As May drew to a close, myself and other members of the LGBTQ+ community were looking forward to the month of June, which marks the celebration of Pride. As the George Floyd tragedy unfolded at the end of May, I can speak for myself and other members of the community by saying: there was little to be prideful of.
Despite being a member of a minority group, as a white gay man, I know that I'll never truly understand or be able to relate to the struggles of Black people in America. I also know that the privilege I benefit from can be weaponized against institutional racism and inequality. Particularly as a leader of a visible business that stands for wellness, it was immediately clear that we had the power to influence change.
Here's what we're doing:
- Taking a clear stand: We've been charitable and value-driven since the founding of the company, so this was easy and immediate for us. We put up messaging that spoke directly to the issue and didn't dance around it. Using terms such as "Black lives matter" and "police brutality" is important, because those are the realities. We have seen some blowback -- customers saying they will no longer buy from us - but we do not care, nor do we want their money.
Opening our wallets: Speaking of money, this is mandatory if you're going to be vocal as a brand about the BLM movement. The financial gap between Blacks and the rest of society is vast and blatant. Money talks, and you need to give. We donated $40,000 to mental health causes in May -- more critical than ever for communities of color dealing with trauma - and thousands of more dollars in June since the beginning of the unrest.
Making space for our employees to grieve, listen, and act: We are a relatively diverse group of employees -- 12 full-timers, the majority of whom are LGBTQ+, many non-white. We have Black employees in our full time and freelance networks, but are not nearly diverse enough on that front.-- we have more work to do. The biggest thing we can do for them is to allow them to speak their minds - unfiltered - internally and externally on social media without fear of consequence. We've gathered together to protest peacefully as a team in Brooklyn and Manhattan and are doing our best to listen to, and actively recruit Black voices into our personal and brand narratives.
- Taking Electoral Action: As Barack Obama shared with the country, change in this form happens primarily at the state and local level. Governors, Mayors, DAs, and City Councilmen have a direct influence on police and local criminal justice systems and they are the ones who need to feel the pressure to reform and rebuild. We are working on a brand platform under our charitable arm, "Gravity Cares" to facilitate voter registration and encourage people to educate themselves on not only federal but local issues that directly impact their communities.
There is no perfect way to respond to a crisis like this. We are simply trying our hardest to be allies to the Black community, learn and hold ourselves accountable for any mistakes, and keep moving forward.