously created a place where we are able to have a conversation about mental health that we've never been able to have before. How is Onboard Health kind of addressing or starting to talk about mental health?

0:24:14.9 André: Yeah, absolutely, Julie, and thank you so much. I mean, I... First and foremost, I just wanna call out, like, the... Even the vulnerability aspect of you letting people know about these things, right? I mean, that in itself, I think, creates the narrative like it's okay to talk about these things, and now it's time for us, like what's next, right? Solutions. So to your point, this is a big part of our landscape right now, especially in the healthcare innovation landscape. Mental and behavioral healthcare is skyrocketing, right? Looking at things like digital therapeutics. We're working with clients now who are focused on these kind of aspects in the marketplace, but also supplying these kinda solutions for employers.

0:24:54.5 André: So, internally, as we're having conversations with employers about creating equitable and inclusive workspaces, this is something that's coming up time and time again, when we're thinking about things like, are we going back to work? You know, people... Do people wanna actually go back into the workplace, right? Or even, you know, working remotely, right? One of the things that pops up is background, so like, you're in people's homes now, right? And even that was coming up as far as the biases and the micro-aggressions, like, "Oh, what's that? Is that a shrine? Is that... " You know, those kinda different things that came up in the actual workplace, these are the things that we help our clients with and our partners with around, like, okay, talent is one thing, right? You know, like, we need more equitable and diverse talent. Well, first and foremost, as we all have heard, a lot of it starts at home first, right?

0:25:45.0 André: Like, let's actually look at our brand. Like, how are we showing up for people? Like, what's actually happening internally that we have... People were scrambling, especially after the George Floyd murder, "Okay, we need our boards to look like this, we need to do that," but like, hold up. We didn't even actually look at ourselves to figure out what's going on. So, the two pathways in which we've been really interacting at Onboard Health and these conversations, it's like, okay, what actually has been done to create safe environments now for your employees, for your team, for your leadership, right? Because we're not sending people into places that haven't even thought about this, right? So that's one piece, but then also, for the work in our space, mental health is really hot right now, and for a good reason, as we talked about. So, a lot of our partners in our ecosystem, a lot of the founders as well, like, even in the startup space, this is becoming a big thing.

0:26:35.5 André: There's actual startups now where lived experiences... Like, we talked about cultural competency, and how there's a new wave of black and brown founders underestimated, as Arlan Hamilton from Backstage Capital calls it. People are saying, "You know what? I don't see things that help me as a Black woman. So, I need to either find that, if I don't find the trust already, or I'm gonna create it." And that's exactly what we're seeing in the maternal health space. You have Melissa Hanna over at Mahmee. You have Poppy Seed Health, right? These are really kinda focusing on community-focused solutions to things like mental health, right? Eric over at Iona Therapy, same kinda thing. Ashlee Wisdom at Health In Her HUE, creating a platform for Black women to get access to understand culturally competent care. So, that's what we're seeing in this space, that's how we're supporting... We're building those teams that have that kinda vision in place to create a more equitable future of health, and that's what we're really excited about as well.


0:27:44.9 André: I remember working on a campaign that targeted 18 to 24-year-old African-Americans, making sure that you're talking to your partner about your sexual status, so, really looking at, you know, HIV, AIDS, STD prevention, that sorta thing. And, you know... Oftentimes, these campaigns would have, I think, the experts huddled in a room together, kinda thinking through all the demographics, and the data, and all the reports that have been made, and then they kinda create the campaign and then kind of like issue it out to the people without actually cocreating it.


0:28:35.4 Torin: So I'm actually gonna take... I'm gonna take... I'm gonna take that... That comment around it being important, the safe space, the cultural competency, assessing the brand, doing that internal diagnostic, I'm gonna take that. But as you heard in this clip, oftentimes, voices of black and brown people, marginalized communities, they continue to be suppressed, they continue to be ignored, they continue to be minimized, put to the side, they sometimes are even hijacked. The idea can come from them, it's shuttered, and then it resurfaces through the voice of a white colleague, a male colleague in some instances, an able-bodied colleague in some instances. How do we get over this, or is there a way to get over this? How do we... How do we help ourselves to not have to keep fighting that fight of being seen?

0:29:40.8 André: Yeah, that's a great question, Torin. At the root of it is that whole colonization piece, right? I mean like, "Oh, this is great, so we're gonna co-opt this and turn this into something that we're comfortable with." Usually, that happens in white leadership and culture, because there's... You know, there's that aspect about being comfortable. We don't wanna be thrown off a little bit, right? And especially at the beginnings of me writing on Pulse and Signal, and things of that nature too, I wrote something called the Sustain or Die Manifesto, right? This is back in, I think, 2012, talking about the absolute, critical need to have cocreated solutions, right? We're not... The top-down approach has not been working anymore, especially in health, right?

0:30:20.4 André: And so that's a big part of what we're seeing right now, especially with companies like Cityblock Health, that's actually layering in technology and digital solutions and innovation into a community-focused solution around access to healthcare and things of that nature too, really working with community leaders to create those solutions that we need, and so this is a big kinda part of why my vision for Onboard Health is around leadership, because if we have the people in leadership that are creating these decisions that know we need to look at something from a different angle, that's how we kinda continue lifting up these voices, right? That's how we make those decisions in partnership with community, with the people that are coming up with these ideas. So from a corporate culture perspective in companies, this is why we're creating this to say like, okay, there's talent; it's never a pipeline issue, but also, there's a ripple effect when we have the right people in place, right? And so that, I think, is a key part of it.

0:31:17.2 André: The other part that I'm really excited about is the entrepreneurship angle, to where we are in digital health right now and things of that nature, like I said, there's a lot of first-time founders that are more representative of our society and our communities that are standing up and saying like, "Hey, I need to build this," right? Andrew from Live Chair Health started out as kind of a barbershop-focused health engagement piece to really kind of elevate literacy and things of that nature. And now, he's just doing amazing things with the company. And so now, there's that ownership piece to our industry right now, right? Before, you'd have these big magnates in healthcare, but now we're starting to see companies that are saying, "You know what? We're actually gonna take this, 'cause this is what we know," right? And then, there's a more equitable process to say like, "Okay." You know, these large companies have seen the value of this start-up and what they're doing, but we're not just kinda taking the IP. Like, there's actually an exchange of resources, like... And then, that's how we create the sustainable, equitable system. So, that's how we are personally kinda seeing how we're elevating representation that's recognized, because we're in a capitalistic society, so if we're talking about exchanges of resources, building businesses, and things of that nature that actually address these issues, that's how we're gonna see a lot of these shifts happen.

0:32:41.2 Julie: Oh, I love that you've given us six, seven, eight names that I'm gonna go back and research and go, "Okay, these are founders that we need to talk to, that we need to support, businesses that I wanna learn more about," so thank you for that. So let's... Kind of a silly question, let's kinda lighten it up a little bit. And talk about the emerging cannabis space. I think this is also, at least in my house, a hot topic, I think everywhere, a hot topic. And from a healthcare perspective, or just your perspective, what's really surprised you regarding this space over the last few years?


0:33:20.7 André: Yes. Oh, you...

0:33:21.9 Torin: Why are you smiling, man? Why are you smiling? Why are you...


0:33:27.2 André: So many thoughts, so many thoughts. I mean, the first thing that pops up into my head is the social justice aspect of it all, right? I mean, there's so many examples of... Just like, off-the-wire startup ideas that have come up, that are based off of, you know, the backs of immigrants and cultural aspects of our country. I remember there was a startup that was trying to get some sorta amount of money, millions of dollars, to create a new kind of bodega-style, kinda like... You know, vending machine kinda stuff, like... Co-opting even the term bodega without... Once again, representation, not on that team whatsoever, right? And so, thinking about the cannabis space, this has been something that... For a long time, I'm an '80s baby, so, you know, looking at the drug, the war on drugs and things of that nature too, but really kinda criminalizing a lotta different things, like over the past few decades, a lotta people have felony records and things of that nature that have completely derailed their entire lives. And now, you have the 20-something hoodie-wearing entrepreneur that is selling CBD popsicles, and it's like, "Hey, we need to have this $50,000,000 investment on that," and now, it's cool, right?

0:34:45.0 André: But if you look once again at the demographics of the people that have been leading that industry, that resurgence, they don't reflect the people that have got incarcerated and are still paying for it. This is what I get really passionate about, right? A lotta people don't understand that one aspect of somebody's life can derail the entire thing, and it's so hard to get back on track, because we're taught certain ways in which our lives need to go in order to be successful, right? That whole... But then, there's the dichotomy in the American culture around "Pull yourself up by the bootstraps." "Oh, I'm sorry, we actually completely eradicated ownership of entire generations of people in your community, but hey, pull yourself up by the bootstraps. This is America, you can get it done, right?" So, I'm going off on a kind of a... I'm sorry, Julie, this is not light at all, and so... [laughter]

0:35:37.0 Julie: No, it's perfect. It's perfect. Keep going.

0:35:39.5 André: But yeah, but like, this is what I'm talking about here, right? A lotta people are like, "I don't understand. Why is it so much... Why is it so hard? You're complaining," or yada yada yada, right? But you know, not too long ago, grandfathers couldn't actually save money, and you would try to go to the bank, it's like, "No, I'm sorry, we don't service you." Meanwhile, somebody on the other side of Chicago, there's a trust fund, even before they're born, that they can go into economic... Confidence. You know what I'm saying? And so, these are all the different things about why I'm frustrated, tying it back to capitalism, right? We're making money now off something that was so demonized, but not even just demonized, but it was tied to certain communities in such a derogatory way that, literally, they're getting incarcerated for years, right? And so, we're seeing all these kinda things, the Central Park Five, and... You know, the narratives are still there. It's still there.

0:36:40.3 André: And so, I did my senior thesis paper in college on menthol cigarettes in the African-American community. A lotta people don't realize, with the great migration, that you had a lot of individual brands, like Kool, actually start... And we saw this, once again, not too long ago, menthol cigarettes being marketed to women as a way to lose weight, to stay thin, but also for communities of color, right? And guess what? To this day, the Kool brand is synonymous with the Black community. It's not... It's not by accident. So, that's just kind of like some tensions, as far as the cannabis industry, and like, you know, this is a part of public health. It impacts people's lives, and generations have to work to get back on track, so...

0:37:28.1 Torin: And my good... I call them the three kings, but my dear friends down in Miami, they run a company called Protis Global. It's an executive search firm, and they actually have a podcast called Plant Prophets. So for those of you out there that are trying to learn about the space, they interview individuals coming from the cannabis industry, and they cover a variety of different topics, and I love listening to what they are sharing, and... You're absolutely right, man. It's something that we should absolutely be keeping our eye on. I'm gonna end this show with a quote that I saw of yours, André. The quote goes, "While tackling fires, writing emails, and providing customer or client, results are sometimes necessary, having time for yourself to process and look ahead is essential." You stress being relentless with your calendar, around creating buffer space for thinking. I wanna thank you for joining us today. Where can people find you, real quick?

0:38:32.5 André: Absolutely; onboardhealth.co is our website. Find me on Twitter as mindofandre. And those are the spaces where we're showing up, and... Onboard Health, also on Twitter as onboardhealth, O-N-B-O-A-R-D health.

0:38:51.1 Torin: Thanks for joining us, good brother.

0:38:52.6 André: Thank you so much, y'all.

0:38:55.8 Torin: Awesome, and our Her Voice segment this week, where we amplify women making moves, is sponsored by TalVista, seeing beyond the obvious. First and foremost, Ruchika Tulshyan, dropping Inclusion on Purpose: An Intersectional Approach to Creating a Culture of Belonging at Work. It hits bookstores on March 1st. You can hit her up on Twitter at rtulshyan, R-T-U-L-S-H-Y-A-N. Knock this out! [laughter]

0:39:27.0 Julie: And I apologize in advance to Sage Ke'alohilani Quiamno, a 27-year-old native Hawaiian woman from the island of Oahu and cofounder of Future For Us, a company dedicated to accelerating the advancement of women of color at work. She is a fierce pay equity advocate, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion champion, and an adventure capitalist. She is gonna moderate a panel at South by Southwest on March 14th.

0:40:00.8 Torin: And the good part about it is that we have transcription services. So even though we may not say the person's name correctly, we will make sure that it is presented correctly down in our show notes. Shout out to having transcription services. Also, shout out to Cari Champion and Jemele Hill, who are joining CNN+, the streaming service that will cohost, or where they will cohost a weekly program that will cover sports, culture, entertainment, and politics. Any name drops?

0:40:33.4 Julie: So, just to the Paradox and Olivia team for welcoming us to Scottsdale this week and making our first Chad, Cheese, and Crazy work trip of '22 really one to beat.

0:40:46.9 Torin: Got it, and I close, reminding each and every one of you to share the pod with your digital tribe. Do everything that you can to find your voice, like build better cultures, build better teams, build better workplaces. Build better workplaces! Build better workplaces. For now, J and I are ghost.

0:41:06.5 Julie: See ya.


André BlackmanProfile Photo

André Blackman


André is the Founder and CEO of Onboard Health, a specialized executive search and advisory firm focused on creating a more inclusive future of health. A pioneering strategist with deep ties across the healthcare innovation, startup and digital strategy landscapes — André is dedicated to building the future of health through an equity lens. His work and insights have been featured in outlets such as Business Insider, Fortune, Forbes, NPR, CIO, Newsweek, U.S. News and World Report.

He was recently named a Fortune Magazine 2020 40 Under 40 in Healthcare.