I pondered “a complete re-write of the rules on how we interact, do business, socialize.” I wondered if the changes we were living through might be “so profound you can’t imagine going back to the old way.” I claimed that “one thing is for sure: lives have been shattered” – but that wasn’t all, “there is something else being shattered by COVID-19: myths.”
Here I am again in June trying to gather thoughts around another sea change that has shaken (and awakened) our society – all while we’re still facing down the pandemic. Replace “COVID-19” from my previous musings above with “the murder of George Floyd” and it is clear we have compounded challenges to wrestle with.
When it comes to systemic racism let’s hope we are, in fact, seeing a complete re-write of the rules and that we never go back to the old way. Black lives have been shattered for too long – but with myths now also being shattered globally, we may be getting somewhere positive. Somewhere profound.
Access – and the larger Omnicom network – has been looking inward and reflecting on ways we can take actionable steps to become a more diverse and inclusive agency. Recent events are a clarion call and catalyst to make lasting change — as individuals, as a company and as a community – in meaningful and accelerated ways.
We are committed to advancing the cause of social justice and want to enable our staff to play a role. One of the first changes we are making is to recognize and observe Juneteenth (June 19) – the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. We will be observing this to allow our staff to reflect and participate in the day itself and the Black Lives Matter movement.
To be clear, this is not a day off, a holiday, or a vacation day for us.
We have committed to engaging in some very specific ways. No doubt we all need a moment to recharge and reflect at this time, but in addition we will be educating ourselves by selecting resources we will read, listen to or watch starting Friday. Our initial learning paths include reading White Fragility, watching Dear White People, and listening to WeTalkDifferent.
The week of June 22nd we will have an initial regroup on all three of these resources. And, in smaller groups in the following weeks, we will continue to gather to discuss learnings, thoughts and next steps we might take from these immersions. Taking time this Friday to begin really is just that: a beginning to an ongoing commitment.
As an agency we’ve already donated to causes supporting equality and justice for minority groups such as the NAACP and Southern Poverty Law Center, hosted an internal training centered on understanding and flexing to those from different cultural backgrounds, and brought in a licensed psychologist to provide our staff with guidance and tips for how we navigate challenging times and digest change we all need to participate in the months and years ahead.
Again, we’re just getting started. This is not a “one-and-done” blog post, effort, or commitment. Stay tuned here and on our social channels as we share more in the months and years ahead.
If you’re a colleague reading this, I thank you for your commitment to make Access a great place to work.If you’re a client reading this, I thank you for your partnership and welcome you to join us by exploring the same anti-racism resources we are using.
Here’s what I always ask of myself and my Access colleagues each day: “Be present. Be productive. Be proud.” We will approach this latest opportunity with this same conviction and commitment.
By: Matt Afflixio, President