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At a time when the issue of racial inequality is making airwaves across the nation, people from all walks of life are called in to make a stand, and those in the wedding industry are no exception. A true leader in the industry, Terrica Skaggs is an award-winning planner and leading the movement for #UnityThroughCommunity. In June 2020, she brought together an exceptional line up of wedding industry professionals for a town hall called “Healing Wounds & Bridging Gaps: An Honest Conversation about Race and Allyship in the Wedding Industry.” Jamie Wolfer and Heather Loree Fier were both inspired by the town hall conversation, as were over 2,000 other wedding professionals. It is a great eye-opener to the myriad issues associated with racial inequality and the movement against oppression. With Terrica's blessing, they are sharing the audio from the town hall, so the message can be amplified. Terrica will be hosting an additional town hall focused on the action plan for the industry in the coming weeks. Jamie & Heather encourage listeners to follow her social media account for more details.
Listen to the podcast here:
- Healing Wounds and Bridging Gaps: An Honest Conversation About Race and Allyship in the Wedding Industry
- Social – Terrica Skaggs
- Unity Through Community
- Brian Green – Instagram
- Detroit NACE
- Equally Wed
- Jason Marino – Instagram
- Fusion Nclusion – Instagram
- M Culinary Concepts
- The B Collective
- ellyB Events
- Styled Shoots Across America
- The Knot
- Signature C.E.O.
Other wedding industry professionals included in the town hall conversation include:
- Jason Marino – https://www.instagram.com/imaginephotoaz/
- Heather Benge – https://www.instagram.com/styledshootsacrossamerica/
- Denice Lillie – https://www.instagram.com/deniselillieengagements/
- Michael Stravros – https://www.instagram.com/mculinaryaz/
- Eliana Baucicault – https://www.instagram.com/bcollectivemag/
- Jamie Lee Quickert – https://www.instagram.com/jamieleequickert/
- Brian Green – https://www.instagram.com/bybriangreen/
- Kirsten Ott Palladino – https://www.instagram.com/kirstenpalladino/
About Terrica Skaggs
Terrica Skaggs is a true leader in the wedding industry; she is an award-winning planner and leading the movement for #unitythroughcommunity.
In June 2020, she brought together an exceptional line up of wedding industry professionals for a town hall called “Healing Wounds & Bridging Gaps: An Honest Conversation about Race & Allyship in the Wedding Industry”.
The Wedding Industry Can Do Better, #UnityThroughCommunity Town Hall By Terrica Skaggs
Heather: We are adding a bonus episode for you because this is an important conversation that we want to amplify. We are thankful that Terrica is allowing us to share this from her Town Hall, Healing Wounds and Bridging Gaps: An Honest Conversation About Race and Allyship in the Wedding Industry. She brought together an amazing group of professionals to discuss current events and challenge us as wedding industry professionals to do better. There's going to be an additional follow-up that's action-oriented, but we thought all of you as wedding pros would want to make sure you take the time to educate yourselves to start understanding how this issue, how this problem is impacting our industry and how you can be part of the solution. Both Jamie and I were exceptionally moved by the conversation and have since started taking action that's recommended and we wanted to amplify their voices and help more of you, our amazing audience to do the same.
To be sure you're a part of this next step, you're taking the right actions and getting yourself brought into this conversation, please be sure you go to TerricaInc.com. Make sure you're following her on social, so that you can see announcements about upcoming conversations and also the Unity Through Community movement that she's putting together. This is an exceptional eye-opening conversation. We were moved by it and I feel that it should do the same for you. Additionally, it is a long conversation. I hope you take the time to read and absorb this and reflect on how you can do better as a business owner and collectively, we can do better as a community.
Terrica: I want to welcome you and thank you for coming. I knew exactly who I wanted to have this conversation with and that was these amazing people. I didn't know how many people would show up. I said, “If only ten people show up, then we will have an amazing conversation with these people and we'll send it out.” You guys blew me away. We have close to 2,000 people who registered for this session. That gives me a lot of hope for society and our industry.
I know that there are a lot of people that are concerned. They are hurt. They want to be proactive. I know that some people are tired of it. You can only imagine how exhausting it is to live it. That being said, it is not my aim for this conversation to be a comfortable one. If we have never met before, if you've never been to my sessions, you know that I am frank. I am extremely proud of everyone who has shared this. I'm even more proud of the people who showed up. If any time you feel comfortable during this conversation to the point where it makes you close your mind, please leave so we can have your seat for somebody else who wants to get in because this is not a comfortable situation to live or to be in.
It's not going to be a conversation to have and much like when you're sleeping in bed, when you are uncomfortable, you move and you shift so things will get better. That's exactly what I planned to do in this industry. By no means, I do think that I'm Martin Luther Queen that I speak for all black people that I have the answers and the keys to the kingdom. That's not my purpose and point, nor do I expect to solve the ills of the world and the time that we have together. I do want us to have a conversation so that we can take them back to our circles, our communities, and our groups so that we can do better.
I would like to preface by saying that I chose this panel specifically and carefully because I know that they have amazing things to contribute to this conversation. I would like to add that none of us are experts. I'm not a sociologist. I am not an expert on race, but we are real people with real experiences like you. Those experiences are not the same and we may not agree. I think it'll be great if we don't agree because then you have some context to make some decisions on your own. I feel like having those differences, experiences, and thoughts are going to be a vital part of our conversation. I would love to do a brief introduction to our panel. We are not going to get into what's your favorite color, where you've been, where you've been published, and none of that nonsense because we got four important things to discuss. I would like you to know who you're going to be learning from. Please tell me who you are, where you're from, what you do and we can get started. Brian, go first.
Brian: I am Brian Green based in Atlanta, born in Barbados 246. I am an event planner extraordinaire.
Jamie: I’m Jamie Lee Quickert from Detroit. I work at the Detroit Institute of Arts. I'm the President of our Detroit NACE Chapter and I'm honored to be here.
Kirsten: I am Kirsten Ott Palladino. I am Cofounder and Editorial Director of Equally Wed. It's an online publication for LGBTQ-plus weddings. I live in Atlanta, Georgia.
Jason: My name is Jason Marino. I live in a small town, outside of Las Vegas called Kingman, Arizona. My wife and I have been wedding photographers and portrait photographers for a long time and we're old.
Denise: My name is Denise Lillie. I am the Queen of Logistics Designer and Event Planner. My business is Denise Lillie Engagements. I am also the Founder of Fusion Nclusion, which is a collective that brings together wedding professionals who specialize in cultural wedding.
Michael: I am Michael Stavros. I am based in Phoenix, Arizona. My business partners and I own the largest catering company in the Southwest, M Culinary Concepts. I am privileged to call Terrica a dear friend and am honored to be a part of this group. I grew up in Boston. I've been out in Phoenix for a long time. I'm looking forward to spending some time with all your people. Thank you for having me.
Eliana: I'm Eliana with The B Collective magazine, as well as ellyB Events here to share all the fabulousness. I am excited about the community. Finally, we are coming together with the industry. It is long overdue.
Heather: Thank you for having me. I'm Heather Benge and I'm the Founder and Owner of Styled Shoots Across America.
Terrica: Have you ever been a victim of or a witness to any racism in the wedding industry, either for yourself and for your clients? We have to give voice to it because a lot of people are in denial. They think that it does not happen to someone that they love, someone that is close to them or someone that they know that it doesn't happen. Brian, tell me about it.
Brian: The short answer is yes. The longer answer is in big ways, in micro-aggressive ways, many times and many spaces.
Terrica: Like Brian, in big ways and little ways I've been asked not to attend weddings. I've been accused of stealing things at weddings. I've been called the help, the girl, and all sorts of things. What about you, Jamie?
Jamie: I would say yes in ways that I overtly understood and ways that I did not understand at the moment. When somebody said that a server couldn't have dreads because they were dirty. That's an example of something that I didn't understand at the moment, but looking back is one of those moments where I shouldn't use my voice and in big moments that we'll talk about.
Kirsten: I've witnessed it overtly, covertly, in background conversations, but also hearing from my black friends in the industry coming and telling me about their experiences that I wasn't there, like across the country. Witnessing it in that way and learning about it. Also, seeing it in the media, lack of representation and lack of leadership in large corporations that are in the wedding industry.
We need all people. We need all allies. We need community to move forward. #UnityThroughCommunity
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Jason: For me, it's been microaggressions, nothing blatant that had happened that's flat out terrible. I get a normal day-to-day life, but the polite microaggressions like, “Do you belong back here?” “You speak well.” Things like that.
Denise: “I'm a strong black woman, but I'm an angry black woman that becomes a wedding planner. I got to tell you what to do and you have to listen to me.” That's the biggest one. Venues are being disrespectful to my South Asian clients, not understanding the importance of cultural food, not understanding the importance of prayer ceremonies, not giving them the grace of what they need to make their wedding special and religious. I would say also working in affluent areas in California, where caterers want me to eat in the kitchen. I sit at the table with all of my vendors in the ballroom. We eat the same food that the bride and groom, groom and groom, bride and bride sit at because we are part of the team. In cultural weddings, it's disrespectful to their culture for us not to eat and be taken care of. Finally, another big way microaggressions are styled to being submitted, where all weddings being submitted to predominantly non-black non-cultural publications. Big-name ones, My Wakanda Forever, Black Panther award-winning from the Oscar, I was told by a huge publication that it was too black so it was rejected.
Michael: Being in the F&B industry my whole professional career, I've seen it both internally, in my own kitchens as well as listen to my clients, which I'm proud to say our former clients. One of whom had the audacity to say that the employee pointing to the only black employee in her garage will not cross my threshold. At that point, that taught me everything I needed to know about how to properly fire a client when the time was right. More so than anything, what I witnessed and what I self admittedly been a part of is wildly inappropriate humor that it's that understanding of, “You know we're joking so what's the issue?” The reality is there is an issue. That's what I've observed. I cannot recall any instance where I've been the direct victim or direct target of it, but I certainly have borne witness to enough of it that I'm sick of it.
Terrica: There's a lot of truth in every just. They say they're joking, but they're not. Eliana, what about you?
Eliana: Let me count the ways. Every way that’s imaginable. The main one that I get is because my name is ambiguous to people. If you haven't seen my photo, you don't know who's showing up. The first thing I get is like, “I didn't know you were black.” I'm like, “This is Spanish or French last name,” but it's every way possible. I've been at weddings where my white associates were told by other guests or other vendors, like, “Why are you working for this black female? She should be working for you the other way around.” I can't tell you how many times that has happened in many different ways and that's why I'm here.
Heather: The short answer is yes. Personally, I haven't been a victim, but I have seen it in my events and I've also been part of the problem.
Terrica: That was real. They have sent me messages and they have said, “I had to check my damn self because I looked and I saw that I am part of the problem.” “I have not spoken up.” “I did not do enough to make my client base, my vendor base inclusive and diverse.” I appreciate that. We are going to walk away with some ways on how we can make it better so nobody has to feel like that again. I'm going to switch from the industry a little bit. How do you been holding up? How has it affected you and your business? For you, who not being affected culturally, I would love to know about how it has affected you and how you see it affected by your clients and your colleagues as well and the impact that might have had on you? Mr. Green.
Brian: If you want to make God laugh, have a plan. Start with COVID and then throw on every single racial epithet that you can think of that happened at the same time. It's been a struggle. I have had days where I have been mad and angry. For those of you that know me, my husband is white. He has unfortunately taken some of my anger, but because he loves me and knows it's a release valve, he has rolled with the punches and rolled with me on it. It's not easy every day because while the world feels the pain, my mother calls me and says that looking at George Floyd’s face, it could be her son. That hit me in a different space than, “It's another person. They shouldn't have died.” It becomes personal, real, and quick.
I made the decision quickly with my social media presence that pretty weddings were not going to be the thing you are going to see for a while that we were going to have real conversations. Two hundred and three people chose not to continue to follow me, and to them, I say, “Peace, get to getting. I'm like Seth Rogen, I will follow you out the door, hollering at you.” For me, it has affirmed the people that I knew of all races who were supportive, down for their cause, and here to do the things that were right, equal, fair, and just. Those people are still showing up and the ones that were suspect, who have now glommed on to a cause in an effort to mask cloud or to obfuscate their responsibilities in this conversation.
Terrica: I've been exhausted. Some people hear me say it all the time. I even posted it and it said, “The black people in your life are tired. Don't ask us for nothing, not one thing.” A lot of people who don't know, I shared my story and how I had my own close encounter of my own Ahmaud Arbery situation of being held up at gunpoint because I was the wrong color in the wrong place and did not know my place. That struck a chord with me and that hit me in a deep place. It's hard. For some people, this is the first time that they've seen it or they decided to wake up to it. For us, it has been constant. It was Ahmaud, Breonna, Dreshawn, the DoorDash guy, Christian Cooper who wanted to look at a bird in the park, and then right after that, it's George Floyd. It's been something constantly. You're tired and it's jarring to see how you feel, how your immediate community feels, and everybody's talking about it.
You get inundated and it weighs on you more, but then in between it, you see a post from your friends like, “Look at this new vegan cookie I made.” “Look at this new Pulitzer thing.” It shows how it is on two different spectrums and people either don't know or they don't care. There are many times where I've not felt like looking at my inbox. I had to save what 3 milliliters of peace I had for my kids. I could not take being asked, “Where is this? Have you contacted so-and-so?” It's heavy and it is exhausting. Jamie, what about you?
Jamie: I'm sad for what's happening in the world. I'm sad that it takes another murder, another hashtag, or another cell phone video for people to wake up. I'm sad that people are saying his name, but they didn't say all of the names that happened before that. I'm sad that I have many friends who are finally saying, “We're listening.” I think you should have fucking listened before. I posted that people have been talking. They were talking when they took a knee. They were talking when Philando died in Minneapolis. They were talking when Eric Garner died. They have been talking and we have not been listening. I feel sad because it's Minneapolis. It's my neighborhood that I lived in for years that is burning. I understand that people are angry and they're tired of talking. I understand that.
I feel reflective in my own life on how I use my voice and how I haven't. I feel guilty and bad because I don't want to project that guilt onto my black friends or make them carry it for me, but I desperately want to know what else I can do. I'm taking a hard look. In Detroit, we're lucky to live in such a diverse community, my staff, our servers, our leadership are diverse. They come in a lot of colors and they come in all a lot of orientations. I'm thankful for that, but then, looking at my vendor list and looking at the people that I promote and making sure that this isn't something that I'm saying because it's popular on social media and I go to a diverse church. In what ways am I making sure that my life is reflecting what my heart is and trying to make changes where it's not?
Terrica: Kirsten what I'm asking is how has the situation affected you? How have you seen it affect your colleagues or your clients of color as well?
Kirsten: It is been devastating to watch the murder of George Floyd. I think that we should all, whoever can, watch it. Also, it is devastating that we're here again, still here, that this didn't stop with Rodney King or long ago, before him. It keeps happening with Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and all of these black people who are being murdered at the hands of white people. That's where the devastation comes in. It makes us collectively examine what's happening around us in our communities that are leading to this violence. Like the police officers who held George Floyd down, those men were racist, but they've got family and friends who allowed that racism to rise to the point that he thought he could hold a man down like that until his breath left.
It makes me angry, but it also makes me reflect on what can I do in my own community and my family. I'm from Georgia and I was raised by a New Yorker and a Georgian. On the Georgian side, certainly, there is not doing the anti-racism work. I've had to check my own biases and I'm trying to do the work to help other people check their biases. I know we're going to talk more about that as well, but realizing in the wedding industry, I have to get in there. I have to make sure that I have those uncomfortable conversations and go even beyond the uncomfortable level. I have to go deeper and not be afraid of the results because the results are going to be good. If I am dismissed or not invited back to places, so be it.
Jason: The best word I can use is exhaustion. I'm exhausted from multiple things. There's a lot of not only outward things that are happening where, for instance, I've seen the violence happening against people that look like me, but it also brings up feelings of things I've been through since the time I was a small child all the way through these days. I start thinking about, “How I have a business in this town?” The town I happen to be in is a small town in a conservative county. One of the most conservative counties and towns in the nation. Conservative doesn't have to equal hate and racism, but for some reason, hate and racism tend to go that way.
I deal with any number of things, getting in my car and leaving my house. I'm not in the safety of my own home. I see hate all over bumper stickers and all over the gas pumps. We built a new home down below our home in the wash. I went for a walk with my wife and there was a giant swastika spray-painted on one of the boulders below our house. I can't even go for a walk without finding hate. I've gone jogging here years ago downtown and someone pulled up in a car and called me a nigger. I didn't respond. They backed up and called me a spic because my race is a little bit ambiguous at times. They were like, “We know this guy may not be black. Let me back up and call him Hispanic slur, in case I got the wrong picture.” Those things happen.
We live in Arizona and half of these people have never even stepped foot out of Arizona yet Confederate flags bound. Going back to childhood, I remember my mom telling me stories. She took me to church and the preacher was sitting there from the pulpit preaching hellfire and brimstone about white women having black husbands and black babies. I'm a mixed-race. That stuff's been going on my entire life. The struggle I'm having is finding my voice and all this because I have to worry about the people in our local community, either outwardly trying to damage my business, my family or our property because I have a voice versus being quiet and wanting to explode in anger because of not being able to speak out.
That’s the inner turmoil that you have to face because I live in a place that doesn't accept me, not all people. There's a nice group of people here that are lovely, but in a place where generally I'm looked at as an outsider and the person shouldn't be here. Even though I'm a business owner, a job provider, pay taxes in this community, and spend an enormous amount of money here, I'm still not good enough to be here. It's difficult and I struggle a lot. I have a lot of sleepless nights because I want to be proud and loud of who I am, but I also think to myself, “Within a matter of weeks, I could lose everything I have.” My business could go away because I'm too vocal. Those are things that keep me up at night and it's terribly difficult. I'm exhausted.
Denise: I'm going to be open and direct about a couple of things. We were already at home with COVID trying to pivot, find ways to fuel our time and the silver lining. I found out that I had non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Apparently, I've done 30 weddings with cancer and this happened. I was in a positive mood about either cancer or COVID, I was like, “This is the time I'm being slowed down. I got it. Let's build relationships. Let's pivot. Let's work on the things that will make my business stronger.” I was only upset and disturbed when the protest began. I couldn't join because I was immune deficient. Previously, I had a career in politics. I worked for the United States Senator for seven years.
I was in Detroit and my job was to outreach to nonprofits to help them get funding for their organizations. I wanted to protest. I want it to be upfront and I have to sit here at home, washing my hands so that I don't get sicker. It has caused me to feel militant, but motivated. I had to find a way to protest from home and it so happens that lined up perfectly for my life. I'm in a good place and happy that this is the way that I can give back and support. I grew up in an all-white neighborhood and I was always the only one. I first encountered racism at the age of five in kindergarten when I was called a nigger, “Why is this nigger on our playground?” I didn't even understand that my parents had to explain to me what that was. The little girl had to write me a little apology note in crayon.
I didn't understand. What my experience is I've always been the only one in the room. I've always been an international representative for all black people. I'm used to it and I want people to know that I'm okay with being an ally. I'm okay with my non-white friends and colleagues. I will not call anybody out, but I have been secretly answering questions, advising, coaching my non-black friends about what to say what not to say. I've been calling people out like, “That's tone-deaf.” That's how I've been protesting. That's what motivated me and made me feel excited and encouraged that we are finally having to look at this because we have nothing else to do.
Terrica: I'm sure many people can relate to this. It does take you back to that moment, like, “When was the first time you were called a nigger and you realized it was when you were a child?” Brian told me this, “You die the death of a thousand paper cuts in this life.” It's horrible and hard. It's one more thing and then you have to go out and smile, take these pictures, and plan their beautiful parties. Knowing you’ve heard all the conversations in the back rooms, knowing you've heard what they said on Facebook. Stavros, it’s your turn.
Michael: I am fed up with the hypocrisy, that's how I feel. I am fed up with my own hypocrisy too. Allowing others to make these jokes, participating in these jokes, not even stepping into understanding how I can be a part of it and that I shouldn't be, but the biggest thing is the hypocrisy of cherry-picking historical reference to justify an argument.
Brian: They were telling his kids what he meant on Twitter.
Jamie: For the white people who are curious, Martin Luther King did not peacefully protest and then retire. That's not what happened.
Michael: That willful hypocrisy to cherry-pick while being blatantly ignorant about historical facts and examples on all sides of every spectrum. It's that absolute bullshit hypocrisy that drives me crazy. The biggest piece of frustration that I feel is realizing that I've been part of it. I have not owned my own shit. Instead of shaking my head and walking away, why am I not challenging somebody else's thoughts, beliefs, statements, and speaking truth, when I know the historical reference and the actual information? Everybody loves to do the memes with the photo side by side, and that is impactful, but take it the next step and explain it. Explain how you're going to enshrine your professional sports league with patriotism, and then challenge somebody who is engaging in a patriotic activity to make a statement and using that sheet peacefully. Use patriotism as the shield of why you're not going to listen to what this person has to say. It is damn hypocritical and that is the beginning of it. It's that real moment of un-comfortability when you realize you've been part of it, whether it's you're active or silent. That's what has left me feeling, like a hypocrite and angry at the hypocrisy of others.
Terrica: Eliana, I know that you've been going through a lot and you've been seeing it all over.
Eliana: Two things, first is I'm overwhelmed. I have a son that's away at college. You hold your breath every time the phone rings because you don't know what's going to happen. All my loved ones are black. The sad part about that is that when this happened with George Floyd, we weren't shocked. It's like, “This happened again.” I think we're at our breaking point and that's why all the protests and things are happening. On the professional side, I've been feeling relieved. I know that's not what you guys expected me to say, but I'm relieved because we have finally been frustrated that we are willing to use our voices and not care what our counterparts feel and how you take it. We've lived our entire lives of you not caring of how we felt about not being published in Brides, on the list on Harper's Bazaar, not understanding or having our white counterparts care that The B Collective exists, why we exist, why we were created, why Eliana Baucicault is here.
That divided our industry is loud and has been ignored. I can't tell you how many times I've spoken to people that have said to me, “It's nice to have met you.” We met in person a million times, but you don't see me. This big, old, black face. I've been fighting this good fight. I spent every last dollar that I've had to bridge this gap to be seen in the most amazing way possible. It's still hurtful every minute of this day to know that you haven't seen me, that you haven't done the work to see me and I pray. When I say me, I mean my community. I'm not talking about me because I've done my work and I've been paid well for it. I've got to the point that if you don't see me, I'm going to make sure you see me in any way possible. I'm praying that this conversation is not an uptrend and it's not because Terrica has the audience and all of our white friends have joined because we love Terrica. She's amazing, but understanding that you are here to walk away and do something about it, whether not being in that conversation and say, “That's not funny.”
My last event, we were in an influential location in Florida. The people that were there made a joke and said that we brought a broken piece of furniture so that we can sue because we know we were in a community that Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, and Celine Dion lived in. You guys have no idea what it's like to work hard in your day-to-day and then still be snubbed by your industry. It is one of the most painful things ever. I'm relieved that we're here. I'm relieved that we don't care anymore in a respectful way. We don't care what you think. If you don't want to be down with us, we don't care if you don't want to feature us. If you don't want us to speak, we built our platforms. I don't want it to be a divide.
I don't want to black over here, whites over here. The point of this conversation is how do we come together and make everyone comfortable in every sense of the way. We are the wedding and event industry. We celebrate happiness and joy. I don’t care if you're a photographer or caterer, your sole job is to create beautiful memories. How could you be in this profession to create beautiful memories and create horrific memories for the people that service those events? That's where I'm at.
Terrica: Heather, what about you? How have these affected you? If they haven't affected you personally or immediately, how have you seen it affect your colleagues or your clients?
Heather: Terrica, to be honest with you, I feel ashamed that it took murders for me to be able to stand up and say something about all of this. I love to work with people in the black community. We feature them as models and we work with amazing professionals and creatives and all that, but it's not enough. I'm ashamed that it took these events, my colleagues and my friends’ pain, suffering, and everything that you have been mentioning for me to understand. For me to stand up and say, “Just because I featured this beautiful black model, that's not enough. I need to go above and beyond that. I need to push myself to call out these amazing individuals who help us bring all of these events together.” I'm over a large community and I feel like a mama bear. I need to be the one to set an example. Honestly, I'm ashamed that it's taken this long and these types of horrendous events to happen for me to see that.
Terrica: My question is going to be for Kirsten, Heather, Jamie, and Stavros. I received many DMs, emails, text messages, and phone calls from white people in the industry who said, “I've been sad. I've been hurt. I couldn't verbalize how I felt. I didn't want to say the wrong thing and I didn't want to be complicit by being silent either.” Do you guys see that in your own circles? Do you see that people are ignorant and they don't care? If so, what did you do? What do you wish you had done throughout all of this? Where do we go from here?
Michael: I think there's a lot of fear of what to do next or what the perception will be of what you do. To allow yourself with the movement, you have to believe it. The last thing you want to do is say something and come across as insincere, or be perceived as insincere when you are. The hardest part sometimes is even choosing the language that you use. An organization to which I belong, an economic development organization here in town, put out a message. They said, “We are here to support. We support the black community. We are side by side with the black community.” The first thing I thought when I read that was, “Why did you separate yourself from the black community?” That was my perception of it, but then I thought, “Is that singling it out? Is that aligning it? Is that supporting it?” I don't know.
There are a lot of people out there who are afraid of using language because we don't want to further offend. We don't want to further, co-opt somebody else's emotional state, somebody else's reaction and response to something, but then there's this part of me that thinks, “We all got to get the hell over that.” A lot of people in my position are limited by that fear of being misunderstood and further upsetting, and then being branded with the people that were opposed to. It's a line that we walk that say, “I need help in understanding what is okay.” Maybe it's not understanding what's okay. It's saying it, getting the response, dealing with the response, and learning from the response. I don't know, but I know other people who are that confused by it.
We were all raised – not born – with biases, and we all have to work to unlearn those. #UnityThroughCommunity
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Jamie: I think that we have to be careful and understand that even those of us who can say, “I have good black friends. I have a black brother-in-law. I have these people in my community that I love that we don't understand.” We haven't walked that path and we haven't experienced those same things. We have to understand that there is a cycle of grief and anger that we can't fully wrap our heads around. Terrica, you're one of my best friends and we have had some conversations where you have come back and apologize because you've spoken in anger. I've said, “You're allowed to be angry at this moment. You're even allowed to direct your anger at me, even if I am not the cause of your anger.”
I think we, as white people, aren't allowed at this moment to be sensitive and take all of those things personally. It's complicated because I'm in Detroit. I work in Detroit. I live in Ferndale, which is this lovely little community right outside of Detroit. There was a protest in Ferndale and I did that because that was my own community. I went to Detroit because that's where I work and that's where people I love are. There are mixed reactions from my friends who are in Detroit, who are black because some of them say, “We don't want to hear your voice. We don't want you to come to our towns. We want you to do things this way or that way.” It's being able to hear, process, and not take those things personally and process through what your intentions are as well. We can't use our voice because it's on brand or not on brand.
I heard someone say that I was offended because they said, “Jamie, it's on-brand for you to use your voice.” I was like, “The fact that it would be not on-brand for anybody else to allow racism to run rampant or to see a murder and not say something about it is mind-blowing. Secondly, this has to go beyond our careers, our brands, and go towards how we see our fellow humans, how we want to exist outside of our jobs, and outside of our towns, but how we want our kids to exist.” I have seen my friends struggle and I have understood their struggle.
One of the harder things is that I have deleted, muted and unfriended more people than I have my probably entire social media career. I'm never that person who says, “If you don't agree with me that Trump's an asshole, then I'm going to delete you.” That's not who I am. I always want to have a conversation, but there are people that are like, “There's a conversation to be had and I don't want to be associated with your bile of rhetoric. I don't want to be associated with the things that you were saying.” That can be hard because sometimes that's family, clients or vendors. There are times that we have to take these stands and say, “That's not what I believe. If you're not willing to have a conversation with me on why you're wrong, then I can't be associated with you.” That's what I got.
Terrica: Kirsten, what about you? What have you seen? Have you seen people say, “I don't know what to say,” “I don't know what to do,” how did you approach it? I know you've been extremely vocal with a lot of stuff.
Kirsten: Both in everything and all at once, I've seen people come to the table saying, “I don't know what to say. How do we start this conversation?” My reaction first is, “This conversation has been going on. Why are you now showing up?” However, we need all people. We need all allies. We need a community to move forward. I can't be the gatekeeper on when you showed up to the starting line, but you've got to show up. I saw a wonderful quote on Instagram and the graphic. I wish I could remember the speaker and shared it. It's a black woman and she said, “Don't make us swim through your white tears.” It’s important that we do not center this around us and our white fragility. “I don’t have a racist bone in my body.” “You do.” If you've seen Project Q, everybody's a little bit racist. We were all raised with biases and we all have to work to unlearn those.
It's important to do that work but to do it offline or in private circles with your white friends. Do not project that to your black friends. I'd see it again and again and I've done it too. I've had to learn. I had them see it on Facebook, “Check on your black friends.” Somebody had to say that to me, for me to text my black brother-in-law, my black nephew, all my friends, and my wedding colleagues to say, “How are you doing?” One person I texted and I said, “I'm ashamed.” I read this article about how white women can do better and I shared it on Facebook. First of all, stop telling the people you're checking on what you're feeling in terms of guilt because they're already dealing with enough. They're tired, devastated, and outraged. They can't carry our burden too. It's time for us to carry the black people's burden.
Terrica: I want you to carry your own. I don't want you to carry mine. I don't want to carry the shit that has been created for and by the benefit of you. I don't want you to carry anything.
Kirsten: What I'm trying to say is that a lot of white people, what we do collectively say, “That's not my problem.” It needs to be our problem. That's the burden I want us to carry collectively. In any country, especially in the wedding industry, it can't be up to the black people to only try to get hired for the jobs or to be listed in Harper's Bazaar where white people have to get involved too.
Terrica: Heather, what about you?
Heather: I've been reading some of the comments on Facebook as you guys have been talking. I want to talk to some of these points as well because, for me, this was tough. What do you say? How do you say it? What's the right way? I totally get and understand that, but it doesn't matter. The point is you must say something. Let's talk about actions because actions are what's going to make a difference in this world. I don't care if you can talk until you are blue in the face. It's what your actions do. For me, my actions look like featuring black creatives on my platform that has a large following. Reaching out to these creatives and asking for them to be a part of my events in a more of a way than I ever have in the past.
I'm sad that a lot of people are saying, “I'm here and I'm ready to learn.” It's not on our black friends to come and tell us what we need to be hearing. We need to be educating ourselves. We need to be doing our own work. We need to be going out and finding resources, which I will list an entire page of resources on all my social media accounts so you can have them, to all my white friends so that you can do the work yourself. I want my white friends or white people to know that it's your actions that are what people are watching. My mom used to tell me, “Why do you have the picture of you going to the gym every day? Nobody needs to know that you're going to the gym. They'll know you've been going to the gym when they see the results.” That's exactly how I feel. Use your voice, but if you don't feel comfortable, you don't feel like you want to, you don't know what to say, and you can't post something every three hours because you don't know what to say, do something with your actions. Make results happen with what you're doing.
Terrica: I want to touch on this with Brian, Jason, Denise and Eliana. We talked about people not knowing what to say. Can we talk about what not to say?
Denise: My beautiful, lovely, amazing non-black friends, please don't say that all lives matter. Don't say you're going to post some pretty flowers of a white couple and a dog to lighten the mood, lighten your skin. Even South Asian people have the whole discrimination in their own cultures. Black people have it in their own cultures that if you have lighter skin and straighter hair. You're better and prettier. Let's stop saying that to lighten the mood when something terrible happens. Don't say anything about peaceful protest. I don't give a fuck about peaceful protesting. That’s not the point. It is murder. We are being murdered for watching birds, jobbing, breathing, even in our own houses. You doing regular basic ass shit that you do every day.
I can't even have Starbucks fucking coffee. I can’t go in there because I can't do my work at Starbucks. In California, million-dollar companies work in Starbucks. We get kicked out of Starbucks, we're having to eat and drink coffee. When you talk about, “I'm going to give back.” The next rant you say, “Let's reach out.” This is a friend that I corrected and I know it’s not in her heart, but “I'm going to donate the poor underprivileged,” in the same breath, you're saying, “I'm an ally.” Why are all black people poor need to be educated and you are not the great white hope? We don't need that. For 400 years, we take and start with plantation. We don't need you to rescue.
We have rescued ourselves when we've had a black president. On the plantation, we’re eliminated because we can't breathe. With black people, you need to know Jumping The Broom came from the basic concept that we were not thought at people. We couldn't even get married on plantations. Now, people live in the business of weddings and what’s not possible. You know exactly how our lesbian friends feel. They fought for equality. We were right there with us. Where are they now? Don't make me have to go to one of the top more luxurious conferences in the world on a fucking plantation because we need to be let off the plantation. We are still trying because psychologically we can't eat and can't breathe. I'm glad I don't have to jump off the room and get married. Please don't make me go on a plantation and you can stop romanticizing plantation. When somebody comes to you and says, “We want to bring you in a private conversation.” Don't tell me you have time like, “We can't handle being a free sponsor for your organization, but here are some magazines with white people in it. We can do that,” and then take my money and not promote me because my styled are too black.
Brian: This is to all my friends. Stop messaging me and telling me how you feel. I don't care. My white friends, I don't care. The ones that say, “You don't see color,” you want the back of my hair to stand up all four grains left, that's where the problem's going to start. If you don't see color, you don't see me. The gig is to see color because you created colors and it not matter. Stop telling me things like, “That flower girl is pretty for a black girl.” I’ll punch you. You talked about when everyone first heard the word nigger. I'm born in Barbados. For me, it's different. Eliana's experience as a Caribbean girl is probably more similar to mine than some of you. I grew up with leaders, business owners, people on the money of my country that looked like me. My teachers looked like me.
I didn't come up with a society where I was seen as less than or other. I was part of the tribe. The first time I got called the word nigger was in Mississippi when I worked for the Government of Barbados as a diplomat. I had gone into an office and this old white guy was at a desk and he said, “Git.” I did not understand what he was saying and he said, “I don't have niggers in my office.” I will tell you that at 30 years old to hear it for the first time, I sat in a car and I cried for about an hour. When you come to me with your stories of you heard Susie say this and you were appalled and you didn't say anything, my question to you is, “Why was Susie comfortable to say it in front of you?”
You need to make her uncomfortable. That’s how I feel about it. We've come to this point and this time, with all due respect because white people were home and forced to eat their own food. You all only have nothing else to do, but we've been being killed all the time and every day. A kid was killed in Pittsburgh at the hands of people who were paid to protect and serve. It's exhausting every day. If you asked me what I want to see and not hear anymore, I don't want to hear excuses anymore. I want to hear the plans and hear actions. While we are going to give you steps, I'm also not Google. Do some of this work yourself. Do some of the liftings yourself. I'm going to point you in the right direction, but do some work. This is a partnership. If we're going to come out of this together, it works that way. That's that on that from this guy?
Terrica: For me, I want you to know that proximity does not absolve you. I have one of these conversations before with someone about the industry and their argument was, “I had a black boyfriend in college.” Your proximity to the black penis does not absolve you from being racist. That’s a lot of masters on plantations.
Jamie: This is important. In the comments, they said, “For those of us who have messed up this conversation, do we apologize directly?”
Terrica: Please apologize directly that is not so much for me. It is for you so that you can convict yourself and you can hold yourself to a higher standard. That is important. I don't want to hear about your proximity to black people, your children included if your children are biracial. I don't want to hear about how many people you know. I do not want you to equate my struggle with the LGBTQ movement because it's not the same people. When people see a gay person or they hear about a gay person, they don't know you're coming. They see me and it is automatic. Our struggle is not the same. I will be there and I will fight for you 10,000%, but the struggle is not the same. Please don't let me in with that. You cannot imagine how it feels at all.
You have people that say, “I fight for marriage equality,” and you have people who say, “It goes against my religion, whatever.” Fine if that's your argument. My skin color and my life should not be against your religion. My ability to live, breathe, and take care of my children should not be against your religion so I don't want to hear that either. Another thing that I am sick of is fake allies. I'm sick of the “allies” who do a lot of talking and then they go missing. They copy stuff from people or they use black people as a platform and then go on, especially if you have a responsibility to use your voice. Please don't get into my inbox. Do not text me. Do not talk to me about how much you love me. It's whole industries out there that will make you tan, a butt, and lips like me because society loves everything about us, but us. Please do not be a fake ally in my face and then when you have the opportunity to speak up for me, you say nothing. Those are my don’ts. Jason, what you got?
Jason: I got a list. One of the first things is what Denise talked about, skin color and light skin people. White people tend to classify us on our skin tone. That happens in every country. In Brazil, Mexico, wherever that the lighter you are, the more valuable you are to society. You look at people like Dwayne Johnson, who posted Black Lives Matter on Instagram and all his white fans lost their shit. They're losing their minds because he's safe. He's a safe black man because he's mixed.
Terrica: He only has one drop.
Jason: He was okay. I've got that in my whole life like, “You're all right for a black guy because you're mixed.” It's ridiculous. I don't want to see people being upset when someone that's part black is suddenly being pro-black. As if we aren’t supposed to be because we're part you as well. You need to accept the fact that no matter how black I might be or not be, I'm pro-black all the time.
Terrica: I'm black every day.
Denise: Some people don't understand what we have said about the one drop. The one-drop rule is something that we say in our community. It goes back to slave to the plantation that you have a little drop. Maybe your great-great-grandmother has some black in her that you got and you look light. You still are black and you're still going to get discriminated against. That's what we mean by one-drop rule.
Jason: It doesn't matter how a little bit of black you are. You're black as far as those people are concerned. That's what it is. I don't want to hear about people focusing on protests and not the murder. That's the most simple and basic. We are talking about protest and who should be doing what. We should talk about the fact that people are being murdered in broad daylight. I don't want to be told how to act. I don't want to be told how I should feel. I don't want to be told to calm down. I don't want to be told I shouldn't speak up. It's not your job to tell me anything. I'm a grown man. I own a business. I have raised a family. I know how to act and how I should act and I'll do whatever I damn well, please. That's how that's going to be. Some other thing is I posted and I said, “Did anybody else become an oracle for people or information on how they should act? I'm happy to help people.
Eliana: I think it's important that our white friends do have someone to call. They need to text and say, “I said this, am I okay?” I got called up people and you know where someone has posted something, trying to do the right thing, but it may have been perceived by us as wrong. We are calling them in to say, “I know you've meant well. I'm not speaking to everyone, but this is how I felt.” I want everyone to know that communication and work do happen both ways, but it needs to happen separately. White people need to come together and say, “This is how they feel. Why are they feeling like this? What have we done to contribute to that? How do we fix it?” We also still have work to do in our community. I think we need to be clear on this that we are not negating that we have work to do, but while we're doing this work, we need you to work on it simultaneously.
Jason: I was going to say that my time has a dollar amount on it. I generally put it about $500 an hour. If somebody wants my time, they should compensate me for it.
Denise: I had already done some pivots. If you want to pivot, I've been working on for years, preparing myself to be a business coach. I was going to add COVID at the wedding list. I have to add this to the list too. I'm okay to talk to you. You can get the little freebie, but then let's work together and value me and my expertise.
Terrica: You can't come in right after something happens and expect me to counsel you because we go through a period of mourning. I can't be that for you immediately. It's telling that some people don't have anybody to go to so we do have to be that person, but you have to be mindful as to when you reach out to people.
Denise: They are taking away from my businesses. You're taking away from my peace and the weddings that I want to plan.
Jamie: We, as white people, also need to understand where our relationships with our friends have been. If this is the first time that you are reaching out to your black friend and having a conversation about race, what you should say, who was being murdered, then it is not the time to do it. I have been thankful to be friends with Terrica, Ellie, Lisa, my pastor, and people who I've been able to say, “Can I say this? Can I do this?” I have earned that by having those conversations over and over again throughout the year and not when something happens. For those people who are looking at that, you need to look at your black friends and honestly ask yourselves, are you listening to their stories? Are you hearing what they're saying not just in this time of crisis and protest but in general? Are you giving them space to speak into your life on a daily basis so that when something like this happens, you have the relationship to be able to ask those questions?
Michael: I am not looking for somebody to tell me what to say. I'm not looking for a sounding board of, “Let me run this by you, should I post this? Should I say this? Should I have this conversation?” Terrica, when we talked, I wanted to know the story. I wanted to know what happened. I wanted to know what the experience was for you. I did not want to know, “What should I say? Am I going to offend somebody if I do this?” I wanted to listen. I need to formulate my own opinions. I need to formulate my own strategy and decisions, but I need relate-ability. I need to understand somebody else's experience. I cannot imagine it. I cannot identify 100% with it because it didn't happen to me. I need to understand not only the experience as it was for you.
Terrica, I asked you, “How do you explain this to your children? How do you communicate this within your community?” When I say community, I mean the broad community. I don't mean a particular segment of the community. That's what I'm trying to get to. If I came across as anything but bad, I apologize for that. In order for me to get to a point of some from somebody who does not live through this and does not have the same experience to a point of understanding, to a point of communicating, to a point of advocacy, I need to understand you as an individual.
Jason: What I was getting at is that I don't mind if people want to ask me questions, but I get repeated. My time is valuable and pay me to educate you, like anybody else would. Another thing that I wanted to address, speaking of education is that television and media tend to portray people of color as being poor and uneducated. We tend to get all lumped in that way. For some reason, people are having a hard time accepting seeing people of color living in nice neighborhoods, having educations, or driving cars. The first thing that the police asked me when I'm pulled over most times is, “Who's this car belongs to?” They know that because they run the tag. When they pull you over, it tells you who the car belongs to within seconds. Asking that is another way of making me feel like shit about the fact that I shouldn't have that car.
Use your voice. If you can’t, do something with your actions; make something happen with what you’re doing. #UnityThroughCommunity
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I don't want to hear about how nobody else has ever rioted in American history, except for black people. It's ridiculous. Women wouldn't have the right to vote if it weren't for women rioting for women's suffrage. People talk about how it's been years since the black people were slaves. It's like a couple of 100 years, but ever since then, we've had the entire system working against us. New laws created to keep us from advancing from Jim Crow laws, all the way to getting the right to vote ten years before I was even born. I'm not even that old. From there, you get redlining. You have all the oppressive tactics from banks, insurance companies, and all the things that keep you from getting a business and keep you from owning a home, predatory lending practices. We wouldn't have to have all these laws for equal lending and all these things if those things weren't actual problems that were going on to keep us from getting anywhere in business and society. Somebody was talking about shooting on plantations or working plantations, stop with the cotton field shoots. It is killing me.
Terrica: The cotton field shoots trigger me.
Jason: Blue Lives Matter. Cops can take their uniform off. Cops can get another job. Cops can do anything they want if they don't want to be a cop. There's nothing I can do to take my skin color off. It doesn't matter if I'm a cop. It doesn't matter anything I'm doing, I'm still this. Cops can choose to stop being cops. They can choose a different profession. I don't want to hear Blue Lives Matter. It's always used as an affront to Black Lives Matter. Finally, I want to quickly say that the photo and the wedding industry, we need large corporations to not only be allies to be accomplices. They need to be part of what's going on because the people, for instance, Bay Photo, Sony, and many other big companies had posted Black Lives Matter and people lost their minds.
“I'm going over to somebody else.” There should be nobody else. Every fucking company should be like, “Black Lives Matter. If you don't like it, get out of the industry.” There should be no safe haven for your racism in our industry. There should be no company. That's okay with you being a bigot and they're afraid to say something so that you can come to them and feel safe and comfortable in your bigotry there. I want Sony, Nikon, Cannon, and all the big labs, I want everybody to go, “Fuck your bigotry. We don't care. If you don't like it, you can do something else with your life.”
Terrica: Ellie, do you have anything to add?
Eliana: I don’t have all things that Denise and all you guys got what not to say. One thing I want to add is what not to do. Don't make changes in your business, in your life, if that's not what you want to honestly do from your heart. If you're doing it because all your friends are doing it, you're doing it for the wrong reasons, save us. Publications, if you truly don't want to publish black weddings or people of color, don't do it. I will do it gladly for you. That's not a change that you need to make. If you do not want to have us on your speaker panel because 98% of your audience is white and you would like to protect that white dollar, then do so. We will step up to the plate and make it happen. We're not asking for any handouts. We're asking to be seen because of our hard work. I hate the words, “I didn't know.” It's a lie. Don't say you didn't know. You didn't know that this was happening.
You knew and you saw the graphic. You knew there was no black people or brown people on there. You knew so don't say that because that pisses me off more than anything that, “I didn't know this was happening. I didn't know, you felt this way.” I can tell you, as a publisher, I can reach out to Zola and ask for sponsorship or anything. I would not get it. I probably wouldn't even receive a response. I have friends at The Knot but we would not get that. Don't be on here like, “I didn't know.” You knew, but you chose to ignore it. Please I am begging you going forward. If this is not in your heart, and this is not something that you're dedicated to doing, not join any of these and stick your ground. We see you for who you are and we respect it. We don't need our black dollars.
Terrica: Stavros, what you said was super important because when Ahmaud did happen and the video came out and everybody saw it, you were one of the few people who didn't comment on my video. You didn't share my video. You didn't text me. You called me and you said, “I want to know how you are. I had no idea that you went through something completely similar.” I think that through all of this, while we're saying, “Speak out and post,” whatever it is, it is important to have that human connection. For me, to you, I appreciate that much. I appreciate where you came from with that to want to learn how to take my experience that you did not have to mold it for conversations in ways that you can act in the future. Thank you for that for sure.
Brian: It's not enough anymore not be racist. You need to be an antiracist.
Terrica: Let's talk about this because we have been touching on it and we've been tiptoeing around it. When COVID happened, I got emails from everybody. “Here's our COVID policy. Here's how we're approaching COVID. We make shoe strings.” “Do you like Haribo gummy bears? This is our COVID policy.” Everybody was putting out COVID policies. When this happens, everybody's like, “Maybe we should wait.” COVID is a freaking pandemic. You would need to talk to scientists, doctors, lawyers to talk about restrictions on capacities and how you can service people. There's a lot of people you would have to consult before you release a COVID policy. Who the hell do you talk to say killing black people is wrong? Who do you talk with to make a statement to say, “Killing black people is wrong and I am against it?” I hate it when people say, “That's too political.”
There is nothing political at all about me wanting to live, about me not wanting to die because I am in the wrong place or because somebody feels like I don't know my place or because somebody feels like my skin color is a tad too dark. What are we seeing from the brands about speaking out? What do you see or hear from brands? What are you not seeing? How important do you think that is? I feel like that's going to make a huge impact on our colleagues, on how this is going to affect a lot of vendor relationships, and how this is going to affect how people spend their money. As far as I'm concerned, a couple of these companies run my card every damn month. Yet, you are dragging your feet on making a statement. They didn't take you long at all to talk about COVID, but black people who bet COVID-19, it means it came out in 2019. It's brand fucking new. Black people have been here. What is taking you so long? Your turn, Brian.
Brian: For me, what I'm going to say is that some people may be new to it, but I hope that you're true to it, which is what Eliana was alluding to. If you're doing it so that when this may have calmed down a little bit, you can go back to business as usual, know that we are watching and looking. Know that we didn't miss it before. We didn't talk about it before. Trust me, Eliana and I have been on the phone and we've been talking to Michelle, Lauren and everybody else saying, “Girl, did you see X? Have you seen Y?” We're done not talking so we're talking now. That's a difference for me.
American Airlines sent me an email during COVID about we’re in this together. They weren't with me when it was 51 pounds in a suitcase, but we have it together now. I've heard from anyone. I've heard that major that we spend money with, but I have heard from vendors who are white, who have called me personally and said, “How are you? How is it going?” but they didn't surprise me. What I would say moving forward is that dollars matter, how we put our economies matter, and how we put those resources matter. I'm watching, listening, and learning. I feel like what Eliana said has resonated with me. If you not to do it, don't do it and then I don't know. We're good. If you want to do it, then be more than just post to hashtag.
Denise: I'm also watching and listening because I want to learn. I'm learning who is the real ally and who's not. I'm making a list and I'm keeping track of that list. I'm checking it twice like fucking Santa Claus because when it comes to being the analogy of Christmas, which means a client who has hundreds of thousands of dollars to spend on their wedding. Am I going to put you on my preferred vendors' list? No. If I hear that you're racist and you do something racist and you have hired as a venue, I'm going to tell them to fire you. They are going to listen to me because I take the time to build trust and relationships with my clients.
I also have been checking the brands that like. I love Makeup Forever. I immediately checked to make sure that they posted something, at least say something. Don't wait a week to say something. Don't hide behind a statement you email me privately. Put it on your Facebook page. Don't put it on your story at 24 hours. “I'm black all day until I die,” not for 24 hours. Put something on your permanent platform, the permanent website, like you do with COVID and everything else. I can always grow and learn and I'm keeping track.
Eliana: What's more important to know is not only how late and safe the messages that put up there. Denise, I saw you call out Brides, The Knot, and WeddingWire. I have seen your post and you called out and then eventually they made a post. Let's give them an excuse. It's a corporation. They got to go through the marketing department. What's more troubling are the comments of the white allies or even us, the black community excited that they finally said something and worshiping them because they've taken much time to go ahead and make the statement.
Denise: Let's be clear. I'm saying thank you for doing it because I had asked them privately. Unfortunately, it had to be the case but your point is good.
Eliana: My point is, don't say thank you for finally seeing me because I was seeing the woman I was born when my mother had me, she saw me, my family, my loved ones also saw me. I'm excited that you're taking a stance, but I'm not thanking you for doing what you should have done from the beginning. I think that's important because you're letting the allies or other black people know that they're on the safe list. They can go ahead and take their time to respond to us. They can take their time to see us. They can not necessarily have to make a change because they've made this one blank ass statement. We need to honestly acknowledge that.
Brian: Partners like us Stavros, we also need to amplify. People who are walking, talking, and doing things, we need to say, “We are proud to work with him. We're probably working with this brand. We are proud to have them as a partner, as an ally, as we move together to make our industry better.” That's how we bent to the next step. The watching, the learning, the listening, the supporting, and the cheering on of those who are true to it. It's all part of that process.
Denise: I was surprised by Makeup Forever because they were the first foundation that matched my skin tone because they made hundreds of colors.
Heather: It's not just about what's happening. I'm interested in seeing how these big brands, these huge influencers keeping the conversation going months and years and decades from now. To Ellie's point, everybody's making a blunt statement and it's the same thing to do but what's going to happen in the future? Those are the people that I want to keep my eye on and support the people who are continuing the conversation down the road.
Eliana: Honestly, Heather, we have no clue. I'm going to be 100% honest with you. We saw this happen with Style Me Pretty. They went down all the allies from years whether you're black or white was like, “Style Me Pretty, the icon is gone. My life was over. I'm never going to get a lead again that I wasn't getting in the first place.” All black people came out and were like, “You didn't feature us any way. We're going to do better, just get us back up. We got this.” People went through their feed. Out of the last 200 posts, one person was white and was like, “I promise I'm going to do better.” I was like, “What happened? You’re back. Where is the post that you promise?”
I wish I could hug the world and say, “These webinars are going to make a difference. We're going to see diverse panels going forward.” Honestly, even with my other publications, I'll never forget what hurt us more. I'm speaking for myself when Serena, the tennis player, got married. Her wedding immediately went to Brides. Brides jumped on it for a marketing opportunity. I opened up that magazine and there were even more than four pages of a feature in that magazine. Do you know how much that hurts to say, “It was good enough for the cover because she was in?” I have no faith that they're going to do the work I do. I think that they're here to say, “I'm here. I joined her live. I was there. Did you see me, Zola? I was there,” but then make a couple of attempts and that's it. I wonder what has happened.
Denise: I am 100% confident that we will hear from them in February. They'll wait until February for Black History Month. They’ll do their one Black History Month post and then go back again.
Jamie: The only thing I want to say, I'll throw some people out there. I'm the President of NACE Detroit and we have had some hard conversations. I have asked some of my friends' opinions on it because they didn't post a statement. They did nothing. I raised the point and the NACE leaders board. We have been going back and forth about it. It's important for people that if you consider yourself an ally, if you are a part of an organization or you are spending your money, you need to say that. Not only do you need to say that. It's not just a statement you need to say, “What does our leadership look like? What do the boards look like? What do the executives look like?” It's not enough to put out a statement, but if your membership is not diverse, if your leadership is not diverse, if your education is not diverse, then you as a magazine, as an organization, as education is failing. We need to say that they're failing and we need to call it out. Following up to say it's not enough to post a little statement about what you're doing, but we need to make sure that we're making changes in these organizations. That people of color have a voice and are in the leadership team and can direct the way it's going.
Terrica: Where do you guys see the gaps? Where do the gaps exist? We need to call them out and identify them so that if you're ready to make the changes, this is where we need to start. Where are the issues? Where are the problems?
Denise: There's a secret behind the scenes thing that most black people I say is WIPA so white like Oscar is so white. Why do we say that? That's terrible. It's because that's what we see. They don't speak to our issues at the conferences and they don't try hard enough. The other thing is Engage Summits. I'm obsessed with them. Can we please not have the conference on a plantation?
Terrica: Ellie, I want you to start because the transition in your business started from a gap. It started with the absence of something. Where do you see the gaps? Where do you see where we need to fill-in?
Eliana: Something as simple as Styled Shoots. Heather, you're doing Styled Shoots. I've never seen them come across the B Collective to be submitted not once. I don't know if you've ever reached out to any other publication of color or any other blog of color. I've never seen you come this way. I know because I've seen your stuff before. I know you've featured black couples, but that's not enough. If you are teaching a community about Styled Shoots and about being published, it is your job to know all publications and making sure that they're varying because I don't feature just black couples. I do Fusion. I don't mind if an advertisement has white people in there, but I do want it to be relatable. Anything from advertisements to Styled Shoots to publications to these must-have lists. Every person on the planet, whether you're BizBash, Harper's Bazaar, Vogue and you are creating these lists and you are purposely leaving people of color out. Do not give me the excuse that you didn't know because I've done bigger budget weddings and been on more TV than most of the people that are on your list. I've never made it to this day.
You don't understand the privilege that you're continuing to create because you're giving them the opportunities that black people are not able to have because of your bias. That's an opportunity for change. I don't understand how any publication could say, “I didn't know.” You knew about me when you reached out for advertising in Dallas. You knew I was in business then so how did you not know, otherwise? I could create a complete list and we could create a document and send it out to everyone. In everything that you do, whether from the people that you hire, the people that are representing you, or this era saying, “I'm going to create,” because I've seen a lot of people saying, “I created a diversity board.” We've seen it, whether it was Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. They had the diversity board to say, “They've done it,” but they're still not listening to the people.
That's not going to make me feel better unless you're putting a have action steps. I want you to make those action steps public because you need to make your white followers uncomfortable and say, “These are the steps that were taken. Don't text it ellyB and let them know behind the doors so that I could clap for you and put you on my platform.” I need you to make it say, “What we realize is injustices. These are the action items that we're going to take. We are going to be more exclusive on our platform on whether we're speaking in our magazine. If you don't like it, then we're not the publication for you because those people that don't have it in their heart and they can go ahead and do what they need to do.”
Heather: I personally don't submit our shoots. I haven't submitted the shoot for years. The photographers submit their own shoots, but that's not an excuse. An action item for me would be to go and create an inclusive list of all of these amazing publications that do feature black creatives, vendors, models, and all the things and share that with the people who do attend our shoots and push and use my voice to ensure that they are submitting to all of these publications. I have some work to do and I'm willing to do the work, but I agree that there's work to be done for sure.
Brian: Let's not forget speaker balance. There is nothing more aggravating to my spirit. When I look at a conference that I think, “This might be interesting and maybe unique,” and there is no diversity. It is all in one experience of a lifetime. That says to me, “I'm not necessarily invited to the party.” Let's move into offices. If you're a caterer and your sales office is all white, but your kitchen is all black, you have a problem. We've all seen that. Let's not pretend that we've not. Your claim to diversity can't be in small spaces in niche moments. It has to be across the board. Those are the gaps. One of them also says is that when we have those opportunities and when we forced that conversation take up space, but it will also say, “Don't sit at home and be mad that engage only has Simon or Preston. When Eliana has everybody.”
You could have gone to B Collective. Don't be mad that that conference that you saw in Paris with twelve people had nobody of color when COTERIE got everybody, but you didn't go to that one. This is also for our people. Show up and support the people who are space. Zozibini Tunzi, who is the 2020 Miss Universe talked in her winning speech about taking up space. I'm not saying it to ass lick her because she knows I support her, but we would also cuss at each other and then hug each other. Eliana made a deliberate step out to make space to create opportunities.
Why is she in a space where she's still having to say, “To our own community, come support.” It's both sides of this for this particular situation, show up. “I want to go to engage and I will go to engage when they have more people that look like me.” They don't only have this Eliana on a panel to talk about magazines. That don't work for me. I'll go then, but I'm to go to B Collective and support. I also say to our white counterparts in the industry, show up to B Collective. There was nothing on the door that says you're not welcome. Her panel diverse, same thing with COTERIE, the award winners diverse, same thing with Tara in DC on her Signature C.E.O., Janell, the planners week. The speakers are diverse, you are welcome. Create spaces where people are welcomed.
Terrica: This goes both ways to all groups and I can speak from this directly. There is an emotional and professional cost of being the only one in the room. It is isolating and jarring, not that you have to wear a mask, but there is nobody in that whole damn room that has an experience like you. I can speak for myself. I have been the only black speaker on a panel. There is a cost to that. I have heard it on both sides. I've heard what my white colleagues say, “If we're going to be diverse, we'll get Terrica.” I don't want to be chosen because I'm black. I want to be chosen because I'm good. On that same token to say perfect work, they didn't think that I heard the conversation, but someone was offered a platform to make their panel diverse. The person that was offered said, “No, you're not going to make me your token. Go get Terrica.”
I get it from both sides. There is an emotional and professional cost of being the only one in the room. I bust my ass every single day so whether you like me, you hate the way I present, you think I'm a token. I bust my ass every damn day to make sure that the next one isn't the only one in the room. You may not like me, but you damn sure going respect me because it's not all about me and what I do. It is for the next one and the next one. I'm not trying to be a Holy savior. I'm not trying to be Black Jesus. I'm not trying to be any of that, but I want people to understand on both sides, there is a cost to making somebody the only one in the room. I don't know if you all are aware, but it's more of us. There's a whole bunch of us out there. We are talented, beautiful, and creative. I want to be chosen because I'm good. I'm the best. I fit for you not because you are trying to fit a quota.
Denise: I wanted to piggyback off of what you said. If I use myself as an example, I said I was going to be militant because Yolo racism is more difficult to deal with in cancer. If I speak up it's because I care about you, the conference and The Knot and about the WeddingPro and all that. I care about the WeddingMBA and I want them to be better, not for me personally. I'm going to be all right because I'm one of the best Indian wedding planners in the whole damn world. I'm going to be fine, but I'm speaking up because I want it to easier for the next person. Don't turn around and ostracized me because I spoke up. I care enough about you and giving you the benefit of the doubt because I know you have the capacity to do better and I see you trying. You're taking baby steps and I'm okay with the baby steps. Take your time. Do it sincerely as Eliana said, but if somebody speaks up, all of us are speaking up. Don't get in your feelings about what we said.
There should be no safe haven for racism in our industry. #UnityThroughCommunity
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If you came to me and said some crazy stuff about what I'm doing, “I'm bossy and rude.” I'm going to take it in. I'm going to work on it internally if it's important enough for me to do. If it's important enough for you to get us off the plantation, not wait a week to speak, and we recognize that. Let's move forward, but don't ostracize. My black friends too, don't call me uncle Tom or a house slave because you're placating to that. I'm not. I'm a grown-ass woman. I know I'm badass. I wore Beyoncé, but I think I'm Beyoncé production of weddings. I don't need them to care about me, but I'm getting an opportunity. When they fail, I will put it on my little list.
Jamie: We talked about this a ton. This year I was honored to speak at B Collective and Planners Suite. It was shocking to me to be one of the only white people in the room. It was because we go to conferences all the time and we speak together at WeddingMBA, NACE, and Catersource. You have said before what it was like to be the only person who looks like you. You always say that you're the only dot in the room, but I never experienced it. When I went to B Collective and I sat in a room, Cece and I were the only people who look like us, I realized I don't have the same experience, same background, and same culture as you. Suddenly, I understood how alienating we could be to try to invite you in and say, “Please be one of the only black people in this white room.” It was super intimidating and hard. I was scared to be there, to speak, and I wanted to do justice.
I started my speech by saying, “I have a confession, I'm white,” and everybody laughed. For those of you who are breaching and for those of us who see people breaching that, that is a hard and scary thing and a powerful and brave thing to do. We need to acknowledge that and then walk alongside that. When we hear people say, “She's great for a black speaker or great for a black photographer.” We need to stop and say, “She's a fucking badass because of the way she runs her company and the way that she brings people together.” We need to not allow people to categorize people, not by their talent, but by their color as well.
Terrica: Kirsten, Heather, and Jamie, I want you to jump into. We've talked about where we see gaps. Where do you guys see gaps as well? Do you see the same gaps and absences that we do?
Kirsten: I speak at a variety of conferences and I have been for many years. I've seen some conferences that were doing it well that had incredibly diverse conference panels and speakers. They were asking people of color, specifically black women in the wedding industry to speak about things that weren't necessarily training people how to be anti-racist, but how do you plan a luxury wedding? Unfortunately, a lot of those conferences have gone under and the big ones have risen to the top.
I see it every year that there's a lack of diversity in attendees, panelists, and speakers. If the attendees are more black, attendees are going to feel more comfortable when there are more speakers there, but also see it in the leadership of the people who are running these things. The majority are white, if not all white. Maybe they have a diversity council, but that's not enough. I'm seeing that in the publications that they throw in a black couple every now and then. I've seen in the comments, people are like, “How do we get more black people to submit to us?” You've got to do the work and show that you're not doing it to be a token.
I'm not the best spokesperson on. I certainly can't speak why black wedding professionals who are not submitting to your publications, but I can say that you have a problem. One of the biggest things that I noticed was Harper's Bazaar, the Best 100 Wedding Pros in the world was all white, but they're going to go and roll out all these different articles from Rachel Cargle and, “Here are the 90 Best Black People,” like, “Where were you?”
Brian: Harper's Bazaar, Vogue magazine, Martha store, all of them. I look at those lists and I'm like, “Where's Eliana, Brian Green, Terrica, Lauren and Andre Wells?”
Kirsten: Another gap thing is, this isn't wedding-specific, but L'Oreal was coming out with this big statement, “We stand with you.” You fired a black model for speaking out against racial injustices few years ago. It's up to us, white people, to know the history of these companies and to watch what they're doing, to read more black published journalism to follow these stories along the way so that we can help call out these injustices and not be like, “I didn’t know L'Oreal is great.” They sell skin lightening lotions across the world to other communities. L'Oreal is not alone in this, but we have to pay attention and not be handing out these cookies and crackers to these pitiful offerings from white-owned companies. They put up a black square where hallelujah, but what the fuck else are you going to do?
Terrica: That brings us to our last question before we hit Q&A. Heather, you have anything to say about any gaps that you see?
Heather: I agreed with everything that you said. The only thing I was going to add is in my world, which is the Styled Shoots, the publications, and creating trends and things like that. I want to get to a point where when you log onto Pinterest and a black bride is looking for wedding ideas that she sees a representation of herself come to those sorts of things as well. There's a gap in content and that's on me. I would work to improve that, but I feel there is a huge gap in representation when it comes to searching for wedding ideas, flower choices, hair and makeup styles, and all of these types of things. I think content needs to be amped up.
Jamie: Here's where I confess. I think that there are people who are probably white, who would say the same thing, “I don't always see the gap.” That is my fault because I open up a magazine, I go to a conference, and I search on Pinterest and everybody looks like me. It's not even in my thought process sometimes that there are people who don't look like me. We have also normalized that. It's a lie if we all say, “Every time I opened Brides magazine, I realized there are no black people in it.” “Every time I go in The Knot, I realized, I don't see diversity.” We do acknowledge that society and media have portrayed this and made it normal that we don't even think to see that thing. When I look at B Collective and I see their magazine, I think, “What a beautiful black bride.” There's something even wrong with that, that I have a different innate reaction to seeing that. I want to acknowledge because there are people here who would say, “I don't always see it, but I want to see it and we need to start seeing it.”
Terrica: Where the hell do we go? The reason I asked you about gaps is because I want us to call out the name. I want us to give voice to where we see gaps so people know where to fill them in. How do we take us past the black square? I appreciate your black square, your like, your share of your pictures, but how do we want to make sure that this is not a fad? For me, I've always told people, “Racism is not my problem as a black woman. Racism is a social construct that was created for and by white people that will have to be dismantled by white people. Please don't make it my responsibility to destroy racism.” White people have to decide, “Why am I holding on to this tight? What did I think about this to address privilege?
It has to go beyond the post. It has to go beyond the like. I tell people, “Don't tell me that you're not racist. Tell your racist uncle. Tell your prejudiced boss. Go handle it in your community because that's where it starts. That's where it's important.” For some people, I realize for them speaking out, for them stepping out of their comfort zone, it is for them to make a Facebook post, but it can't end there. There's no risk there. You lose a follower or you have people who say, “If you don't like so and so unfollow me.” People have to start putting skin in the game. Where do we go from the black square? From the #BlackLivesMatter, the blackout. Where do we go from here with that? What do you guys want to see and want to be done? Brian, go ahead.
Brian: For me, listen to us when we tell you how we feel, what we see, and what we know to be true. I had a white friend who said this to me because I had sent them links on how to speak to their own white communities about support. The comment back to me, “I almost feel bullied by you sending me this information.” We then had a conversation about, “You feel bullied and that's your privilege to live in your body.” Seek help in educating yourself and your teams. Know what you don't know and don't be afraid to say what you don't know like Jamie said, “I don't know. I don't see. I didn't realize. It is okay to not know, but it is not okay to not know and be happy not knowing.” You need to be able to move past that. Leave the room and make space for people of color on your teams, in your vendor lists, in your support structure, around the spaces that you are in. Leave space for them to not only be there but be heard, acknowledge, and appreciated for their talents and skills. Lastly, it is to collaborate with us in meaningful ways. It is for The Knot to reach out to Eliana in B Collective. It is for Engaged! to reach out to Tara at Signature C.E.O.
Collaborate on a large and a small scale. For Styled Shoots, does your vendor list look diverse? Does your vendor list look diverse for your event? Does your representation of that speak to what this country looks like? I'm not American, but my grandfather was born in 1913 a week before the Apollo opened, two blocks from the Apollo. I grew up in Barbados with him, loving America and me thinking that this was the world's greatest place. I remember he used to say all the time, “It is the land of opportunity. It is the land of dreams. It's not perfect, but the American ideal is that more perfect union.” That's what you guys talk about. We're not going to get there. If these conversations are finished, we go back to our respective corners. These things have to continue to be deliberately done. You don't stop biting your nails, you practice at not biting your nail.
I practice at not telling my husband, he's annoying me because of COVID. Those are the things you work on deliberately and intentionally. This is something you have to work on when it's not your skin, upon it. When you don't have skin in the game, you have to work at this every day and to check in with the people, the places, the institutions, and the organizations that have the wherewithal to say to you, “That's a misstep. That's great. That's fine.” The other thing I will say is the reason why a B Collective, COTERIE, and Munaluchi exists is that there was no oxygen in the room and we had to create our own space to breathe. Know that that’s a manifestation of not being seen and heard. Work on that deliberately and consciously.
Denise: I saw somebody on the Facebook comment which I loved. Please understand and know that a luxury wedding doesn't equal white. Black to be a luxury wedding across all platforms. When I went to B Collective in Atlanta, I was shocked at how many beautiful people of all shades that do luxury high-end weddings like, “There's the videographer for party B.” I was shocked because I don't know. I have to educate myself because it's not out there as Brian said about the oxygen. Please take us off the plantation. I'm going to keep saying that because that's symbolic and simple. If there's a venue out there in any state or country who's willing to even reach out to engage and say, “You can come here.”
Eliana: I’ve been doing this work before this even existed. I can only speak for myself and what I plan on doing, going forward. I think publications as a whole, all communities, we don't work together. You know where more about who wants to get the biggest wedding or the best style shoot and stuff like that. We all need to come together and have a conversation because I can't feature every wedding. Five of us can't feature every wedding. Everyone should be highlighted. I tell all my advertisers, all my followers, you should want to not only be featured with me, but you should also want to be featured in WedLuxe and Munaluchi Brides. You need to spread your beautiful creation. You can bring in that wealth because, at the end of the day, it's all about wealth.
That's what we're not talking about is that the reason why we're frustrated is that we've been removed from opportunities in order to make money, to feed our families, which leads to destruction. It keeps going and spiraling out of control. Once the publications coming together and doing those collabs, with the blogs as with everyone else. It's all about collaborations. I had modern luxury even before this but say, “We support you. What can you do? You're having a bridal show. We want to have a booth there. We want to be able to blast it.” It doesn't take anything away from them because they have their own audience. You can be supportive even though your audience is different. I've started communications and having conversations. I'm on the Engaged panel to say, “Here are the missteps,” and being honest.
Some of us, black people are still scared too. Let's not forget that part. It's not that white people are scared of what to say. Black people are still scared because they don't want to be ostracized. I don't care anymore so I don't have a problem speaking up. Everyone respectfully to everyone and speaking up and say, “This is how we feel.” “This is how I feel.” I have no problem saying this because this is coming from me. I don't speak for everyone. I'm no one's leader. I've not been appointed as the 46th president yet. Speaking up, being honest, having those conversations, and willing to call people out. I think calling people out behind closed doors is important. Without putting them on blast until you can't take it anymore because they've lied or didn't do what they said, then go ahead, publicly shame them by having those conversations behind closed doors.
Terrica: Heather, can you tell me how you're going to encourage your followers to go pass the black square, pass the hashtag and moving on and doing better in the industry?
Heather: We have to start in the community and lead by example. It's not always easy, but at least in my world, because I can say, “We're going to do a styled shoot. Who wants to collaborate?” People would jump on it and I take the easy route and say, “You volunteer at XYZ.” That's not the way that we should go about things from here forward. I'm talking to myself because I do want to lead by example. As far as including not only models, but vendors, the amazing professionals, and creatives who work hard and have these incredible skills to show, they need to be showcased as well. In my world, which is small, it's all shoots. I haven't done a real wedding for years, but in our industry, this is where people are looking to see content as we talked about earlier.
Going forward, having the resources readily available, having more inclusion of these types of vendors, and how easy it is to find and doing the work and even putting together an entire database so that it is easy to find people to work with. I don't know what else to say but to be inclusive as much as possible. I'm not just talking about it and not mix through the black square, but put the work in and do the actions. Not be the Style Me Pretty of the world that says they're going to do it and only puts a few times throughout the year, but truly have a one for one action for every white couple you post, you also post a black couple or something like that.
Terrica: Jamie, you got any suggestions?
Jamie: I think we need to diversify our own lives. We need to look at our social circles. We need to look at the places we worship. We need to look at the businesses that we frequent and the places we spend our money. We need to look at the things that we're promoting on Facebook and we need to make sure that we are diversifying our own world. We are giving room for black voices to be heard and that we're spending money in black restaurants and black vendors. When they come and they have street fairs, we attend those fairs, we see those little private entrepreneurs, and we spend our money there. The way that we change the world is to build relationships.
I don’t think that we're going to make any change without truly getting to see people, know and love them, and change their story. I will also say that I curse a lot, but I love Jesus. We need to pray for one another, for this community, and for change. I know that there are a lot of people who think that that is a cop-out, but the more you see people and in all the glory and the beauty that they were created to be, the more that you will love them and the more that you will want to hear their voice.
Terrica: Kirsten, do you have anything to add?
Kirsten: First and foremost, put your dollars out there like advertise with B Collective or Munaluchi. If you're a white wedding pro and you're given The Knot and WeddingPro your money, who do you think is going to hire you? The readers of them. If you want to diversify your client portfolio, then put the money and invest in black-owned companies, shared black voices in social media. Don't say what you think about anti-racism. Share what's already being said as Monique Melton said. I've discovered her and she's doing incredible anti-racism work. She's a black woman. She talks about like, “Don't try to take over the discussion. Direct people to pay black women for their labor to educate us because there are people out there with the resources that we need and we need to pay for it.”
I hope that company leaders and owners are not doing the black square or putting out a policy, but going and doing the actual work to learn what we need to do going forward. I know that I'm signing up for courses because I haven't done enough. There have been plenty of conversations where I get uncomfortable and I don't know how to cuddle the other white person's feelings about, “I'm not a racist. I don’t have a racist bone in my body.” I'm like, “I am conflicted.” I am going to be paying for the training to be able to talk through that conversation to get my point across without slapping them or unfriending them. I have to figure out how to move forward in those conversations too because it's hard. It is time for us, white people, to get more uncomfortable and to stay uncomfortable and not run from it.
Terrica: We're going to get to Q&A, but I do want to make sure that I share the actionable steps for some people. I'm glad that the panel shared where they see gaps and how we can go past the black square and a hashtag as well. I'm going to tell you what I think that we can do. I want you to actively every week, seek out to find new creatives of color, and make sure you find it's a diverse set that you're finding. Give me five every single week. I want you to expand and diversify your networking base and your followers.
They will follow you back. They will see your content as well. One thing that I do every Friday is Fab Friend Friday. That's where in my stories, I share the work of somebody else because that's important to see. In those five new people that you found, share the work of people of color because luxury does not just mean white. People of color do some amazing things, share that work. Be super committed to that. Diversify your network. Go out in your own community and find some people of color that you can work with. I had a bride email me about this session. We have brides reading who have the same issues of not finding vendors of color. That they don't know that Eliana and Jackie exist, that Tara is there to provide education. That Janell is there to provide education and has resources as well. Go out in your own community and find these people. Work to diversify your own client base.
When marriage equality happened, people were like, “What should we do? I don't have any gay clients. Should I do a shoot?” Some people said, “No.” I'm going to say yes because you need to learn several things. You need to diversify your client base that can work on. A shoot with people of color, those same people need to learn how to shoot people of color, how to edit our skin tones, hair and makeup artists that need to learn how to do our hair and our makeup if you do not have a person of color in those things. This is why these things surpassed for me, tokenism. They are teaching us and they are building us. If you don't have the content, then make the content because if we see ourselves represented, then we will come. I want you to start holding these educational and publication platforms accountable. Ask them, “Why is there only one black speaker?” When I go to your conference, “Why are there only ten black attendees or attendees of color?”
When they turn around on you and they're like, “Who would you suggest?” You already have these people that you have researched because you have been doing the work. Hold them accountable, “I want to see more ads. I want to see more real weddings. I want to see more speakers. I want to see more courses. I want to see more sponsors.” There are more people out there that do branding than the ones that do branding for these major groups. There are more sponsors that can offer amazing products. These conferences are much more than the pretty parties than the swag. It has to have a purpose. It has to pour into our businesses and into our communities as well. Work to diversify all of this. We have to stay together and we have to do this. I'm going to give you something that's going to hold us all accountable.
If you are on board on this with me, I am sharing a link here for you guys. When marriage equality happened, I remember The Knot had a nice little badge that said, “We're open for weddings. We're safe for weddings. This is a safe space for you if you have a same-sex wedding.” This is what I want for us. When people see this, they’ll say, “This is a safe space for you because I am working to fight racism within this industry. I am actively working to diversify my client base, my vendor base, my advertising platforms, and my educating platforms.” We are going to make it to the point where if we don't see this on somebody's site, it's a wrap. We know where you stand. That's a good problem to have.
There is a creed to that. Everybody that downloads and has it, you can use it in your Instagram. You can use it as a highlight where you save all of the people from your Fab Friend Fridays. If I see that you are participating when I see this icon, then I know that I can come to you and I can hold you accountable. I can also come to you when I can say, “How was the search going? Do you need help?” We need to hold each other accountable on all of this. This is going to go past the black square, the white guilt, white sadness, and the black anger. This is going to go into the future where we are going to do this and build this together. I do not expect to solve the world's problems, but this is a great start. Let me ask you this question because this came up in the Q&A's. I'm trying to consolidate them. How do you guys feel about that? We have several people saying, “If I don't have black clients or people of color clients, how do I get them? Is it wrong to have a shoot?” Feel free to disagree with me. I say, “It's not wrong to have a shoot.” Denise, you take it first.
Denise: Having a shoot is the best way to start because a styled shoot is supposed to be your opportunity to act on the design, the style of photography that your clients won't let you do. If you don't have the clients and you can't do weddings, do a styled shoot. Put your styled shoot out there. That'll attract our clients. I do Persian, Indian, Pakistani weddings. People from across different races and religions and people of color, I call it melanin. There's a scale of melanin. We got things like my beautiful Danish groom. He's pale skin and he is melanin deficient. I got my Nigerian bride. Up and down the melamine scale, you have different people of color. After we have our moment, let us have our moment. Let us have it about Black Lives.
This is our Holocaust. My Sikh in India, South Asians and the Middle Eastern, this is our 9/11. It can go on and on. My Asian friends, this is our concentration camp that you had here in America. This is what it feels like to us. You can identify. Once we move past, we get through our moment and keep our moment going, then those other groups of color up and down the melanin scale gives them the moment too, give them the same platform. I want to see more Indian, not just a white girl and an Indian boy, but two Indian people together and they get married in front of everyone. There are billions of them.
Racism is a social construct that was created for and by white people that will have to be dismantled by white people.
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Jamie: We need to make sure that we have vendors and creative partners that are people of color. We need to make sure that we are utilizing those relationships and that they are true relationships. We need to be involved in the black communities. If you are a white person in hospitality and all of your clients and all of your friends are white, you are not going to get a black bride because you post one picture. You need to make sure that you are building relationships with vendors. If you can't recommend who they can get their hair done by, who is a good photographer, or where to buy a dress where they can walk into that building and feel comfortable and feel accepted, then you are not going to have those clients. Relationships are key in using the other people in the community, going to churches, restaurants, and those places where those people are. If you want to give out your business card, you need to be where those people are.
Brian: I say yes to the styled shoot, but I also want to tap back to your things. I want to make a call out to a planner, social tables, all-seated, see events. Anybody who is tech, that we're all utilizing. If you're not sponsoring all of these conferences that we go to and you're putting your money in one, but every month you come quickly for the $45 and I had to say to you, “COVID give me a second to breathe. Eliana, Tara, and Janell, all these people shouldn't have to be calling you eighteen times to beg you to be a sponsor at their conference. You need to be coming to these people. They have support. You want clients, show your support with your dollar.
Eliana: We need to look beyond social media and we're lazy that we think that social media is king and queen taking it back in a day. If you are a white person and you want to understand more about what happens at a Nigerian wedding, what happens at our Southern wedding, which is different than what happens at a New York wedding. That's what I learned all about fraternities and sororities, volunteer to be on-site. Be in the room. That's extra content for you to post whether it's in your stories and showing people how comfortable you are in the room and how much experience you do have. To me, I agree styled shoot is the way, but it's too safe because it's not in a real practical environment. I want to hire people. From my planner's side, let me take off the publisher's hat. I want to hire vendors that I know are comfortable. There are white photographers I won't work in because I know you don't know the lighting. All you do is ballroom weddings and you're going to make all my clients look like Oompa-Loompas.
I don't want that in my portfolio. That looks awful. Reach out to the photographer that’s doing the damn thing. You have Gina, Stanley. There are many that probably on it that can teach you lighting because it's different. We cannot sit down here and pretend we're all the same and everything is lit the same process and that's okay. Show me that you want to learn and that you are making the effort outside of a styled shoot because it's easy. A white person calls a bunch of black vendors, 9 times out of 10. They're going to jump because they feel like this is their way into the white world. Don't take advantage of that situation as well.
Terrica: Heather, what do you think?
Heather: I think that's great to be inclusive, but I was reading some of the comments. There are all sorts of things that people are saying from, “If you're going to have a black person, make sure that they're darker skin because if they're too light, you won’t be able to tell.” I feel like it's a fine line and you guys can help me understand because that is hard for me specifically to know what is right and wrong, what's okay, what's going to get chastised?
Eliana: In our community, we suffer from colorism because we want to be white, half of us. We hate on our lighter skin, brothers and sisters, because they feel the poster to that scale that Denise created. They're like, “You have more opportunity than we do.” It is light skin versus dark skin in our community, which is our problem. We're not asking you to fix that, but that's why they're saying that. It should not be because black is black regardless of the color of your skin. We're saying, “Don't go ahead and use the lighter skin as a pass.” We're still saying, “Don't start using these things as a token as you've done lighter skin. You have someone black, but when someone looks at that person, they can't tell.”
Denise: The reason why we as a collective community has an issue with that is because white people could live, breathe, and have a life. Wouldn't you want to be white too if it meant you could stay alive? I know in my heart that probably we have that complex, but we're not the only ones who have that complex. Indians and Asians have that complex too. It goes on and on that people want to be white for the safety of their lives. Psychologically, they're trained that the lighter skin people could be in the house of the plantation because they look less black. The darker skin people have to be out there picking the pot and that should not be in anybody's bouquet out there on their publications. They're picking cotton in the field, literally getting darker by the minute. That's when that complex starts and it's across a lot of culture of people of color.
Brian: Colonization is a whole separate conversation.
Terrica: After the black square, is it going to be tokenism for them to start posting black couples? How do they ease into it? Do you want to say, “Look at these black people I found in my portfolio that I'm sharing?” Do they create a content schedule where they ease into it? What are your thoughts on that?
Denise: Spread it out. Honestly, I don't care if we post once a month. Don't put four black posts in a row. I do cultural weddings. I get a pass. The majority of my clients were people of color, but I'm saying, Eliana gets a pass.
Eliana: I don’t want this to be forced. It's one of those things that as soon as we come back, someone said about muting, then you're posting it because it feels like you're doing it to be responsive. It needs to be genuine and authentic. I don't want to look for your posts once a month. I don't want to see you've done 3 out of 5. I want you to do what you feel in your heart is on-brand for you and your business. I want to accept you for that stance. If you decide to start putting it up, I accept that Heather decided to add color to her Styled Shoots or whatever it is. I accept that Kirsten might not have an opportunity to put because she's not submitted a lot of gay weddings that have color.
That doesn't mean that she doesn't want to feature it. She may not have it. She will have to find other creative ways to show that she's accepting of it. I think it needs to be authentic. It needs to happen leisurely. If we go back unmuted and now every white person has a black person on their page, we're still not going to take it authentic and we still don't feel the work has been done. It feels like you're being responsive and on-trend.
Terrica: Do you think that people start needing to be called out or do we need to have private conversations? What are your thoughts on that?
Brian: We spent hours calling everybody, but I think that that has space and a place. It is what Iyanla Vanzant called a friend of a friend. That's the space that we have to be in at this point. I want to say to everyone that looked like me, it is okay to be mad, for us to be angry, for us to be tired, and to express all of those things. Everyone was an armchair psychologist during COVID. If you want to cry, if you were like me at the fridge every fifteen goddamn minutes, it's okay. I'm going to say to my people, it is okay to grieve, to be mad, and to hurt. We deserve this moment, but we will come through this moment. My grandfather used to say, “We come from stock that made it across on slave ships and got through slavery. We are strong so hold on.”
Heather: I agree with the being called out. There is a way to do that where it's not overly hurtful. Let me say that in my own experience, that being called out is what led me to make the changes that I needed to make. I said that, “I was part of the problem.” The first conference that I held about years ago did not have any diverse speakers. At the time, I didn't know anything was wrong with that. Being called out from that is what made me learn, made me change, and what made me truly understand that this is an issue, and here's how you fix it in going forward. In my next two conferences, I have been completely diverse. I think that being called out can help you.
Jamie: We have to call people out and we also have to answer questions. I had met someone who has said, “Why do we have Black History Month when we don't have White History Month?” Those words have come out of my mouth until I realized that nobody ever told me who Emmett Till was. Until I realized that my entire upbringing was White History Month. I didn't know anything about black history. Why is there BET and there's not White Station? These are things I hear all the time. The answer is because every single person on TV looks exactly like me and until that's not the case, then there will be those things. Why does Ellie get to have a magazine that's just black people? It is because every other magazine has all white people and until there's balance, that's the way it looks like.
I think calling people out is not necessarily to say, “You’re racist or you're doing this terrible thing,” but to say, “I understand your questions. I hear what you're saying, but let me explain to you why that may be,” or to say, “I don't know, but let's go figure out that answer together.” It's the same thing as saying, “All Lives Matter as opposed to Black Lives Matter.” If the building is burning down, we don't spray down all the other houses. First, we put out the fire in the middle and there's a fire. Calling out people is not necessarily this negative thing where we need to walk around and call everybody Ku Klux Klan members and assume that everybody has crossed in their front yard. People have good intentions at various points, but they have a lot of questions. Calling them out is to say, “The reason you think that is because of your privilege. The reason you think that is because of your skin color,” that you would even have to ask that question. I do think we need to call people out.
Terrica: This is going to be my last question. Maybe we can do a panel and we can hook up again. I can get all of these questions and we can have us. I can send them out to everyone that has attended because there are some good questions. Some of them overlap, but it would be great for them to hear us answer some of these questions because they were okay. What should be the first goal that we're making progress? What are we looking for to say, not that we're getting there or even that we've accomplished it? We can't solve everything in this one call. A couple of posts on Instagram isn't going to solve it either, but what are some things that we can see that we're moving in the right direction?
Denise: I'm not going to say the plantation thing again. That's going to happen. I put it out there. I played on it. I played to all the Gods. He is going to move it up. He's the God of moving things out of obstacles. We're going to move off the pathways.
Terrica: What do you think is going to be a sign that we're moving in the right direction?
Eliana: More conversations like this, not only when something bad happens. It's only fair and right to speak on the changes that happen. Call out, if there aren't any changes that happen and continue talking about the elevation of our industry.
Terrica: Kirsten, what do you think will be a good sign that we are moving in the right direction?
Kirsten: Conversations that’s bridging the gap, having conversations like this, and then having private conversations. Big brands that we want to call out slightly going back to your other thing. We have to remember that there are people running those brands and we'd have to first try to talk to them as people and then go forward as we need to. Doing the work with Equally Wed, we have a badge and I've seen that they were not put the badge on for marriage equality. They took it off and that's a whole another story. People putting up those badges because they think that's all they got to do. I don't want this new badge that you've created Terrica to be used as a sign.
Terrica: I've got plenty of VAs. I'm going to be checking. I am going to be on your ass like, “What have you done?”
Kirsten: Have a call-out system where people are like, “I saw this badge. I trusted you. I spent my money with you and this is what happened at my wedding.” People who are new to being an ally or strengthening the way that we show up, I want us to keep showing up and be ready to be uncomfortable and to lose some friends or some sponsors. I'm calling out myself as much as I am calling out on everybody else in the industry. We've got to do the work.
Terrica: Brian, what is going to be something that you're going to say, “We're headed there?”
Brian: Deliberate purposeful action steps being executed. You said you were going to do these five things, that I've seen you actively working on these five things, and then you say, “I've done these five things and I'm doing the next five things. I'll continue to do those things.” That is important.
Terrica: I want to answer Matthew's question because I think it's important. He said, “As vendors, should we urge plantations to change their name and brand, or blackout boycott them?” You can change your name all you want, but what happened there still happened there. Changing your name doesn't do anything for me. That does not erase history. That does not erase the pain there. I know that some people will say, “I didn't do it. I didn't own slaves or whatever,” but the connotation there and to ask people of color specifically, black people to come there is hurtful and disrespectful. I apologize. Jamie, what is going to be a sign for you that says we're going in the right direction?
Jamie: When people who look like myself are still talking about this when it's no longer trending and there's not a hashtag. When our vendor list and our relationship and list look more diversified. I think when we also start thinking about social injustice, aside from the fact that black men are being murdered or what we think is happening in our wedding industry, there is inequality in housing, wages, education and many more things that we need to talk about. Immediately, what we need to do is stop people from being murdered, but there's much more to do. When people start talking about all of the other ways that we have perpetuated racism and inequality and start working towards that for a new generation, those will be steps. When those conversations start being held.
Denise: To clarify, there's enough left. This could go on for hundreds of thousands of years. Systematic racism is at the top. It's everywhere so you can keep going.
Terrica: Heather, what about you?
Heather: Visual representation, some signs that we are moving in the right direction will be when you can walk into a room and not feel isolated.
Terrica: Thank you, everybody. I'm going to do my best to circle back with my panelists to answer your questions. We'll send that out to you. I think we need to do this once a month or once every quarter. This needs to continue. This can't be because something jumped off and whatever.
Jamie: From the panelists, we love you, we appreciate you, we see you, and you have in many ways already been at the forefront of this. You have been a voice and you've been a voice in the white industry and it hasn't always been easy. Thank you for putting this together. Thank you for your heart.
Terrica: Thank you. I appreciate you.
We hope you enjoyed this extra special bonus episode that Terrica was kind to let us share with you. We hope you go over to TerricaInc.com. Follow her and make sure that you are staying aware of this movement, how you can take the next steps. We hope you enjoyed it and we do hope that this helps give you more clarity on how you can be a part of the solution in the wedding industry.
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The post The Wedding Industry Can Do Better, #UnityThroughCommunity Town Hall By Terrica Skaggs appeared first on The Union Podcast.
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