By now, we’ve all received dozens of statements of support in our in-boxes—from social justice organizations like Ella Baker Center for Human Rights to arts organizations like San Francisco Opera to community funders like the Denver Foundation to private foundations like the Kenneth Rainin Foundation. Heck, Lucky Jeans went dark for Black Out Tuesday.
Does your organization need to add one more statement?
Absolutely. This is a critical movement, and the tidal wave of voices calling for justice from all corners of society amplifies the urgency and potency of the message that Black Lives Matter. Your voice is important, because systemic racism has influenced and infiltrated every facet of life and work. Even when your mission is to sell denim pants.
How to do it:
1. Be clear about where you stand.
The hallmark of any nonprofit brand is authenticity. So the first question you must ask yourself is whether your statement is authentic or opportunistic. Don’t embellish the actions you’ve taken. No organization has completed their DEI journey. We are all at different stages of learning and growth. This isn’t the time to pat yourself on the back. A statement is even stronger coming from an organization that can acknowledge its missteps and commit to greater change.
2. Share your emotions, but don’t let them dominate.
Part of being a true ally is not re-centering the conversation around your emotions. Whether you’re feeling anger, outrage, fear, sadness, grief, hopefulness, hopelessness, or passion, it’s important to acknowledge the emotions that drive you in your response, but don’t let how this affects you and your organization take center stage.
3. Be unequivocal in your support.
Consider this statement from Opportunity Fund and Acción:
To all of our colleagues and clients who are people of color, and especially our Black colleagues and clients: We stand with you. To the communities in which Black business owners live and work: We grieve with you. To those, all around the globe, who are protesting peacefully, demanding justice and an end to violence: We rise up with you.
Most statements begin with a clear statement that they believe Black lives matter. They state that they are outraged with state-sponsored murder, and they acknowledge that police violence exists in a larger framework of systemic racism, and anti-Black oppression.
4. Say their names.
George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbury, David McAtee and the thousands of other names that stretch back over the centuries. Calling attention to the murders of these individuals reminds us that each of these men and women were human beings who were fathers, sons, daughters, and lovers. Empathy is an essential element to change, and acknowledging these individuals reminds us of the brutality of each loss.
5. Consider how systemic racism is present in your work
Use this moment of reflection to consider your mission through a new lens. One example of this is History Colorado which committed to documenting the expressed emotions of the moment. They said:
“We do not just reflect on history and collect it. We are working, along with Colorado residents, to build a widely inclusive history of our state that enables us to better understand the many layers of our collective yet richly diverse story. We know that illuminating the truths of our past—even and especially when it is hard to look at—is essential to our ability to move forward, and those truths are the seeds of a just and equitable future.”
6. Translate words into action.
State, explicitly, what steps your organization will be taking to fight racism. If you can’t make that kind of statement, re-examine your motivation for posting. We are called upon to consider how our own actions as institutions perpetuate systems of inequity. Being bold, being brave, and taking responsibility is essential to change. Consider how the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco stated this:
“As a museum, we struggle to find an appropriately robust response to the horrific reality of a society structured around white supremacy. The fact is that art museums have not done enough. …As a first step, we must start by looking within ourselves. If we pride ourselves as guardians of a historical art collection, we must contend with the very history of how our museum came to be. Avery Brundage, whose collection forms the nucleus of this institution, espoused racist and anti-Semitic views. We have removed his name from museum initiatives but have yet to address this history in a fully open and transparent way. Only by publicly condemning Brundage’s racism and examining the foundation of our museum can we become an even greater source of healing and connection.”
7. Invite participation.
Canal Alliance guided their readers to take these actions, for example:
Want to learn more?
Many organizations have composed brilliant, passionate pieces. You can see a cross-section of them here.
Communications Network also published this helpful guide.