Essay by: Mike Shesterkin, Exec. Director

This week, we’re taking a break from our series on sustainable business leadership to lift-up the Thanksgiving holiday and recognize some of the great work that’s going on in Detroit and SE Michigan for which we are thankful.

It was then Secretary of State William H. Seward who drafted the “Proclamation of Thanksgiving” that was issued by President Lincoln on October 3, 1863 “…marking the Proclamation last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens…”.[i] The proclamation was prompted by a petition from Sarah Josepha Hale, author of the poem “Mary had a Little Lamb”, writer and co-founder of “American Ladies Magazine”. Hale was a champion of women’s rights and advocated for a number of justice issues, including higher education for women.

It shouldn’t be lost on any of us that our national Thanksgiving holiday was birthed at a time wherein our nation was undergoing its greatest unrest: The Civil War. We would do well, perhaps, to commemorate this fact tomorrow, as we gather – in whatever way we can.

Amidst all that is going on, we have a myriad of things for which we ought to be thankful, and in that vein, what follows are a few things for which I’m thankful.

I’m thankful for the folks at We Make Michigan; for their tireless work to prepare for a contested election, and what looks like the avoidance thereof. While many of us have been puzzling about what amounts to the seemingly arcane process of “certifying the election”, the folks at We Make Michigan have been planning and strategizing to combat the subterfuge that’s been going on in our state these last few weeks. We should make no mistake: There are people, in leadership roles within our state government, who would, had it not been for the work of We Make Michigan, very likely have undermined the election certification process. They very well may still do so; however, as of this writing, it seems things will progress, and the will of “we the people” in Michigan will be made known.

In addition to the work of We Make Michigan, and on behalf of all of us at SMSBF, I am particularly thankful for the work of two people who’ve been nominated to receive SMSBF’s Triple Bottom Line Leader award for 2020: Bekah Galang, of Avalon International Breads and Rishi Moudgil, of GreenLight Fund.

Here’s what Ben Dueweke, who nominated Bekah, had to say about Bekah’s work:

“Bekah has worked with Avalon International Bakery for many years and across all sectors of the company. Within each area, she brings with her the spirit of the triple bottom line. Whether it’s the keen focus on local and organic supply chains to be used in their delicious foods, developing HR policies that are equitable and financially sustainable for all employees, or engaging the neighborhood and community, Bekah and Avalon International Breads are quiet champions and exemplary models of sustainable business practices.”

Here’s what Neil Hawkins, who nominated Rishi, had to say about Rishi’s work:

“Rishi is a leader in the social impact movement. He founded the Center for Social Impact at U of M’s Ross School of Business; he has proven himself instrumental in mentoring and educating young people, consulting with, and providing leadership to social enterprises and non-profit organizations.

Rishi has created practical learning programs across a dozen schools and colleges, including the Social Impact Challenge with the City of Detroit. He led the creation of a regional Social Innovation Summit for cutting edge concepts for social progress; he also led the creation of social entrepreneurship competitions and related pipeline support.

Rishi is currently the Executive Director of the GreenLight Fund Detroit. GreenLight’s works to shift life outcomes and is “laser focused on combating poverty” through upward economic and social mobility.

GreenLight Fund’s first social investment was the “Center for Employment Opportunities”, which is fully operational and being led by Detroit native, Margrit Allen. Working within the workforce development network, CEO works to reduce the barriers to job placement that confront the more than 2,500 returning citizens who call Detroit home.”

SMSBF’s Triple Bottom Line (TBL) Business Leader Award celebrates business and social enterprise leaders who are advancing the movement toward a local, diverse, resilient, just, and democratic triple bottom line — people, planet, profit — economy in Detroit and SE Michigan. Nominations are still open, so please consider giving thanks for the work of someone you know who’s making a difference bringing about social, environmental, and economic justice in our community.

Here’s to hoping you have a blessed Thanksgiving holiday with your loved ones!

[1] DeVore, C. (2019). How President Lincoln Created Thanksgiving. Forbes.

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