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Published:May 15th, 2007 09:49 EST
Judyth Piazza chats with Norma Thompson Hollis, Author and Speaker

Judyth Piazza chats with Norma Thompson Hollis, Author and Speaker

By Judyth Piazza CEO (Editor)


If award-winning entrepreneur and author Norma Thompson Hollis was a member of the Rutgers basketball team, you can bet she would have shot back at Imus after his derogatory comment about nappy headed hoes ". But she would have done it with grace.

Hollis` smooth voice and penchant for words have positioned her as a guru to professional speakers. Her bestselling book The Process to Become a Professional Speaker " is a staple amongst public speakers.

Hollis and her innovative speakers bureau have been a leading force in the $50 billion public speaking industry for 11 years, representing such A-list talent as Tavis Smiley, Jeff Johnson, Ananda Lewis, Dr. Ben Chavis, Yolanda King, Donna Brazile, Willie Jolley, George Curry and The Apprentice`s Omarosa.

In 1996, Hollis launched Speakers Etcetera as one of the few full service " speakers bureau in the country, offering training and development programs in addition to traditional booking services. Next, she created the first online directory of African American speakers to fill the gap of Black voices missing from the public speaking industry. Black Speakers Online has grown rapidly as corporate America, educational institutions and meeting planners reached out for diversity voices that are more representative of the 21st century`s global society. Hollis` one stop shop " approach has yielded a wellspring of innovation and produced a colorful crop of multicultural voices. Now Hollis is gearing up to lead a new wave of diversity voices through her newest division, Diversity Speakers Online.

Hollis is no stranger to adversity. As a Black woman in a predominantly White industry, she has faced numerous obstacles. Hollis has always relied upon her voice to carry her through uncharted waters and it is her voice that has attracted speakers of all ethnicities. Hollis has coached celebrities, politicians, top corporate executives and even talk show hosts. Too bad Imus did not meet Hollis before his recent blunder " she might have saved him his job.

When a Los Angeles writer interviewed Hollis about Imus` racial slur, Hollis was quick to respond.

It`s a shame that in a world where diversity is growing rapidly, someone with the ability to impact others with his own powerful voice, lacks sensitivity to the impact of his words. So many people aspire to have a voice and an opportunity to share their perspectives with the world. Someone who is already in this position, even with the aim to "shock` others, must still uphold his personal responsibility to use the Power of Voice® without creating chaos.

We need to be careful of whom we choose to represent us - whether on TV, radio or stage. Voice is a powerful weapon with the ability to create peace or chaos. The way we use our voice sets the tone for the world we live in.

Haven`t we learned as a society that inclusion is necessary? How many more public incidents will it take for us to learn that we cannot risk our unity as a nation? And there is much more happening that is never publicized. My company represents speakers who have stories of unspoken racial incidents, how they have dealt with them, how a person can change their mindset to address non-inclusion attitudes, and ultimately, find inspiration to take responsibility for the power of your voice.

Maybe this is yet another lesson for us in our journey to create a world of inclusion and teach personal responsibility. In my mind, firing Don Imus is not enough. Why not use this incident to create opportunities for more inclusion as we move forward - more diversity on radio and TV, greater opportunities for diversity in panel discussions, lectures and other public speaking events. When the major networks make inclusion a priority, then there will be major change. Until then, we will hear more from the Imus` of the world and less from those who truly represent the voice of this country.

We need to set standards to use the Power of Voice® in a responsible way and maintain ethics of inclusion in our freedom of expression. "

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