Last Friday we had an open agency discussion about the social events of police brutality that have unfolded in the last few weeks and the ensuing protests. They were ignited by the murder of George Floyd but stoked as well by the deaths of Breonna Taylor, and in recent years Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Nina Pop, and Tony McDade. The list is exasperatingly long. It felt like we needed to talk about it.
The conversation was a good one. Full disclosure: I’m a white, hetero product of middle class upbringing. There are several others like me at our agency, but there are also folks representing all walks of life. We represent almost in equal numbers female voices, LGBTQ, African American, and immigrants. But this was a rare occasion for us to open up to one another directly to discuss, listen, and even plan some ways we as creative service people can do our part to move things in a positive direction.
We’re not always going to get it right. And we talked about the need for a little grace for one another as we try to do the right thing. However, the biggest mistake I feel we can make as an agency, and as individuals would be to provide lip service to these issues without backing it up with action. But the most interesting question we discussed is: what can we do? What can we really do? I’ve been made aware of some discussion around the difference between being an ally, an advocate, and an activist. In the next few paragraphs I’ll be using some of the ideas of Robyn De Leon, a sophomore at Loyola Marymount University in LA. ( firstname.lastname@example.org.) to share what we talked about in our agency discussion. Maybe it can be of help to you.
The ally is someone who doesn’t share the first hand experience of being in an oppressed group but listens, and attempts to understand and support it. By virtue of working closely with a diverse group of people at Circus Maximus, and more broadly in our creative industry each of us can be allies for others by listening. We work on a diverse set of clients, many of whom target different ages, demographics and need insightful messaging drawn from real experience beyond themselves to do it effectively. Through our diverse group of employees, our research, and our work we are exposed to narratives that exist outside of our own and give us the opportunity to see the world through others’ eyes. As an agency we’ve taken to opening spaces for discussions in weekly all agency chats where we share our perspectives with each other. We can be allies by listening and respecting these stories.
The advocate is a person who pleads the cause for another, potentially through legal or political channels. I’ll add business channels to that list. We discussed that as a creative business we have the opportunity to advocate for partners that represent marginalized or underrepresented backgrounds quite regularly. We can be advocates by including women and people of color as production partners, talent, and coworkers. We can also advocate through our clients as part of corporate social responsibility, and through organizations that operate in our industry to include these voices. Free the bid is a good example. And we can also push our clients to include these people and stories in their work. We have these opportunities to advocate for progress every day.
The activist is someone who supports strong actions such as public protests, in support for or opposition to one side of a controversial issue. As political culture has merged with pop culture we’ve had a lot of discussions around this topic, because a lot of our work can feel like activism whether we intend it to or not. As an agency we’ve partnered and participated in Pride, we’ve entertained working with political candidates, or for political causes. Today we’re participating in Blackout Tuesday as a show of solidarity with other creative industries who are demonstrating support for protests, and against police brutality. We can be activists through our work as an agency and as individuals.
It’s not going to be solved in a blog post. I realize that. I don’t have all the answers. I don’t know if I have any of the answers. I recognize it’s not like we can all flip a switch and resolve a social issue as old, as nuanced, and as intricately woven into our country’s fabric as systemic racism. But if we can take time to create spaces for one another to share their feelings, thoughts, and stories so that they don’t feel stifled we can find ways to be allies, advocates, and activists for change.
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Funds devoted to help low-income people, protestors and bystanders who have been unfairly arrested and must post high cash bails (another feature of our unjust system).
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Brooklyn NAACP Repeal #50A
50-a is a NYS statute that carves out unnecessary & harmful secrecy for police, fire and corrections. 50-a is routinely used to shield police misconduct and failed police disciplinary processes from public view. A repeal of 50-a would provide much needed transparency on police misconduct and discipline in New York State, and help address the systemic lack of accountability for officers who engage in misconduct.
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This fund raises money to directly support George’s family with costs related to his death, including funeral and burial expenses, counseling and travel expenses for court proceedings as they continue their fight. The money will also go towards care for his children and their education fund.
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