June 11, 2020

I’m black. I’m an influencer. But how can I ‘influence’ lasting change?

“We are no longer able to change situation – we are challenged to change ourselves.” – Viktor E. Frankl

Full Disclosure: This piece was originally written for The Huffington Post, I sent it to the Editor for review, and though he said it was incredibly strong piece and he would love to use it, he had to pass this time. He went on to say that, HP was receiving at least 2,000 pieces a week for review but hoped I could find a home for this piece, as it was VERY strong. So you know what guys, I decided a perfect home would be on my blog, for my readers.

I know I’m an influencer, but until recently I honestly forgot the influence we can really have. During this time of complete unrest and chaos, I find my memory crystal clear and my voice, unwavering and strong. We are living in a time where being black is weaponized, and I am choosing to use my words and my platform, consciously –  to dismantle the weapon and release the oppressed race at the target. I am an Influencer for the people. I am an influencer for humanity. I am an influencer for change. 

Recently in speaking to my nine year old daughter about Floyd’s death, I asked if she’d seen or heard about the video being circulated. She had heard of it, but hadn’t seen it; I asked her not to watch it. We started discussing racism in America and what it really means to be black in this country, and I will never forget her words to me: “I don’t want to live in a world where it’s easy to be killed simply for the color of my skin. It’s not fair. This is not okay, mama. People who need to speak up aren’t.” This gutted me. I immediately felt shame because, in that moment, I realized that I was one of those people. As an influencer, I’ve made it my  job to do exactly that – influence. Here I was preaching to her about speaking up for the greater good, persevering through the storm, leading by example, as our ancestors did – and I wasn’t do any of those things. I gulped.

She’s was absolutely right, – the country was on the brink of the second Civil Rights Movement and my voice and backbone I so often exhibited, was by all accounts missing in action. At such a pivotal time in the world, I reused to be on the wrong side, when this was later recored in the history books for our youth. With the blood of my enslaved ancestors running through my veins, I pulled on their strength to push me forward, a fire had been lit inside of me – it was time to burn my way through the oppressors. Silence was not an option, as there was no denying the injustice and inhumane treatment of an innocent man that occurred in those 8 minutes and 46 seconds as Floyd pled for air, his mother and ultimately, his life. As a mother, I cannot imagine the sort of trauma of knowing that my child screamed out for me in their final moment – and I wasn’t there. Their cries would be a reoccurring nightmare, haunting my dreams, replaying like a broken record until it drove me mad. Trite apologies and orchestrated press conferences are no longer enough to console those hurting. We can no longer close the door on critical conversations about police brutality, systemic racism, and inequality in America.

Let me preface this next part by saying that I had no intention of becoming a household name, but I did want to ensure the conversation was brought into in every household. As I set off to do my research and figure out how I could make a positive impact, I quickly realized how many voices were staying silent – other influencers, major brands, businesses, public figures, even famous black celebrities. It just wasn’t happening, yet. I was floored. Early on, there seemed to be a general lack of acknowledgement, of this moment in history. Society refused to acknowledge what was around us, the world was in complete chaos and a man’s life was taken without regard or need. These companies and brands were silent, it was damming, it was noticed and it signified complicity. Brands have a responsibility to put humanity over profit; public figures – influencers included – have a responsibility to put humanity over reputation; and mankind has a responsibility to put humanity over fear. Fear should propel us forward in the right direction, in a direction of survival, not paralyze us – we cannot be afraid and not act. 

I began to speak out, question society’s view on inequality and if systemic racism had a place in our world, any longer. I knew the Declaration of independence had been written by White men for White women and men, but it seemed like the country no longer fit that mold. With this in mind, I set out and questioned brands who hadn’t spoken up, asking them what their organization was doing to help cultivate a diverse atmosphere and speak out against racial injustices. I went further to explain this movement, need the support of these organization to amplify the melanated voices affected daily by these atrocities. Many of these brands are household names, with the ability to reach the masses with the stroke of a pen, airing of a commercial or post to their social media platforms. However, I quickly found that some brands would answer with haste, others not at all.  

The more I thought about it, it only made sense to speak out and continue to speak out, and start encouraging my fellow influencers to speak out as well. As influencers many of us have strong relationships with major brands, and these brands have come to trust us. I have and will continue encourage my fellow influencer to reach out to these connections to build connection. We must use every facet of our platform to fix every facet of this broken system. Speaking out – being purposeful, lasting change, ideation, all ears and soaking it all in, to evaluate how I can really make an impact in my space. I will influence more than your fashion sense, I will question and influence my follower’s ideologies, on which their lives are built. So let us be purposeful in how we move forward, so we can make meaningful lasting change, and change the way the history books record this hellish and historical time.

Until next time!

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