Today is a very special day. Today, our agency officially became certified as a minority owned business by the Georgia Minority Supplier Development Council (GMSDC). The primary focus of the GMSDC is simple –help prepare, provide, and facilitate “opportunity” for traditionally underserved minority-owned businesses.. There are some really great corporations that are aware enough of their own biases that they have tangible initiatives to seek out these underserved groups and conduct business. In light of all that is going on the world, this is exceptionally in important.
Up until yesterday, I have refrained from making any statements on George Floyd, the Black Lives Matter movement, or any of the protests which are happening all across America. It’s not because I don’t have anything to say… It’s because I’m exhausted and completely tired of talking. Yes, there is a real genuine fear that I could die at the hands of the very people who are sworn to protect me. There is a fear that I could go for a jog one day and not make it home. There is a fear that my kids will become a victim to someone else’s insecurities and also not make it home. There is constant fear! But this is only a part of the story.
The other part of the story is much harder to capture on camera, but is equally as soul crushing. I need you to understand there are levels to this. It is imperative that you understand that the fear, frustration, sadness, and pain you see also extends to the board room, office cube, and water cooler. As someone who has spent 15 years working in Corporate America prior to starting the agency, I can tell you first-hand about the disparities that I have witnessed. I can’t tell you how many meetings I’ve been in where I’ve been the only person of color. Or how many times my opinions, thoughts, or ideas were dismissed or downplayed because I didn’t look the part. More importantly, how many times was I overlooked for a promotion or an “opportunity” to advance in my career?
Now consider the fact that I have been a high performer at every place I have ever worked. To this very day, I have former employees and colleagues call me for help, guidance, mentorship, etc. from every single company I have ever worked. Every…. single… one. Yet, in 15 years of working in Corporate America, I was promoted a total of 3 times. Why is that? It’s because too often I was held to a higher standard. I had to be perfect, while others were allowed to just be okay. This environment results in another type of fear. The fear that if I make a single mistake, or speak too loudly, or push back too much, I will be placed in a bucket. They will say that I have a bad attitude, or that I’m difficult to work with, or that I’m not professional, or that I’m not “ready yet.” All things that I have been told directly.
Fortunately, I was raised to always know my self-worth. I never took “no” for an answer and found a way to take my career in my own hands, which meant in many cases that I had to leave an employer to find another company that valued what I could bring to the table. In almost every case, my role was then broken up into at least two people because they found that one person couldn’t match my previous output. This is what people of color mean when they say they have to work “twice as hard.” It is not a figment of their imagination. It is real. Imagine what that feels like every… single… day. I literally felt like I couldn’t breathe. I suffered an insane amount of anxiety as a result of it, to the point where I was afraid to go to sleep because I felt my heart constantly racing. I was literally afraid I was going to have a heart attack in my sleep.
I say all of this because this is the other part of the origin story of Tantrum. Yes, Tantrum is about consumer behavior and tapping into the emotion that drives people to action. But Tantrum is equally about a frustration of constantly having to prove your worth, no matter how exceptional you might be at your craft. Tantrum is about realizing that sometimes you might have to walk away from something you love in order to preserve your sanity and just survive. And that is why you see what you see on the news, in your feeds, and on the streets of our cities. Because sadly, I am not alone. In fact, I am one of the lucky ones. I had an “opportunity” and I was able to make something of it, even if the cards were stacked against me. But there are far too many people who look like me that don’t. I’ve always wanted to have my own business, and the realization of that has been a phenomenal experience. It truly has been a dream come true. But EVERYONE should have the ability and “opportunity” to chase their dreams. And that is also what this is all about. Nobody is asking for a handout. We are simply asking for a level playing field.
I have seen a huge influx of corporations that’ve felt compelled to make a statement or post something on social media about how outraged and disheartened they are. The awareness is great and I’m sure the intentions are good, but where was the outrage three weeks ago? If I had told you my story then, would you have believed me? Probably not. Or even if you did, would it have compelled you to action? Probably not. Rather than post a black box on Instagram or release some lofty statement, I challenge you to do the work and dig a little deeper. Ask yourselves and your peers what are we actively doing or pledging to do in order to give those underserved groups an equal and fair “opportunity” to advance in their careers? When you can finally answer that question in a real and tangible way, then I’ll know you’re committed to the change that you speak about.