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The past month felt like a pivotal turning point in the fight for racial justice, especially for Black lives. But hey, I don’t have to tell you that, right? You saw anti-racism authors topping the New York Times Bestseller lists for weeks. You saw your Instagram feed decked out in black squares for #BlackoutTuesday. And you might have even made it to a protest in your city.
But roughly one month after George Floyd’s murder, my company and I are asking ourselves, “What else? How do we keep this movement going after social media has moved on?”
While buying an anti-racism book or sharing a post on Instagram is moving in the right direction, it is decidedly not enough if we want lasting, systemic change. And while our company isn’t brand new to social justice education and activism, we have a lot of work to do to create a truly anti-racist organization and community. (Hey, we’re here for it!)
Now, before we dive in, let me give you a lay of the land:
- This plan is divided into four sections that move from the inside out: Personal (me), Team (our staff), Company (our company as a whole), and Community (the people we serve). Within each section, I’ll share specific steps we will be taking toward anti-racism.
- Wherever possible, I’ll be sharing metrics and deadlines so that you know when I intend for that item to be accomplished.
- I’ll also be sharing a check-in post each quarter to let you know how things are going, what we’ve accomplished, what obstacles we’re facing, and if we’re adding anything to the plan moving forward.
- This plan was created by me (Melyssa Griffin) and my company’s COO, Kat. However, we also worked with Beth Ruffin, a Diversity and Inclusion Consultant, who gave us feedback and made helpful suggestions about how this plan could be improved. What you’re seeing is the final product of our collaborations!
I’m sharing this action plan here for two reasons:
- To publicly show our support for Black Lives Matter, share the steps we’ve already been taking as a company prior to the last month’s events, and share the many new steps we will be taking toward ending systemic racism and oppression. If you’re going to be part of a community and even invest your money in a brand, you deserve to know what kind of company you’re supporting, and whether or not that company aligns with your values.
- So that you can hold me and my company accountable. We’re not here to post an Instagram caption and call it a day — we’re ready to do the work and take aligned action. If we’re not living up to the goals we set in our plan, you have every right to tell me. We have our own accountability fail-safes in place, but you’re always welcome to let us know where we’re not living up to these values, or where we could be doing better.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s dive in already, shall we?!
I’ve included this action plan in both podcast format and written format. Both of them include roughly the same info, so feel free to consume in whichever medium you prefer below!
This section will detail the actions I (Melyssa Griffin) will personally be taking in my own life. As the CEO and founder of this company, and the person whose face is all over the place on this website (seriously, who invited this chick?), I think it’s important to know how I am personally prioritizing social justice.
Some of these things are practices I’ve already been doing, but many are things that are new to me. Here are the steps I will personally be taking…
1. I will not speak at an event (digital or in-person) that doesn’t make a significant effort to highlight BIPOC voices. If I am asked to speak at an event that doesn’t highlight BIPOC voices, I will educate the event host about why I am declining their offer and how they can do better.
2. I will continue reading, following, and learning from BIPOC authors, creators, and educators (about all topics, not just social justice). I’ll also continue to consciously consume media content from BIPOC creators, rather than media/tv/art that only centers white voices. This is something I’ve personally been conscious of over the last few years, and I plan to make an even stronger effort to seek out BIPOC voices.
3. I will be conscious of where my personal spending is going. If there is a BIPOC-owned alternative to something I am purchasing, I will make an effort to purchase that. Websites that will facilitate this process are: WeBuyBlack, The Black Wallet, Five Fifths, and Official Black Wall Street.
4. Systemic racism has many arms. I believe it’s important to pick the part of social justice that you have the means and desire to impact the most. For me, that is in Criminal Justice Reform and working with youth. As such, I will be getting more involved in organizations like Hustle 2.0.
Hustle 2.0 is an incredible organization I’ve volunteered with for the past year. They work with incarcerated people to teach them entrepreneurial and job skills, as well as to help them heal from the tremendous trauma and pain they endured during their life. The “Prison Reform” highlight on my Instagram details my experience volunteering at a Super Max Prison in California, and what the experience taught me about systemic racism and the prison system.
Our company is donating a new website to Hustle 2.0 (courtesy of our amazing Creative Director!) and I’ll be personally helping them with some digital marketing strategy. We also plan to hold a larger fundraiser later this year, which will pay the tuition fee for more incarcerated people to go through the program.
I am also exploring how I can support additional organizations in the Criminal Justice and youth-outreach spaces, such as The People’s Budget LA, Showing Up for Racial Justice, and Inner City Arts. I’ll share more in the next quarterly report about what my involvement in these organizations (or others) ends up looking like.
5. I will continue to have uncomfortable conversations with family, friends, and strangers if I come across something that I feel is racist or biased.
6. My preferred gender pronouns have been added to my email signature, social media profiles, and Zoom name.
7. I will ask for feedback from my team on my anti-racism leadership, and will create a space for open dialogue where they can come to me if I am making a mistake or not living up to these values.
This section details what my company’s staff will be doing to prioritize social justice education and action going forward. Our team is crucial to everything we do as a company, and their personal education and commitment to social justice will determine how much of an impact we’ll be able to make to end systemic racism and support the BIPOC community. These are the ways we will be collectively becoming anti-racist in our team culture.
1. Every 4-6 weeks, our team will read and discuss a book that centers around social justice. Whenever possible, we’ll hire the author to facilitate our discussion groups or join us for Q&A. The first book we’re reading is The New Jim Crow and our discussion is scheduled for late July.
Other books we’re considering for future reads: How to Be an Antiracist, Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?, and The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America. (Note: These books are linked to black-owned bookstores in Los Angeles. #ByeAmazon!).
2. We’ll continue to have a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Educator host workshops for our team on a quarterly basis and at our annual team retreat. This is something we started doing about a year ago, and we plan to continue indefinitely.
3. All team members will be required to take Dr. Tee’s “Foundations of Social Justice” course, or another similar social justice program. Our entire team is currently enrolled in this live, 8-week program.
Additionally, myself and my COO will be part of Lynne Maureen Hurdle’s “On the Matter of Race, Level 2” mastermind, which runs for 6 months and was created for white people who want to take action against racism.
My company will also provide funding for ongoing education related to social justice if a member of our team wants to continue learning. The amount of funding depends on the program, but we tend to be very generous with ongoing education.
4. We will continue to make a tangible effort to hire BIPOC and create an inclusive environment where they can thrive. Our core team (those who work with our company full-time or on a monthly retainer basis) is currently made of 33% BIPOC, but my commitment is that our staff will be comprised of at least 50% BIPOC by the end of 2020.
Of course, simply having a diverse team is not enough if those people don’t feel like they work in an inclusive environment where their voice is respected, and their experiences and perspective are considered.
The items in this action plan are designed to create an overall culture of inclusivity and awareness so that our team feels safe, comfortable, and seen. We always strive to create an environment where our team can openly discuss any issues they have, whether issues with our company or in their personal life, and this will be no different.
5. Each member of our full-time leadership team will create their own goals and personal action plan for how they will individually embody the principles of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
Ownership is one of our driving values as a company, so beyond this action plan that you’re reading right now, I think it’s important that each member of our leadership team creates their own set of values for how they will prioritize social justice. In July, our leaders will share their plans and goals with the rest of our team, and we will invite our staff to create their own goals, too.
6. Our full-time team will be adding their preferred gender pronouns to their email signature and Zoom accounts, and I’ve invited the rest of our team to do the same.
In this section, we’re discussing my company at large. How do we spend our money? How inclusive is our website? How many BIPOC voices are featured on our podcast? These are all the types of questions I’ll be answering below! There’s a lot to share, so let’s dive in. 🙂
1. We will implement a spending strategy that prioritizes BIPOC and BIPOC owned- or led-businesses. This is a huge area of growth for us, and one that I’m excited to dig into over the coming months and years.
To give you a baseline, if we include ALL of our expenses for the first 5 months of 2020 (Jan through May), 2% of our spending went to BIPOC businesses and people. This percentage includes our spending that went to monopolies like Facebook (advertising) and Stripe/PayPal (processing fees), which are a significant amount of our expenses.
If we remove the monopolies from the equation (basically, any company that doesn’t have a viable competitor that is led or owned by a BIPOC), then the percentage of our spending to BIPOC is 3.2% of our overall expenses. I know, not much better!
Obviously, these percentages are low and concerning. Moving forward, we will be researching BIPOC alternatives to all of the companies we currently pay. This includes everything from the software we use and the bookstores we frequent, to the hotels we work with for our retreats and the people we hire moving forward.
My goal is that by December 2020, our spending to BIPOC (not including monopolies) is at least 15%. By the end of 2021, my goal is for that percentage to be at least 30%.
Now, you might be wondering about this whole “monopoly” thing. Why aren’t there popular, BIPOC-led competitors for things like Facebook Ads and PayPal/Stripe? Well, this Instagram post from Mahdi Woodard explains how systemic this issue is. And this article in Bloomberg dissects how difficult it is to be a Black CEO in the tech world. Both are well worth the read.
I think these are important topics to be questioning and asking ourselves about. We can redirect our spending to small, BIPOC-owned businesses, but when the largest companies are all run by white men, this is the definition of “institutional racism.”
2. We will release a quarterly report to our community to check in on this plan and to share the steps we’ve taken, our expense percentages, and where we currently stand in regards to this plan. We will also continue to work with Diversity and Inclusion Consultant, Beth Ruffin, to check in on our plan on a quarterly basis so that we can pivot and make adjustments as needed.
3. We will be adding a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion statement to our website, future client contracts, terms and conditions, and Facebook group community guidelines by July 3, 2020. It will be strictly enforced.
4. We will continue to use our platform to speak about social justice on an ongoing basis, especially as it pertains to anti-racism and oppression.
5. We will continue to highlight BIPOC voices on our podcast, as contributors for our blog (contributors coming soon, y’all!), and as speakers at our events and retreats. At least 50% of our podcast guests, contributor posts, and event speakers will be BIPOC. For the most part, we are already doing this, but I do believe we can prioritize this even more moving forward.
6. We will hold an annual fundraiser to support an organization that is working to support BIPOC communities and to create a more socially justice world. This year, we are focusing on Hustle 2.0, an organization that helps incarcerated men to learn entrepreneurship and mindset skills.
7. We will review our website copy, emails, and language moving forward to ensure that the way we are communicating is inclusive of people from all races, genders, and backgrounds, rather than being unconsciously biased or privileged. We will finish this review and make necessary changes by July 30, 2020.
We also have already removed all instances of African American Vernacular English (AAVE) from our copy, as this appropriates a language that doesn’t belong to me.
8. We will review all images across our platforms to ensure we are being inclusive of our community members.
9. We will update our Company Core Values by July 10, 2020 to reflect our commitment to social justice. In particular, one of our original Core Values currently reads:
Everyone is welcome here. We speak up when we see injustice.
We believe in using our platforms to spread knowledge and awareness about issues that matter. We believe in building a community that encourages and equips everyday world changers to heal the thoughts that keep them small, grow beyond their wildest dreams and fulfill their highest potential. We’re unafraid to speak up about things that may ruffle feathers—instead, we’re passionate that shining light on darkness is the right thing to do.
While this value states that “everyone is welcome here,” I want to make it more clear that people with racist and oppressive views are not actually welcome in our community or in our programs.
I also think the language of this Core Value could be stronger and more direct overall. We’ll be combing through all of our Core Values over the next week to make sure they are inclusive and reflective of our position on anti-racism and inclusivity.
Finally, we can’t talk about anti-racism without reflecting on what we’ll be doing for and with the community that we serve — you! How will we ensure that our community members feel represented? How will we create communities that are truly inclusive and diverse? That’s what this section is all about.
1. We will revise our community guidelines for our various student, mastermind, and free communities to include our anti-racism values and expectations. We’ll make sure that our members are aware of the guidelines and firmly held to these new standards.
We will also make sure that our community managers and coaches have diversity and inclusion training in order to have culturally sensitive and inclusive conversations that create a safe place for people of all identities.
2. We currently have 5 people (including me) who work as forward-facing coaches or community managers for our various online courses and mastermind programs. All of them are white. Yikes! Yes, I feel embarrassed by this!
I can completely understand how this would create a lack of safety for the BIPOC members of our community. It also forms blind spots within our coaching and community management team.
So, by the end of 2020, my commitment is that at least 50% of our coaches and community managers will be BIPOC, and that we prioritize hiring BIPOC and people from diverse backgrounds moving forward. This is a no-brainer to me and I am deeply sorry for the lack of representation in these critical roles.
3. We will continue learning how we can create an inclusive, culturally sensitive environment that embraces the nuances of diversity instead of leading from an unconscious lens.
We will do this by taking Dr. Tee’s “Foundations of Social Justice” course, Lynne Maureen Hurdle’s “On the Matter of Race” program, through our ongoing social justice book club, through our quarterly DEI trainings, and by continuing to hire BIPOC leaders for our team.
This has personally been one of my biggest learnings — that while I can understand how racism operates systemically, the white lens from which I view the world still brings unconscious biases. I am a forever student in this arena, and committed to unraveling my lens so that I can truly be an inclusive ally.
4. On coaching calls and at retreats, we will ask our students and clients to share their preferred pronouns to create an inclusive environment where one’s identity can be respected and honored.
5. We will be bringing in a facilitator to host Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion workshops for our mastermind coaching programs on a quarterly basis so that our clients can learn about diversity, inclusion, and social justice, too.
Aaaaaand…that’s a wrap, y’all!
As you can see, we have a lot of work to do! But we’re here for it all and already diving in to accomplish each of these goals.
If this work is brand new for you, it might feel a little (or a lot!) uncomfortable. You might feel like you’re going through some sort of “awakening.”
The thing about awakenings is that you can’t unsee what has now been made visible to you. Your eyes are open to the oppression you were causing with your silence and inaction. There’s no going back now — I’m walking right alongside you.
What will you do to continue prioritizing anti-racism in your own life and business?
How will you keep this movement alive in your own heart?
Can you create your own plan of action to hold yourself and your business accountable?
And if racism and oppression aren’t new for you because you’ve experienced them your entire life, then this post is my commitment to you that we are determined to do better and to create an anti-racist organization from the inside out. As Fannie Lou Hamer said, “Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.”
Thank you for being here and for reading. I value you and love you.
Now, let’s do this — we’ve got work to do. <3