Even though we are only halfway through the first year of the new decade, it’s safe to say 2020 is the year that has forever changed us. From the tragic passing of the legendary Kobe Bryant to COVID-19 infiltrating our everyday lives, the economic downturn of a perceived “healthy economy,” and the brutal murders of Ahmaud Arberry, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and Rashard Brooks (to name a few) that fueled a global outcry that Black Lives Matter, this year has been a much-needed wakeup call to humanity.
The recent death of George Floyd created an uprising and response from people of all racial backgrounds and ethnicities, from protests and riots to the removal of confederate monuments and memorials. After 401 years of racial unrest and discrimination, eyeballs across the world grew wide for nearly nine minutes as they watched the death of George Floyd, and they haven’t closed since. While Floyd’s death is not unfamiliar territory to the Black community, this particular incident led leaders and lawmakers to reexamine and deconstruct the racially systemic practices, laws and governing bodies that uphold them. Corporate America is even following suit.
The recent events have turned corporate social responsibility into corporate social justice, with companies like Merck, CitiGroup, Comcast and Compass raising their voices and speaking out to the injustices happening beyond their office walls, as well as the systemic processes occurring inside of their organization.
Other companies like Ben and Jerry’s have been extremely vocal about their stance regarding systemic racism. The company believes that change is a part of business and has their stakeholders and customers to join them in not being complicit by speaking up. Their stance is slightly reminiscent of 2018, when Nike took a stand by releasing their controversial ad with Colin Kaepernick supporting his right to kneel against police brutality during the national anthem. Today, corporations are leaning in more than ever on the cause to support the #blacklivesmatter movement and speak out. If I’m honest, it’s something I never thought I would witness in my lifetime.
The silver lining in all of this has been reimagining what it means to start over and ultimately dismantle the systems that have held back minorities, particularly Black people, for centuries. The recent events have even caused a stir in the communications industry, with call to actions from Black professionals seeking change within the industry.
Most recently, Media Frenzy Global partnered with Obviouslee Marketing to create a lasting impact within our industry through the Act in Solidarity pledge, a call to all leaders in the PR, Marketing and Advertising space to reexamine company culture, systemic processes recruiting efforts and promotion practices that have continuously held Black people back professionally. To date, more than 30 agencies nationwide have signed the pledge.
Pledges and initiatives such as this are the first of many steps that must be taken to see actual change occur. This moment in time is not a trend or a timeline with a start and stop date. This moment in time is not a marketing campaign or a PR strategy that will earn your company countless awards and accolades. It’s a challenge from the disenfranchised – to everyone from the legal and education system to corporate America – to “do better” without delay. The time is now to #actinsolidarity. The time is now to take the conversations and the town halls, and turn them into practices within your organization. The time is now to lead with courage knowing the decisions you make will change lives and professional legacies forever. The time is now to choose what side of history you want to stand on.
2020 is the year that has changed the world forever. It is the change we didn’t see coming that we now understand we needed.