newsletter icon
Stay up to date


On Anti-racism and Accountability

Our VP of strategy, Jessica Hartley, is joined by creative director, Nishat Akhtar, strategy director, Ravi Mongia, and executive producer, Leon Anderson, to discuss how industries can deliver transformational change for Black professionals and the steps Instrument is taking to become more anti-racist.

Gallery of the panel, from top left to bottom right: Jessica Hartley, Nishat Akhtar, Ravi Mongia, Leon Anderson,

Jessica Hartley (JH): Hello and welcome. I want to welcome you to the first podcast for Instrument hosted by our strategy discipline here. My name is Jessica Hartley, I am the VP of strategy at Instrument, I have been here a little more than a year and I'm excited to kick off our first podcast in a series focused on the intersectionality of racism and gender and queerness as it relates to the advertising industry. Today, we're going to talk a little bit about how we can combat racism and break down systemic racism and bias in the advertising industry, which is where Instrument sort of sits and just talk about where we are, where we're going and some solutions for the future. I'm excited to bring our panel here today to chat with us and I will turn it over to them to introduce themselves quickly. I'll turn it over first to Nishat. Nishat, do you want to introduce yourself to the folks?

Nishat Akhtar (NA): Yeah, hey everybody. My name is Nishat Akhtar, I'm a creative director here at Instrument. Really quick, since I know we're talking about intersectionality in terms of racism, gender and orientation, I just want to make sure we all call in our pronouns to the name. My pronouns are she/her and I've been in Instrument for a couple of years working on a variety of projects, not sure what else we want here, but maybe I'll pass it off to Leon.

Leon Anderson (LA): Hey, I'm Leon Anderson, I'm an executive producer here at Instrument, been here for almost three years now. My pronouns are he/him. Worked my way throughout the industry working various types of projects here at Instrument and also working at engineering firms in house with large corporations, kind of bringing all of those experiences to the table to direct my current. I'll hand it off to Ravi.

Ravi Mongia (RM): Hey you all, I'm Ravi Mongia, he/him and I'm a strategy director. I've been at Instrument on and off now for about seven or so years and I've also kind of been on the agency side of the work as well as the brand side for a little bit. Just having that perspective and kind of seeing how things run both in marketing advertising all the way into some of the digital design effort that we do and even user testing and research, so dipping my toes in a lot of different strategy elements.

JH: All right, cool. Well thank you Nishat and Leon and Ravi for your time today and also for your labor. This is labor and this is work and education and some knowledge dropping today, so thank you for that. And my pronouns are she and her. Let me just kick us off and dive right in. A few weeks ago I had the fortunate opportunity to write an article for Fast Company Magazine online and the title of that article was How Can Industries Deliver Transformational Change for Black Professionals. For today, we'll talk about being Black in the industry, but we've got the United Nations on this call right now, so I want to talk about what it means to be a person of color and a woman of color and talk about that. Part of the article was outlining my experiences being a Black executive in advertising and also just kind of more broadly corporate America and then talking about some sort of concrete solutions for how organizations and particularly executive teams can have accountability.

First, I want to start like how are you guys feeling? It is amazing and also horrifying at the same time that in the middle of a pandemic, the sort of continuous murders of Black folks by police and just a lot of injustices that have been around for forever, now it's like everybody is waking up and paying attention and like, "Oh my gosh, we didn't know it was that bad." Or, "Oh my goodness, we didn't recognize that the way in which we do things and the way in which we work particularly in the advertising industry were harmful." I just want to get a pulse on how you guys are feeling about this, it feels like a moment, but I feel like it's also, I've been using this word, a movement as well and that's not new as well. Let me kick it off to you first Nishat, and then you guys just jump in about how you're feeling about where we are right now in this moment.

NA: Yeah, thanks Jessica. You just described a few layers and there's just more and more that get put on every day both from how obviously, what's happening critically and what has been happening critically to Black folks in our nation at the hands of police is like truly mortifying. What's interesting, I think, and addition to the pandemic and then also we have to show up to work every day and in Portland there has been this presence of federal agents that has been causing all kinds of extra beef in our city. All of these different layers is really challenging to navigate. In my life, I've always been active in standing up for political movements, for Black advocacy, for Brown advocacy, for immigrants, for all of these things, but sort of in the last few months the confluence of these issues coming into the work place and seeing people who have maybe either never spoken about it, addressed it, or been activated around it is both very validating and also extremely confusing.

Because suddenly there is people at all levels of understanding of the issues of Black lives in America, there are people of all different layers of activation for that and everyone is sort of seated in the same room. Whereas previously, I think a lot of those conversations that I've had over the course of my life and activist life is everyone's kind of at the PhD level. Suddenly you've got people bumbling around at the kindergarten level, which isn't wrong, but trying to navigate that in the work place while also sort of having this collective, sort of bar of intelligence for the work simultaneously is like I said, both validating and also confusing and challenging. I think it's a really important, but complex space to navigate.

Suddenly, there are people at all levels of understanding of the issues of Black lives in America, there are people of all different layers of activation, and everyone is sort of seated in the same room.”

Nishat Akhtar

LA: Yeah. When you're in the middle of a long term project and then somebody asks you the question of, "Hey, I know you're totally under water right now. We brought in this person to help you out." And then there's that moment where you're just like, "I don't have time to onboard you, catch you up to speed, get you into the context of everything that's going on. The best thing you can do right now is sit, absorb, and figure out what's going on."

That is exactly what this feels like, in that I've got context of life, I've been living this. There are other people who have been part of the movement that have been doing it to a level that I am absolutely in awe of and now, Nishat you said, the outside world is forced indoors and instead of having one person that is needing to be onboarded, you have 215 people that are wanting to be onboarded and all of them want to be or want to portray that they are coming in at that level. Like they're coming in at intermediate or at master, but in reality it's like, yo if you haven't been talking about this until March, you're an intern. For real, you are a racial justice intern right now. You need to just do your reading, talk amongst yourselves, figure out what you can bring to the table because I don't have time to onboard you into this right now. I want to, my heart is there and I want to bring you along, but there's just so much.

The pyramid is the wrong way here and there's so few people who have the experience leading and so many people who are trying to be a part of it, quite overwhelming.

NA: Yeah. How do you break down an individual's life experience and additionally 400 years of context in that one hour onboarding, I think that's so pointedly stated.

LA: Not getting people stuck in 400 years of history because there's also 2,000 years before that of Black history that when we focus on that 400 years, which is really important for the conversation that we're trying to have, you still end up tokenizing an entire race of people.

NA: Completely.

RM: And it shouldn't be your job to onboard the interns too, you as a Black man who has lived this you're entire life. That's the job of the interns and the people that are more on the junior level to listen, read, teach themselves what they don't know yet and be okay with that and acknowledge that. I think what you said was really, really important of some people trying to portray themselves on the master level, but then you see where they check themselves or someone else checks them and then you're like, okay let's just all be upfront about where we are in our journey. And that's okay to be upfront on where we are in our journey because the journey is not ending anytime soon, right?

NA: Yeah, or ever. I think, even that sort of paradigm that I outlined of like the PhD and the kindergartner, it's like frankly, one of the things that's gotten us into this mess is the unwillingness to sort of wade into the messiness and to start to detangle it and therefore that's on everyone really. Everyone is at different levels and to commit to a lifetime of flexibility, which certain folks, I think that Brown, Black, Queer, Trans folks have had to navigate context switch be flexible in all kinds of different scenarios and that flexibility is something that we all have to keep in our minds and when we talk about the interns, it's like things change, language changes, context changes and we sort of have to be really thoughtful around that. For me, I've have maybe deepened learning in my own experiences of racism and everything like that, but that doesn't mean I'm done, finished, perfect, know everything.

JH: Right. And I agree, I think for me, oh man so many things. I think a few things I love, we know that learning is ongoing, right? It's continuous, we're talking about a journey and for me, a big part of this is, particularly for white people, you are evolving. Like literally, there is an evolutionary process, your brain cells and synapsis they're firing in new ways that they haven't even before. Part of my struggle in this and sitting at an executive level is sort of watching people, again, this idea that they're unique or that they're different because they have several more Black friends or they've hired a few more people of color than others and that they think they truly are evolved and I'm like, "But, you're not. Stop thinking that you're special." Stop thinking that you're unique because the minute you do that, you start to think that you're better than others, think that you don't have blind spots. We've been talking a lot about blind spots, where are the places were you think you are woke or fo-woke as I like to say. Let's talk about how that plays out in real world.

That for me, those people are actually more dangerous, because they think they know, they think they figured it out, they think they've solved it because they've read one more book than others and those people are dangerous. We as even people of color are always learning in this journey, I'm learning what it means to show up in a different way with one foot in multiple worlds. One foot in the executive team, one foot being a Black woman, well being Black and then being a woman, right? How do you navigate that? I'd love to hear just how are you finding some of the challenges showing up in the work today? The work we have in the building today, how are you finding some of these challenges showing up? The bias, the blind spots, just like what people are missing. One, because their lived experiences are different, but also two, as we look at the advertising industry in corporate America overall, we've watched these numbers from some of these holding companies that are finally, like emperor has on no clothes, showing what their diversity stats are and we know there is not enough.

Like end stop, we knew there wasn't enough and now we have seen the numbers to back it up. How are you seeing this show up in the work today?

RM: I know for us, Nishat and I, we're on the same team and I think something that we often talk about and something that we try to make sure that always shows up in the work is how we representing a diverse team when we cast our project and also make sure that diverse thinking is applied to the projects that we do. Because for so long there have been more homogenous project teams. As a company that has values and says what their values are, it's our responsibility as leads on the team, but not just us as people of color leads, but all leads to make sure that those values and commitments are being shown through in the work and how we cast teams and how we make sure that representation is there and the thinking and the work and honestly just the people in the room.

NA: Yeah, I'll echo that. We're trying our best to be as thoughtful around that as possible and we are definitely running into issues around it too. Our team is the youngest team at Instrument and we've been able to be perhaps more thoughtful than others in terms of building a team with that level of care overall and per project, but we are still running into it. We have projects that are specifically meant to be aiding the BIPOC community and we don't necessarily are representative of those communities on our project teams. Not to say that a Black or Indigenous person as an individual is a representative of an entire culture nor should they be necessarily. They may be a designer or a writer or a producer and that's the discipline that they are meant to represent, but we also think it's important to bring the value of the variety of that perspective. When you're working for a particular community and no one in the room can necessarily speak to that from a genuine way, I think that that's something that we're kind of taking a hard look at and doing our best, as Ravi was saying.

Also, just dealing with a history of the homogenous staffing and recruiting and all of this and sort of inheriting that and wondering where do we go from here?

JH: Yeah. Leon, you and I had an interaction, we've been working on some projects together recently and I just think about a conversation that you and I had for a particular project that we're working on right now and talking about. You raised the point of this pillar that the client had outlined around equality, which a lot of our clients are now highlighting. They've got all these pillars and now they're talking about equality, but you raised part of what we've been talking about was democratization of content and democratization of access, which also means at the end of the day how do more BIPOC, how do more immigrants, how do more international and global audiences have access? How are you feeling as it relates to the ability to speak up and be more vocal about that, maybe now and moving forward versus how you might have felt in the past?

LA: It's actually interesting in that, I feel like I have more opportunities to speak up, because the words are put out there. A client, a company says, "Hey, this is one of our core pillars, is equality." And I'm like, "Well, maybe you should say equity instead of equality, but baby steps, we'll get there.

JH: Kindergarten. Potato, po-tah-to. Kindergarten.

LA: Absolutely. Then it's like, cool. But then the conversation we had was, this has not come up as one of your strategic goals for this specific product that we're building. It hasn't come up in any of the briefs, it hasn't come up in any of the documentation. I struggle because I don't have that direct client relationship with the account manager, I'm more on the working with the folks in the field who actually have to get it done and so I can surface the conversations at my level, but if it's not surfaced at the executive level or at the stake holder level, then it doesn't go anywhere. Then getting that alignment we start to come into this. Now, it's like cool, everybody is using the words, it's coming up in a lot of the meetings, but what is the output that shows up on paper? We're talking about democratizing the experience and making sure that it's representative of all world cultures, whatever that might mean. Then I see the design assets come through and I'm just like, awesome, cool. You've got Japan, you got the alps, you got the desert Southwest and you have Hawaii.

All of those, you have from a very colonist perspective of when you're talking about Hawaii, it's relaxing on the beach and vacationing. Alps, obviously it's just the Alps. Desert Southwest, it's like somebody kind of explore in the Southwest, so someone venturing into the uncharted territories.

JH: Oh, Lewis and Clark style, yes. That's not problematic at all. I'm assuming Japan is a safe international vacation, right? Just enough.

LA: Exactly, Japan is cherry blossoms and et cetera. So then I asked the question, "Where do I become a nuisance versus being provocative and progressive?" I'm looking at the timeline of delivery, I'm like, "Well, guess this will have to go. This will have to do." It's just finding that line of when to have the conversations and unfortunately especially working at an agency for a client, you're often brought into situations when it's kind of too late to make some of those big decisions that will go public. I really challenge those who are on that account services level and interacting with these clients who will be long term clients. We know that there is going to be more projects with them, how do you have the conversations before the project kicks off? Like a year before they... It's business. We're outside of their red tape, we're outside of their bureaucracy, we can see the areas that they're missing and we can say, "Hey, watch out for that land mine. These are the things that you need to have in place."

That's a long answer to probably a short question.

JH: No, that's great, that was the question. Ravi, some of the work that you've been working on is directly impacting Black and Brown communities. How have you felt being one of only a few in the team that is working on work supporting Black and Brown communities and finding that balance? I think a little bit of what Leon has talked about, both pushing back, I love that. Provocative and progressive internally, but also sometimes with the clients in their face, because you have some of those direct relationships with clients.

RM: Totally. I think it is asking some of those hard questions up front. For one, we have to know, where does the client stand and where are they at with this work and ultimately what is their goal. When we're talking about impacting Black and Brown communities, we just have to interrogate what that goal actually means for them and making sure that it's a responsibility on our part to make sure as a client, as someone that we're working with that we're really partnered with them to show them what the right goal is and make sure that we are asking those provocative questions to get there. Also, thinking about some of the stuff that we've been talking internally, making sure that the right voices are represented in the room whether it is getting ahead of that inter project planning phase and making sure one of our strategist has done an incredible job on another completely other project of having his own advisory committee and how do you bring an advisory committee?

That one is to like people volunteering so you're not necessarily asking them for that additional burden that they are already facing in their life, but also that their time is being really mindful and that they are compensated for their time that they are spending on this. Because we all have to acknowledge that it is an additional burden bringing their voices in the room for representation. Even on the one project that you're referring to, Jessica, us kind of going out of the way. It wasn't a client deliverable, but we thought it was really important that we had research and we interviewed people, even though it wasn't part of the scope. Where we're headed, we have a North star based on, not even just the BIPOC community, but the younger BIPOC community that's really active in activism and giving back efforts and making sure that we have that North star when we go into these projects and we're not going off of any biases on the team or we just have some of that objectives, just thoughts honestly from the BIPOC community.

NA: I'm working on that too with Ravi. I've been bear witness to those conversations with our clients and just being completely real with them and I think really formerly, perhaps there may have been a fear of this sort of series of things, which is like could I lose this client because I asked them this? Could I lose my job because I asked them this? And am I putting my reputation on the line? When we think about the client relationship, your reputation in your position and your position itself, now we are really catalyzed and hopefully we must be catalyzed to be able to feel more safe to have those conversations now because really, frankly if we don't have those conversations with our client now and interrogate that in the work, the result in the work is going to go out into the world and then be seen, called out, interrogated. Which will also come all the way back to us, what we didn't ask the client. How does that reflect our reputation? How does that reflect our jobs?

In a former world, that may have been a fear that drove people to not have those questions or conversations before, but now I think we, perhaps all and all must understand that the responsibility is actually to continue to secure those things.

We all have to acknowledge that it is an additional burden bringing their [BIPOC] voices in the room for representation.”

Ravi Mongia

JH: Yes. I agree, 100% co-sign on all the things. I can't tell you how many conversations I've had with people. Some of you on this phone were like, "If I speak up, promise me you'll write me a recommendation letter if I think I'm going to lose my job." And I'm like, "You are not going to lose your job." I said that on the call yesterday, you are not going to lose your job, but I understand that fear because in the past it has happened when people were vocal. Maybe not in this organization necessarily, but we know that, that is part of systemic racism. The faces on this call.

LA: Can you hear an eyebrow raise?

JH: Nobody is losing their job right now. If you lose your job, then you're crazy and lawsuits and all of that. For me, I'm like, this is the moment where we have to speak up, we have to claim that power back. That power was either never bestowed upon us or taken from us and we're at a moment where we can claim that power and kind of pull that back and we've got to use it. I'm less worried now about my reputation because my reputation sits outside of these four walls and I think that's an important thing. We as POC also have learned, I cannot tether my reputation, who I am, my entire identity to one organization because if you do you will be let down. They will let you down, right?

My identity and who I am, just in general, these are life lessons, right? Not just POC lessons. It's tied to who I am internally and what I do outside these four walls if you will, not just inside these four walls. What were you going to say Leon, you were going to say something?

LA: Oh, I was just going to say all of this kind of comes back to that trust though. This conversation is easy to have when I see Black and Brown faces staring back at me on the Zoom call.

NA: Smiling back, we're not staring.

LA: This is a cry for help everyone.

JH: You're going to put up a sign that says, "Help me. Help me." The man is always listening, Leon.

LA: When you are the only Black or Brown, like BIPOC person on the call, unless it's a call with a tech team, in which you are the only Black person amongst a sea of a company's entire diversity. It's hard to trust that room especially when I look at my vertical and I look up and down the producer core and I'm like who's understanding my perspective and who has my back and can walk side by side with me on this journey? I don't have that. When I'm going into these meeting and when I'm having internal meetings, it's like I'm alone and you're right, I have been more vocal than others because I did not move here for Instrument. I have my life outside, which honestly is more important than my life within these walls and so that gives me the freedom to be able to speak up. There are people who like, this is their first or second job. They moved across the country to... There is a sense of beholdedness to uphold the status quo and to tow the party line because if I don't have this, what do I have?

Where do I go from here?

NA: I just want to say, that whole thing about the responsibility is on everyone, it's certainly not just on the Brown, Black and Queer communities. The responsibility is on everyone, so hopefully there is white leads and white execs and also, any level of someone that can just see something, say something. The thing is, it's the ability to see something.

JH: Yes, you got to see it.

NA: You got to see it before you can say it.

JH: Yes, yes. That was where I was going to go next because I feel like we are in this moment within our organization and also, before I came here I was at another very large, global conglomerate corporation and did a lot of this work, a lot of this labor trying to create space for Black and Brown folks. We're in this space where, and we've been having these conversations internally around yes, accountability absolutely sits with CEOs and the C-Suite to set the tone, to set the mood, to set the standards in all of this, but where people experience systemic racism at its core. Where we experience micro aggressions, where we experience the ridiculousness and craziness that makes you say, "What the hell did they just say? Did I just hear that on a call? No, no, they didn't just say that." Is in your teams, and we're talking about teams here at Instrument because that's how we're organized, but most companies across the world are organized in teams. What's the responsibility, do you think, in accountability of those directors and those managers in this as well?

LA: I will say that whatever responsibility we are asking for from executive leadership, that same level of accountability and responsibility needs to be at every version of that going down. Generally, companies build their teams in the model of themselves, it's a fractal if you step back and look at it. The same way that the CEO, CFO and COO kind of what they model is what will be modeled at a smaller scale on their teams. It's distributed and unfortunately both the positive aspects of that relationship, that working style and also the negative aspects get mirrored and distributed down. Saying to put it on the teams leadership and to say, "Hey, you're also accountable and responsible for this." In no way does that take any bonus and responsibility off of the executive team. It's like, now I just have more people that I'm holding responsible for getting this done and also, because I'm part of that system, I am a piece of that I'm holding myself accountable for this.

I slip up, I mess up all the time, there's tons of areas that I have blind spots to and it's on me to make sure that I'm checking myself and I hope that my teammates are checking me as well. Not in front of other people, but you know.

JH: Yes. Ravi, what do you think? We're seeing this, we're at a moment where, yes our C-Suite are making commitments, are making statements, talking to third parties, going to get more training, but I know we're all leaders at our organization and we're also looking around like our peers, like you all need some training too. You all looking up, but again, you need to look out.

RM: Totally. Exactly what you said, I think Nishat even said, I don't know if I'll quote her specifically, one, yes looking inside, but also looking to your left and right too. It is a collective responsibility and it's not just on a single person at the top, it's making sure that us, on our teams are upholding what we're hearing and what we're hopeful and optimistic about the change to see because if we don't do that, then the never ending journey is going to be even longer of what we're trying to change. There's just an overall collective responsibility and Leon, what you said, I also have blind spots and there are things in the heat of the moment you tend to forget and you want to check yourself. I need Nishat to check me too and just as leads on the team and making sure that we're... Same with our clients and the other leads that we're working with that we feel that we can ask the tough questions with people we're even more comfortable with.

That we're talking to on a daily basis, that's where I think the real good tension is going to come from.

NA: Totally. I think that there's this sort of idea of doing to work and what I mean by that is this internal, collective anti-racist work within our organization, within ourselves and simultaneously while doing the client work. So doing the work while doing the work is a multiplied commitment that also has to have not only a collective vision, but an expansive vision. Because if we have a core curriculum of what the first doing the work means, great. But guess what, other things come up and other things are important and there might be a moment in our city that we need to focus on for a second. Or there may be a moment with an individual that we need to focus on for a second and being able to have that sort of flexibility and malleability takes a collective agreement that, okay, we're going to do the work while doing the work. It's not easy.

LA: If that idea of responsibility of accountability, if it's inside of our DNA then it's not extra work. It's fully infused into every action that we do. It shouldn't be another thing that we have to focus on, it should be part of every thing that we're focused on. We're not going to get there overnight I know that, but we have to have that mindset of all right, let me start to get the food coloring moving up the celery stick. Did no one else do that science experiment?

JH: Yes, I did. The celery stick and also the [inaudible 00:43:32]. Is that a culture... No.

If that idea of responsibility of accountability, if it's inside of our DNA then it's not extra work. It's fully infused into every action that we do. It shouldn't be another thing that we have to focus on, it should be part of everything that we're focused on.”

Leon Anderson

LA: No. It might be because my mom was definitely like, you're doing the same experiment all five years of science fair because I don't have time to do this for you.

JH: Was it a dandelion too where you could change the colors of it if you put the colors, or even change roses. You put food coloring in the water and goes up, no?

NA: I don't think this is a culture thing, I didn't pay much attention in school, so that could just be.

LA: Exactly what Jessica was saying, if it's in the water it'll infuse into the entire organism. It will change the way it looks and the way it acts.

JH: That is why I am beating this drum and will continue and you guys, you're across different disciplines, strategy, production, creative. Some of our most important disciplines that really drive and impact on the work and how the work shows up and how it shows up in the world. We need to start at the basics, at the root. How are we scoping work? How are we thinking about work? How are we building work? Who are we putting on the work? We have not done that yet, because that is how you break down where the systemic racism show up. We're putting some icing on an ugly cake right now, we're putting all this surface level stuff, but we need to go back to the basics, like how are we scoping this work? How are we thinking about approaching this work?

NA: If you can't throw out the cake, what do you do? I know you can put it in a bowl of milk and add sugar or whatever and call it bread pudding or is that how it works?

We need to start at the basics, at the root. How are we scoping work? How are we thinking about work? How are we building work? Who are we putting on the work?”

Jessica Hartley

JH: Are we going on another tangent? [everyone laughs]

NA: What you all didn't do that in school? How do you extend the life of your bad bread?

JH: How do you remix it? Because sometimes are better than the originals, right?

LA: That's the questions. I think that's one of the hardest parts with the history of systemic racism, this is being bitten from a stand up comedian, someone who I don't know who it was. Basically they were like, "Hey, you gave us a shit sandwich and asked us to eat that shit sandwich and that was all the food that we had. Eventually we were able to say, 'I'm not going to eat this.' And so you took that and you took the shit out from in between the pieces of bread and you put the two pieces of bread back together, but I still know that there was shit on that sandwich. So I'm not going to eat this, I need a whole other sandwich in this situation."

NA: You need a whole other meal.

JH: I'd be like, no sandwiches. We're not eating sandwiches, we're eating samosas and patties, that's what we're eating. I want to say thank you for the conversation and the laughter and the love and bearing a little bit of your souls today and hopefully this will be helpful for some of the folks that will listen. I want to close by asking you guys, what are you hopeful for? We sort of talking about, we're on this evolution, we're on this journey, we know this isn't going to happen overnight, 400 years of oppression and sort of modern slavery thousands of years before that in terms of colonialism and slavery around the world, but we're at this moment in time that's now become a movement and what are you hopeful for? Let me cap it, what are you hopeful for one year from where we are today. If we do a redux of this a year from now, what are you hopeful for?

LA: I am hoping that whoever the next Black person is who interviews wherever they are interviewing, sees themselves in the room. That on that panel they see another Black face and when they send the message through whether it's linked in or whether it's other avenues of communication that I won't share with the masses right now and say like, "Thanks for being on the interview, but what's it really like?" That the answer that comes back is, "It's tough, but we're working on it. There's progress." I think that's all I can really hope for at this point and I know that seems like a very small thing, but I think we also need to be targeted and focused because if we make too broad of desires to make changes in the next year, it's going to fail. I'd rather have one piece of excellence than 20 pieces of mediocrity.

I am hoping that whoever the next Black person is who interviews wherever they are interviewing, sees themselves in the room.”

Leon Anderson

RM: To that point Leon, I think something that I'm hopeful for is when we were talking about targets and being really, really specific and we're talking a year for now and we're not talking five, 10 years. What I'm hoping for, I think something we've talked about for a long time is this term of safe spaces for BIPOC community in the places that we work and honestly, something that we talked about on our call yesterday of like, how do we make sure that when you do look left and right as a BIPOC person, that you see someone else on your team. Whether that is having these really specific, for lack of a better term, mandates of two, and I'm just using our space in Portland as an example, but because there is a huge whit community here, at least two to three BIPOC people on a project together. So then there is that confidence and feeling that you're not the only one in the room feeling this way and that you can speak up about any questions you have about a project or anything like that.

I hope that we can eventually get there, maybe even one year is too ambitious for that type of goal, but I'm hoping that we can get there and we have a collective support system in the building and on our projects.

NA: Wow, that's great. I love that. That's such a beautiful dream to have, I feel honestly my eyes and my mind have a hard time even envisioning something that's so like something like that, which is actually really sad to me. I feel that in my heart, that it's like wow, why couldn't I even imagine something like that and so you painted it. Thank you both for doing that.

RM: Honestly, working with you Nishat, has been and inspiration for just seeing it as a possibility.

JH: Real talk.

RM: That's real talk. I haven't been on a team where I felt like we can have really real, we've had conversations about this on other teams and stuff like that, but real conversations where someone else is advocating for something like this and it's not necessarily falling on deaf ears.

NA: Wow, I feel the same way about you, that's so sweet and hell yeah. I think to just have a hope that our... To echo something that Leon had said is this commitment to anti-racism gets molded into the DNA and that not only are we looking around and seeing more BIPOC people on the teams, but I can look to white people and they're actually saying something before I have to say it, or before Ravi has to say it, or before Jessica has to say it, or before Leon [inaudible 00:52:06] and I think within a year that can be done. But I don't know, for fuck's sake. The white folks in the community within our walls are speaking up as quickly, rapidly, earnestly and with heart in the same way that we all would about any of these things that we're talking about.

JH: Yeah, that's great. What am I hopeful for? Well, at a very basic level, I'm hoping that you all are still here and so am I.

LA: Are we talking a year or are we talking by the time this airs?

JH: Real talk, right? Because I recognize the labor that it is to be somewhere and be burdened with having to do the work and being hopeful that where you're doing the work that there is going to be change. I've been here for a year, I've been in this industry a lot longer, we won't start talking about years there, Leon.

LA: Here we go again.

JH: The change that I've seen and I'm going to call it change, I'm not going to call it transformational, because transformation also implies long standing, permanent change. We're talking about changing DNA, which is not something that you can to over the course of a few weeks, but just the changes that I've seen in the conversations that we're able to have, even having this conversation [inaudible 00:53:48] recorded, we're going to put it out there for the world to listen to. Just the spaces that we've been able to create, create the voices that we've been able to amplify. I am hopeful that a year from now the conversations will be different because we will have made movement with more BIPOC in the building, we will have made movement about safe spaces because there will be more of us to help create more of those safe spaces. We're all doing the best we can, but our arms only extend so far, so we need more people to join arms with us and some of those arms are going to be white as well. I'm with you, we need more of our counterparts to be a part of this.

JH: I am hopeful for this and I am hopeful that a year from now we're talking more about advancement, we're talking more about promotion, we're talking more about just better leadership in management across the agency. How can just people be better leaders and better managers overall so they could look out for these things and be smart and thoughtful. There's this idea that everybody's like, you're all good humans. I'm like, it's not enough to be a good human, you got to be a good leader and a good manager. So I'm hopeful that the conversation will have shifted in a year.

RM: That reminds me of the t-shirt that Leon wore one of these calls. I think it said, good intentions aren't enough.

LA: Good intentions are not enough from last years Afro Tech, yeah.

JH: Yes, good intentions are not enough.

Other On Air Episodes