Here’s the message I shared with the Serial Marketers community this week:
Hey everyone, it’s been a trying several days for many of us in the States, and also for our friends connected to us around the world. The murder of black Americans, followed by many instances of physical attacks and arrests on the press, fly in the face of our country’s ideals — even if the country itself was founded through the oppression of others.
Running a marketing community, on one hand, makes it seem like there’s little to do. I don’t want to just share some platitude. On the other hand, there’s quite a bit. We have a diverse, passionate, supportive group of people who are sharing their perspectives with others, and most of us are in the business of creating and spreading messages that lead people to action.
Serial Marketers stands with #BlackLivesMatter. If you have ideas for how this community can contribute to the solution and help speak out against oppression while lifting the voices of those who need to be heard, please comment here or DM me.
Meanwhile, thank you all for contributing to the tolerant, pluralistic place where we champion free expression. If you’re working on anything related to the protests and the fight to remedy injustice, share it — we have channels like #selfpromo but also #news, #culture, and others that could be relevant. And most importantly, keep building up others in the community so that we’re all stronger to fight these fights together.
The first person to respond was DRK Beauty founder Wilma Mae. She wrote:
“There is definitely a way for everyone to help. Our DRK Beauty Healing initiative which is giving away free therapy to women of color has already raised 1,000 donated therapy hours, and we aim to raise 10,000 and then raise money from brands and philanthropists. It is now more urgent given the recent events. We need help with access to brands who are donating money and also access to more therapists.”
Wilma was kind enough to join our Serial Marketers Salon video chat series this week. Martin Obiozor joined from Houston, and both helped us relate to these macro issues in a very real way. Sarah Lewen, one of the newest Serial Marketers members, promptly shared her own exchange with Wilma and what it meant for her.
I need conversations like this. I need to hear the language of these conversations.
After spending most of my primary and middle school years at a private Jewish day school, I quipped that my Hebrew vocabulary equipped me better linguistically to command a defense of Mount Masada than to order in an Israeli restaurant (my parents who paid for my education do not think this joke is funny).
My English vocabulary is prolific compared to my Hebrew, but it does not equip me well to have conversations about gender, race, or anything much deeper beyond what one might discuss with friends at a Mets game. That’s why essays such as what Kareem Abdul-Jabbar shared in the Los Angeles Times are so helpful. And it’s why I’m so inspired by gifted leaders such as Sheriff Chris Swanson of Genesee County, Michigan and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. Their words and actions are clear, eloquent, and full of conviction. They have the language and the tools to deliver it.
During the Serial Marketers chat, I shared how the national reaction to George Floyd’s killing seemed different this time. It felt like the people speaking out against it weren’t just prominent black Americans or Democratic politicians. Condemnation of the murderers seemed faster and widespread. There’s an arc in this country that seemed to go from “Black lives matter? No, all lives matter!” to “Okay, black lives matter” to “Black Lives Matter!” That tempest has been raging for hundreds of years, but the latest wave came over us fast.
It reminds me of the arc of the marriage equality movement that went from “Marriage is between a man and a woman” to “Marriage is ideally between a man and a woman” to “If you think gay marriage is expensive, just wait until you discover the fees for gay divorce.” During that time, vodka brands like Absolut and Smirnoff were among the first to champion equality. As public sentiment quickly changed, we were treated to headlines like, “JCPenney defends ads featuring gays” in 2012. A headline that now seems laughably outdated would have been unthinkable five years before that. That ad came less than a month after our so-called socialist antichrist of a president embraced marriage equality; a family values, heartland brand from Plano, TX almost beat him to it.
Maybe there’s a hint of this in the change that’s happening now. Maybe this is when brands choose a side, even if only because it’s safer to do so. Corporations can finally say that it’s wrong for certain police officers, all too often with documented racist views, to murder black men.
If some people have an issue with that, and those same people have an issue with seeing more black and brown and all kinds of colors of faces on corporate boards and executive teams, then that’s not just an acceptable but a welcome loss. Good riddance to the racists.
To use the racists’ parlance, if racists don’t like it here, they can go back to where they came from. The good news about the world today is that fewer and fewer places will take them.
During the video chat, Wilma expressed the current changes as something that feels like a societal birth canal experience. Great – yet another reference I’m ill-prepared to talk about.
I love it though. I can appreciate this much: through the birth canal, there’s a lot of pain. It’s one of the nastiest experiences there can be for everyone involved (except the partner who gets to wait with the camera nearby).
No one knows what’s really going to happen on the other side, but damn, there’s potential. There’s a new world out there. And there’s a lot of love to go around.
That’s the world we’re heading toward. Let’s get through this, even as there’s so much more of a mess that we need to get through.
As we go through this canal, and as we mourn those who’ve died trying to get us through it, let’s come out singing so all those who love us can hear us on the other side:
Oh, freedom over me!
And before I’d be a slave
I’ll be buried in my grave
And go home to my Lord and be free
Black. Lives. Matter.