Black Lives Matter.
Black Lives Matter.
We are committed to equality for the black community. We also believe that meaningful action is more powerful than words. Our relative public silence should not be perceived as inaction but reflection. More important voices need to be heard right now.
Actions speak louder than words
I was hesitant to publish this article since I loath the idea that this could be seen as a way to serve us, as opposed to serving a cause we strongly believe in.
However, I also understand being silent comes across as inaction. For that reason, I felt the best way to address our position was not to publish a polished statement solely used in our communications. Instead, I have opted to create transparency around our internal communications, and how, as a team, we aim to build a future that serves communities victim of inequality.
Below you will find the full email sent to the Zealous team with my response to how we feel we can best serve the black community, today and beyond.
Internal Zealous Email
Over the last week, the world has reacted to the death of George Floyd at the hand of the police in Minneapolis. This is the latest of many unnecessary incidents which remind us that some communities are treated differently, that racism is still rife within the system and the black community is at risk of bias. In the last week, the #blacklivesmatter movement has sparked marches across the world protesting for equality.
Many companies have reacted immediately, stating the importance of the movement – some with no commitment to meaningful change. This virtue signaling is an empty promise that can be portrayed as capitalising on a situation, not supporting the change that is needed. In the last 20 years, companies have made a point of diversity and inclusion – saying everyone is equal, hire people to fill in diversity criteria, show their support on social media when these tragedies occur…but it is obvious these strategies haven’t worked. The world hasn’t progressed enough. The marches that happened in the ’60s for black rights have continued throughout the decades.
During this time, we, as a company have chosen to be silent. This is not because we don’t care – quite the contrary – we are silent because we feel more important voices need to be heard. We have no interest in reacting to the news and hijacking an important moment. We are listening to the communities voicing their needs to understand how we can support them more meaningfully. This is not about how we react now, this is about what we do every day to counter the bias and enrich those communities that we serve. It is not the big statements that make a change, but the sequences of smaller meaningful actions.
We have in the past committed to these values – they are reflected in who we are, who we serve, and how we serve them. Our team has always been extremely diverse – a diversity that was never enforced by checklists but has come about organically. We have spoken at conferences about the importance of diversity. We engineered the whole of Emerge to be as inclusive as possible and published an article on how we did so to help others integrate best practice into theirs. We’ve had prizes for artists celebrating important events celebrating diversity (e.g. Black History month), built anonymous judging into our platform to remove bias in calls… As a small team, it is impossible for us to represent every community at any given time – but throughout our history, we have demonstrated that our company is open to all, a value which was set from our very first hire.
However, what we have done in our past is not an excuse for inaction. This is why it is important for us, now more than ever, to listen to communities to best understand how we can more meaningfully support them. These cannot be aesthetic changes, they need to be built within our DNA. It is our duty to act, not through a meaningless gesture, but through the tangible, meaningful actions we make every day. These need to be looked at in everything we do – where we post jobs, what projects we run, how we reach out to communities…and will be a constant work in progress.
We know that you are already doing so, but it’s always worth reiterating, when having conversations with our community (organisations and creative), and there are ways in which we can meaningfully help please let me know so we can help get their voices heard, and improve how we function/support communities as a company. And, as we create future opportunities, we will continue to ask ourselves how to create inclusivity in the very fabric of our calls and platform.
Should you feel we can do better, or have questions about any of the above, please get in touch.
All the very best,
We want to do better
We are not perfect, and will never pretend to be. However, we are curious about how to best serve communities to best empower them and we are devoted to positive and meaningful change. We will make mistakes, a sign that we are willing to embrace change and take risks, but we will always make amends and learn from them.
Should you ever have any comments, opinions, ideas about the above, email me directly. (Emails from the community always welcomed – direct sales emails will be marked as spam).
About the author
Guy Armitage founded Zealous to simplify access to opportunities in the creative sector. He was voted Guardian’s Creative Entrepreneur of the Year in 2013, has discussed the world-changing potential of creativity at TED and in Forbes; and is a proud trustee of Firstsite (Colchester) and Arebyte (London). Prior to Zealous, Guy kept the London Stock Exchange open during the 7/7 bombings and founded a creative startup in Cairo. Contact Guy