Allyship & Action Summit Recap
Shared By Patrice Speed
“As white leaders if you aren’t making immediate changes you aren’t taking the urgency of the moment seriously.”
Those words from Benish Shah rang through me as I sat through the latter half of the first ever Allyship & Action Summit, a live-streamed one day conference designed to meet the current moment of Black justice and the reckoning for agencies who have been ignoring the racist elephant in the room for too long.
The summit, which was organized and executed in just barely two weeks' time, brought together leaders and changemakers to discuss what has gone wrong in regards to racism in agencies, what has gone right, and what we should do next. Organized by Nate Nichols and Steffi Behringer of the Palette Group with virtually no budget, the Allyship and Action Summit was one of the highest quality digital conferences I’ve attended to date. With creative uses of breakout rooms and beautifully produced interstitial videos, it was a call to action for those who wanted to move beyond the performative black square posting into taking real action and making real change within their agencies. Throughout the day there were keynote speakers, panels, and seven breakout sessions to attend. Over a thousand people strong, the live stream kept everyone engaged for over four hours with hardly any drop off.
Jayanta Jenkins opened the summit with sage advice for everyone in the industry (no matter how junior) to bring leadership mentality to their jobs to create change. His call to build trust and to understand multiple perspectives was not only sound advice, but underscored the purpose of the entire summit. Jayanta also challenged white leaders to look at how they are bringing people into their companies and how they approach diversity & inclusion to make sure it is equitable and holistic. The end goal of all this being to make agencies more creative and effective.
Creativity is about risk taking. And if we, as agencies push our clients to take calculated risks, but don’t do the work internally to take risks and do better, our teams, our clients, and our work will suffer the loss. Kathryn Guess brought ideas in the second panel, “How Can White Leadership be Allies in the Ad Industry” moderated by Bennett Bennett. Proclaiming, “You are never a good ally, because you are never done doing the work to become a better ally,” she garnered a lot of approval in the chat. Doing the work is what it’s all about.
Here at Britelite we work hard to maintain a culture where people can show up fully as themselves, but that’s not enough. After the summit we are auditing our hiring practices, job posting language, and onboarding documentation to make sure we are being truly equitable and setting everyone up for success. Our management team is making sure we are hiring, nurturing and promoting diverse talent. We’ve started an ID club for employees to unpack our biases and have tough conversations around race. Additionally, we're rewriting our policies so we have a shared understanding of what is expected of our employees in an Anti-Racist workplace.
In the words of Kiana Pirouz from We Are Rosie in her breakout session on designing an equitable organization: “Buckle Up." This is a long-overdue call to action for agencies, not just in the US but around the globe to lean into discomfort.
If you missed the summit all the sessions can be watched online here: https://www.freelancercybersummit.com/events/allyship-and-action
The single event spawned a slack working group where people are already digging into how they can take action to improve their agencies. A second Allyship & Action Summit is already in the works. We’ll see you there.