Make Lasting Change As A Creative Business Owner

25 May 2020.
George Floyd.
A tipping point.

Business as usual, my sadness met with apathy. This isn't the first time my blood boils and my heart cries when a Black person is killed by the police, but I can't really do anything, right? My privilege allowed me to carry on a few days more.

The days following felt like a tidal shift. The revolutionary fire had been reignited. A strong and rightful push of Black Lives Matter art and messages made its way across social media. And so began protests, riots, we called on our *injustice* system for better. Uncomfortable topics, calling out large influencers, let down by fellow creatives, friends lost. Sitting face to face with my shame, I realized, there was something I could do, after all, and it starts with my community.

As a business owner, you are told from the start to have a clear idea of your audience and who your ideal client is. I modeled my ideal client after the things I liked and let my art call upon any and all, because to me it was an unspoken rule; any and all are welcome here.

What I didn't take the time to realize is that unspoken rules are not clear for the oppressed. It is an unspoken rule that if someone calls the police on me I will, at most, be arrested. Not Murdered. For Black, Trans-Black, Gay Black, Black Indigenous and the like, this is unfortunately not an unspoken rule and therefore cannot be assumed. My privilege has blinded me.

For me right now it is not a question of when "business as usual" continues, but how. Here's how I want my business to change; I want to find new ways to show oppressed communities (Black, LQBTQIA+, Latinx, Indigenous and beyond) that they are welcome here. I want to learn new ways to respectfully include them in my art, and make it a spoken rule that they are welcome and valued here. I am imperfect, I am learning and unlearning, but I hope these steps can help as a catalyst for real change, deep within our souls and system. Black Friends, your life matters to me.

I hope those of you reading my post have made it this far. It's incredibly important to discuss how we can actually change our businesses and implement this spoken rule of inclusivity so we can disrupt the previous idea of "business as usual". Here are some actionable steps business owners can take;

Understand and Know Your Implicit Bias
A couple months ago my husband and I dedicated time to take these implicit bias tests from Harvard to better understand where we stand and how we can begin to unlearn. It felt good to take this step. Make no mistake, we ALL have bias. It's crucial that we understand and acknowledge where we are in our bias so we can take the appropriate steps to move forward.

Showcase Diversity In Your Work
As a calligrapher I often share quotes written in my script or create examples of work with fake couple names for photoshoots. I want to make a point of catering my exemplar work to include more diverse communities. Moving forward I pledge to honor LGBTQ+ couples, because their love is worthy. I want to seek out quotes from Black visionaries, because their voices need to be heard. I want to showcase more Indigenous names and invite these groups to view my art as something for them. Show them you SEE them and VALUE them. It needs to be spoken.

Question Your Current Business Model
How diverse is your referral list? Am I hiring/collaborating with a diverse team? These are two questions I've asked myself this week. Shamefully my answers were "not very" and "no". My goal is to change this and to continually check myself moving forward.

Remain Open-Minded
Think you've got this all figured out? Think again. As a white cis-woman I will never know what it's like to have a hard life made harder because of the color of my skin. I will never be perfect when it comes to allyship, but I won't show up pretending to be, either.

Don't Be Color-Blind
If you don't see color, you don't see injustice. That mindset erases Black culture, Black heritage, and shrouds the inequality that so desperately needs to be changed. Don't discredit Black history, learn from it. And while we're on the subject of color, please don't use Black people as your "poster child" or to show you aren't racist, that's called tokenism, and if you aren't familiar with that word I invite you to investigate. Now is not the time to scramble for Black clients or models so you can create last-minute content to show how inclusive your brand is, it isn't about your brand right now. Rather, now is the time to implement new ways of making Black people feel valued and part of your brand story. Make the space in your community to include them moving forward, but give Black creators the spotlight right now.

Lead Your Community
This. Is. Not. A. Trend. Black lives matter always, and will not be saved by a momentary burst of passion. This is going to be a long road ahead, but one worth traveling. Use your voice long after social media "performers" lose their steam. If you're on social media, you're an influencer. No matter how big or small your platform is, use it for good. Influence the change you want to see. Make "business as usual" different than it was before.

Amplify their voices, offer monetary support when you can, hold yourself accountable, offer compassion, do your research, appreciate Black culture, honor Black love, allow yourself to be a work in progress. RESPECT OTHERS.

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