After the traumatic year Black people have experienced, the celebration of the Black diaspora in 2021 felt absolutely imperative. So this year, three of our youngest Black creatives, Alaina, Jonathan and Jaquay, set out on a mission to not only organize the support of our internal Black community, but to partner with and invest in the local Black community. We talked to the three of them about their experience.
What was your process like? How did you get from idea to reality?
It all started with lunch. Black At Decoded tasked ourselves with two questions: what do you want to see from Decoded going into Black History Month? And what do you need right now to feel supported?
Six ideas came out of this session:
- Collaborative playlists to help us get to know each other, but also to help the rest of Decoded get to know us.
- Black Cinema to shed light on authentic Black narratives.
- Additions to our internal digest that focus on Black contributions to the culture.
- Decoded Drip created in partnership with a small local Black designer to commemorate the month and uplift our community.
- A spotlight series to bring in up & coming Black musicians.
- Support for our community excellence; bringing in Black speakers to address topics like financial planning and wellness.
What are you most proud of?
Each other. We’d never done anything like this before at Decoded, nor had we really worked together, but the month happened without any major roadblocks and was a complete success.
We brought in speakers from the community like Christina Douyon, co-founder of F.A.C.E Race Consulting, Kelsey Wilson who gave a talk on building wealth in today’s economy, as well as dance+movement therapist Tyisha Nedd who led a phenomenal intro workshop. We even had a virtual concert featuring our very own Jazzy, as well as Jonathan Richetts, an artist from Brooklyn who supports his neighborhood by sharing his profits.
We’re all about learning here at Decoded. What was the most interesting or surprising thing you learned?
A lesson I will take with me from this month is the recognition that not everyone is starting from the same place when it comes to understanding Blackness or Black History. Many of the concepts I learned in college around Blackness, Race, Class, and how they intersect, concepts that I thought were common knowledge, are actually not. Take ‘Afrofuturism’ as an example. This realization asked me to reexamine my own relationship with privilege, and recognize that there is a lot of privilege in going to school at a liberal arts institution like Vassar.
It goes without saying that as individuals, Black people do not know everything about “the Black experience” themselves. I learned a tremendous amount from the programming and my fellow Black employees over the duration of the month, and especially from Tyisha Nedd’s presentation on movement. Her illumination of how the more exaggerated cultural modes of movement that many Black people utilize can often get us labeled as “aggressive” and “unprofessional” was eye-opening to say the least. I was surprised by very little in terms of the overall success, my co-programmers were as dynamic and incredible as I expected, and I appreciated the support we received from our non-Black coworkers.
Responsibility and engagement! These are the two key factors that stood out to me. Although they don’t look the same for everyone, they do still exist in each of our lives and it’s up to us to make an effort and interact with the two. February of 2021 has taught me it’s my responsibility to interact with those who are left out and engage with those who don’t feel the need to interact. I would like to invite everyone to do the same.
Many thanks to the three who organized and the people who attended. We can’t wait to continue the learning and community involvement throughout the year.