I am counting down to June 2, 2021, the one-year anniversary of the Black square movement online. June 2, 2020, is the date the world decided to take a stand against the murder of George Floyd. Cities across the world shut down as people took to the street to declare that Black Lives Matter. In the weeks following, companies released statements saying that they didn’t know things were as bad as they were and that they did in fact care about Black lives. Online, the solidarity symbol was a Black square. You saw the square everywhere. Even folks who had never had a Black friend, colleague, or guest on their social platform put squares up.
For those of us leading in white spaces, those initial weeks were challenging. We were grieving. We had watched Black folks die on camera for a long time, but this was the first time that there was a collective acknowledgment of what we have been experiencing. And we were still expected to go to work. Many of us had leaders who spoke up about (in)equity and reached out to say they were with us. Others said nothing at all.
Still, we showed up.
Concerned about future Black recruits and staff, in addition to the Black team members already on board.
In the middle of a global pandemic, floods, fires, and freezes, Black leaders led their teams. We checked on folks’ mental health, made sure their kids were succeeding at virtual school, and fought the flames of Zoom hell. We helped our organizations examine how they could help more Black folks succeed in their whiter-than-white work culture.
All this through George’s funerals. As other Black folks were murdered. Amidst COVID infections and deaths.
We showed up.
Now here we are, in the year anniversary of the ‘racial reckoning‘ that we were told was coming. Other than some statements and some DEI officer positions, not much has changed.
We are still carrying the water.
We are still leading while grieving.
During this year, we have seen George’s face and the video of his murder streaming on every online platform. We relive his traumatic death almost daily. Knowing that we work for people who still do not understand. Supported the insurrectionists. Voted for a toxic, unqualified president and shouted false calms of a rigged election. Who watched boards of directors and supervisors hesitate to promote the Black leader on the team who have long been overlooked.
In the words of Mama Maya – and still we rise.
We have continued to support our teams. Serve on DEI task forces. And on and on.
Though not surprised, we have been disappointed by the outcomes of the letters. The investments we asked for have been limited. The promotions we were eligible for have not included the same perks as our white counterparts.
We have grieved the lies every day.
We have grieved the false promises during each staff meeting.
We have grieved the limitations placed on George’s legacy.
But the beautiful thing about us as Black folx, is we keep showing up. Because, no matter what, we want Black people to make art wherever we are. We want to show folks a different way to lead. We want to show what Black love looks like in action.
We do this though
We are still grieving George and all that he represents for our community. Despite our ongoing grief, we will keep advocating until we get the change we need in our organizations. We will keep sounding the alarm. We will keep showing up. We will keep speaking truth to power that is afraid of the Black leaders they say matter.