I wanted to take the opportunity this month to use the blog as an effort to amplify Black voices - in this case, the voice of a strong, beautiful and brilliant Black friend of mine; this is only one of the steps we are taking to be a more inclusive and representative brand (more things in the works!!).

As the Black Lives Matter movement gained momentum over the past few weeks, I've been making an active effort to be better: learning, listening, and engaging in difficult conversations. The other night I reached out to a Black friend of mine, Christina (and if you follow us on social media, you probably saw I posted this story - it was a wake up call!), who I was fortunate to meet weeks before I moved out of NYC about a year ago. I wanted to speak to her, see how she was doing, and have an open conversation. That conversation had my mind reeling; what can I do, how can I do it, and how can I make lasting changes?

This post isn't about me or my experience - I wanted to use this post to amplify Christina's voice. This article she wrote is strong and I feel blessed to have a friend who was so open and honest with me, a friend who could help me empathize with the Black community (although I know I'll never truly understand), a friend who was willing to help me be a better human.

Without further ado...

Is the US prepared for permanent reform and change or is the current environment just another passing phase?

"Being a black educated woman in America I have frequently felt trepidation in voicing my concerns around many issues regarding inclusivity, diversity and empowerment difficult to express. As a result, I have been viewed as unqualified, aggressive and abrasive in my speech. I have received disturbing looks from my white counterparts that would lead me to quick changes in my tone and facial expressions to ensure I created an environment that was comfortable for everyone else but me.

Unbeknownst to my colleagues, behind my forced smile and even-tone were suppressed hardships endured time and time again. Dare I say my suffering is not unique to me only— black people have experienced, and had to swallow, this treatment for generations. It is the pang of discrimination and biases that transpire in and outside of the workplace. Why do I, a black woman, need to always adjust for others comfort, yet rarely feel comfortable or accepted myself? Why do I have to always abide by, and be judged by rules of political correctness, yet have to understand and consistently swallow offensive language?

That actually changed this week for me. For the first time, I was able to have a deep conversation and speak my truth with my white contemporaries and it was liberating. I was given the opportunity to merely be heard and reveal my thoughts concerning what the black community endures, not only in the world but in corporate America too. I am no longer afraid to talk about the uncomfortable conversations and bring awareness to the injustices that occur to blacks in America. As a nation, we need to come together to combat the systematic racism that is at the heart of our society. We must stand united and not divided. It is only in togetherness that we will be able shine a light on the disparities and move forward together building a better America. We must fight to realize the promise of America for ALL AMERICANS.

My passion is to use my creative gifts to bring diversity, inclusivity, and body positivity to my work. It is important to me because I am tired of being a bystander and not narrating my own story. Part of being the change is implementing more diversity corporately. I challenge corporations to be an agent of transformation by creating more opportunities for minorities in management and executive positions that truly reflect what the faces of society looks like. Companies need to have more diverse boards and gain input from more than one or two perspectives (primarily white men and white women).

It is unfortunate and disheartening to realize that the inequalities happening are officially exposing the racial disparities as it lives and breathes today. I am distraught by the injustices inflicted upon George Floyd and the countless other black men and women dying at the hands of corrupt cops and an ineffective system.

Which frankly begs, no, demands the questions: (1) once this settles down, where will you stand? (2) What are you going to do to positively impact and make contributions to the promise of America for every person? (3) What relationships will you intentionally cultivate with people that don’t look like you and help create opportunities for more inclusive and diverse America?"

By Christina Bell

Thank you for taking the time to read this and thank you to Christina for voicing your thoughts and experience. Nothin' but love for you!


Paige Festa

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