Black History Month: Meeting with A Long Talk

US Sailing is celebrating Black History Month throughout February. In observation of the month, US Sailing spoke with Kamal Carter, who is President of “A Long Talk about the Uncomfortable Truth.” A Long Talk is an anti-racism activation experience. They travel all around the country to different schools, communities, and organizations educating and spreading awareness.

Carter is a graduate of Hampton University and has worked in the STEM fields and the classroom as a chemistry teacher. He also is the founder of a non-profit for under-resourced students, helping them gain college access.  “For around 10 years after school, we would work with students who didn’t have computers, first-gen students, helping them navigate the college application process, and just seeing these great minds who are undermatched,” said Carter “It was 4 counselors to about 5,000 students. The teacher-to-student ratio was just crazy. That was just, when you see something wrong, you’re like, ‘I got to fix it’. And so that was kind of like before A Long Talk was created.”  

Kamal also spoke about his business partner Kyle, whom he met at Hampton University, his “Brother for Life”. Kyle is also a father, works in the education field, and has been a principal and in leadership roles throughout the education field for 25+ years. When speaking about his background, Kamal notes “I’m a father first.  That’s important because that leads to our origin story.”

Abdul: How did A Long Talk come about? What was the vision of starting A Long Talk, and how has it grown to where it is today? 

Kamal Carter: Our journey began unexpectedly when George Floyd’s murder prompted action from our kids. Following a conversation sparked by his son’s experience with racial tensions, my friend Kyle and I decided to take action. Despite not having a formal plan, we embarked on a mission to address racial injustice through education and activism. A pivotal moment occurred when a coach’s open-minded response to Kyle’s frustrations catalyzed a transformation towards anti-racism. This inspired us to create A Long Talk, an initiative aimed at activating anti-racist actions. Three years later, our grassroots movement has grown to 20,000 members, engaging in impactful work across the nation. Despite the lack of a structured business plan, our dedication remains unwavering as we continue to confront systemic racism head-on. You can hear more about the origin here. 

Abdul: You know a lot of people talk about racism. They talk about being not racist, but your platform is all about anti-racism. Can you go deeper and explain the importance of anti-racism?

Kamal: In today’s society, being non-racist isn’t enough. We can’t simply stand by and passively reject racism; we must actively oppose it. Just as we wouldn’t tolerate child abuse happening next door, we shouldn’t tolerate racism happening in our communities. Yet, there’s a dangerous normalization of staying silent in the face of racism, perpetuating ignorance, and allowing harmful beliefs to persist unchallenged. It’s not just about hate; often, it’s about repeating learned behaviors or social media rhetoric without critical examination. By remaining silent, we’re complicit in allowing racism to thrive. We need to shift from being bystanders to being active allies in the fight against racism, just as we’ve done with other forms of discrimination like sexism and bullying. This means challenging offensive remarks and behaviors, even if they don’t directly affect us. It’s about interrupting the status quo and preventing tragedies like the one in Buffalo by addressing racism at its roots. We need to start teaching anti-racism early, just like we do with other forms of discrimination, to empower future generations to recognize and combat racism effectively. 

Abdul: How did you first get introduced to the world of sailing?

Kamal: It’s fascinating how opportunities unfold unexpectedly. During my time at Hampton University, I’d always heard about the sailing program with it being the only HBCU Sailing Team in the country but never had the chance to engage with it. However, after the entire athletic department at Georgetown (coaches, staff and administrators) participated in A Long  Talk, Fifteen of their teams scheduled induvial A Long Talk sessions and sailing was one of those teams.  Meeting the head coach and an engaged student-athletes it became clear that the next generation of sailors were interested in learning about anti-racism and making that a part of the culture.  This initial connection led us to collaborate with Stanford Sailing as well. Now, we’re excited to expand our involvement with more sailing programs, including Yale Sailing, showcasing how our work is gaining traction and making a difference. Learn more about the Georgetown Sailing conversation here.

Abdul: Has there been anything that you’ve learned about sailing, from these initial interactions and conversations? 

Kamal: For me, delving into sailing terminologies like Commodore and Rear Commodore has been a learning journey. Also, I’ve learned a lot from US Sailing’s first DEI Intern, Preston Anderson, who is also a olunteer assistant coach withGeorgetown Sailing.  I’ve gained insights into the challenges of diversity within sailing. It’s no secret that sailing lacks diversity, and the key is to foster diversity of thought first. By embracing different perspectives, we create an inclusive environment where individuals from diverse backgrounds feel welcome and valued. It’s about breaking away from stereotypes and recognizing the humanity in each person, regardless of their background or identity. This shift towards inclusivity is crucial for creating a truly welcoming and diverse sailing community.

Abdul: You’ve been having these conversations with different sailing programs all around the country. Have you noticed any common takeaways or themes with the activations?

Kamal: Consistency is crucial, and we’re straightforward about our mission. In every field, including sailing, there will always be resistance to change, especially when challenging the status quo. We’ve encountered pushback from those who resist false concepts like being “woke,” despite its positive meaning within the Black community for decades. Some individuals cling to outdated beliefs and even resort to degrading attitudes, such as denying women leadership roles in sailing. It’s disheartening to witness such behavior, but we focus on engaging with those who are open to dialogue and empathy. We’re not here to argue or change hearts & minds; instead, we are here to sort activate those with empathy who are around us. Our approach is about activating non-racists and encouraging them to become anti-racists. We understand that not everyone will embrace this shift, and that’s okay; our focus is on working with the willing. Despite encountering resistance, we remain steadfast in our commitment to fostering inclusivity and diversity within the sailing community. 

Abdul: How important would you say DEI education is in the sailing community from your experience so far?  

Kamal: When people step out of their bubbles and engage with those who are different from them, it becomes harder to hold onto stereotypes or prejudices. It’s about extending an olive branch, having conversations, and challenging preconceived notions. These interactions can lead to unexpected friendships and deeper connections that transcend generations of misunderstanding. In the world of sailing, it’s essential to recognize athletes not just for their accomplishments on the water but also for their lived experiences and humanity. Acknowledging and empathizing with the challenges and joys individuals face off the water is integral to building a truly inclusive community. Ultimately, DEI efforts are about creating spaces where everyone feels welcome, valued, and understood. It’s about recognizing the humanity in each person and being open to learning from their experiences. By embracing diversity in all its forms, we can break down barriers, foster empathy, and build stronger, more connected communities within sailing and beyond. I want to be clear, A Long Talk is not DEI.  No knock against DEI, I believe it is foundational &  vital.  We are ARA- Anti-Racism Activation.  Our goal is once people learn and are activated, the goal is for them to do something to oppose racism in whatever capacity they can, no matter how small or big.  If its challenging a racist joke at the dinner table, on a team, in a locker room, in a board room. Wherever they can affect change, interrupt ignorance, problematic behavior, policies, behavior.   

Abdul: What does Black History Month mean to you personally? 

Kamal: Black history is not just for Black people—it’s an integral part of our shared American history. Unfortunately, much of this history has been overlooked or neglected in traditional curricula, leaving gaps in our understanding of the past. As you mentioned, growing up, you had to seek out books and resources to learn about the contributions and struggles of Black Americans that were not included in your school’s curriculum. The analogy of trying to assemble Ikea furniture without directions is fitting—without a comprehensive understanding of our shared history, it’s challenging to make sense of the present and navigate toward a better future. Black history is not a separate entity; it’s intertwined with American history in profound ways. By recognizing this and incorporating diverse perspectives into our education, we can gain a more holistic understanding of our nation’s story. Our approach to highlighting both well-known Black figures and white hidden heroes of history on our social media during Black History Month. The majority of Americans have not been taught about white people who played a role in the Civil Rights Movement, in the Underground Railroad, etc… By amplifying the stories of individuals who have made significant contributions to our society but may not have received the recognition they deserve, you’re helping to fill in the gaps and inspire a new generation of activists and empathetic citizens. Also, learning about events like the Tulsa massacre at a young age can be eye-opening and thought-provoking, leading to deeper discussions and reflections on the injustices of the past and their reverberations in the present. Ultimately, embracing Black history as integral to our collective narrative and studying it alongside other aspects of American history is essential for fostering understanding, empathy, and progress. It’s about acknowledging the full spectrum of human experiences and contributions that have shaped our nation and working towards a more inclusive and just society for all.  

Abdul: What advice would you give to someone who hasn’t been exposed to diversity, trying to get themselves introduced to the DEI space and join these conversations?  

Kamal: Giving yourself grace is crucial, especially when entering conversations about race and social justice. It’s okay to not have all the answers or to make mistakes along the way. What’s important is a willingness to learn, grow, and engage in meaningful dialogue. Progress over perfection is a powerful mindset to adopt. Instead of striving for flawless execution, focus on taking small steps forward and continuously improving. By embracing this approach, individuals can feel more empowered to join the conversation and contribute to positive change, knowing that they don’t have to have all the answers from the start. Our experience with launching A Long Talk initiative demonstrates the power of starting small and building momentum over time. From a simple video to engaging legendary coaches and organizations across various sectors, the impact of our work has been remarkable. It’s a testament to the importance of inviting people into the conversation and creating a space where learning and growth can thrive. By extending grace to ourselves and others, we can foster an environment of understanding, empathy, and collective progress. Each step taken, no matter how small, contributes to a larger movement towards a more inclusive and equitable society. So let’s continue to learn, grow, and make mistakes together on this journey towards positive change. Our goal is to put an anti-racist at every dinner table in America.  Join us! 


Ways to Get Involved with A Long Talk 

Click Here to access A Long Talk’s website to see the work they’ve done and join conversations throughout the rest of the year. 

Click Here to view A Long Talk’s activation with the Georgetown Sailing Team