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Black Lives Matter: An Open Letter To Colleagues

{opinions, thoughts and reflections my own, original letter shared with Mixpanel colleagues as an internal GDoc with a crowd-sourced resource list alongside)

It is Monday morning. It’s a new month and a new day and my spirit and energy are heavy. Weighed down by the constant stream of trauma I can’t seem to unplug from. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about … open Twitter.

I am sitting at my desk and put on Solange’s “A seat at the table” with every lyric unfortunately just as apt today as it was in 2016. I am a black British woman. I carry my blackness with me wherever I go, I am used to being the only/minority in a room, I watch the videos and see my family, my uncles, brother, cousins…

Do not tell me this has nothing to do with the UK

I watch my fellow brothers and sisters in the US be consistently dehumanized and I thank God that my grandparents boarded a ship from Jamaica to the UK to be welcomed by a different flavour of hate and racism but hate and racism nonetheless. 

Do not tell me it doesn’t exist here

The deaths in police custody are well-documented, those with racist views occupy seats in our government and we walk the streets of our capital looking at buildings, banks and wealth accumulated by the government compensation that came along with the freedom we celebrate.

Do not tell me All lives matter in response to Black Lives Matter

I don’t have much to say here but to ask “why” this phrase and declaration was needed in the first place and “why” a rebuttal is necessary? And if it is to include other diverse groups I get that… but allow them to share their own declaration for you to support. I do not degrade the plight of the Latinx, Asian and LGBTQ community when I make my own declaration. Just like Issa Rae didn’t when she stood on a red

Excellence doesn’t equal survival

Earlier this year, Blackpanel went to watch Queen & Slim, we were left shaken, angry and disappointed that there was a piece of art inspired by real-life events that still take place.

We opened a conversation that many diverse and oppressed peoples can relate to. Being raised with the unspoken concept that you must work twice as hard for half as much. A concept that drives us to strive for excellence in all areas, with an in-built imposter syndrome to match, we exceed expectations waiting politely for our seat at the table then coming face to face with the opinion that we should be “grateful” for being there. 

You see, Christian Cooper was “excellent” yet so was George Floyd. We have accounts of their character, their positive impact in their communities and Christian’s Harvard education has been hailed in the media. 

But this is dangerous. It is a lie. 

Education and excellence should not be the barometer on whether a black person deserves to be treated humanely and live. 

At no point, if I am ever accosted by law enforcement am I going to read them my Linkedin profile and CV. That is not what George said, he cried out for his mamma, he responded as a human and deserved to still be here because he is human. 

Black lives matter because they haven’t mattered for so long that we must remind everyone of that fact.

This month we celebrate Windrush day (UK) and Juneteenth (US). Both days commemorating something bittersweet. But the reality is we still fight for freedom.

I want to close this letter to say:

  • Allies are important and we need you to carry the mission with us, join Blackpanel and our meetings to widen your perspective on the African Diaspora, we are more than rum and music.
  • Don’t be afraid to say Black/African American. Be wary of the effect of the term ‘People of Colour’ or ‘BAME’ in removing the nuances between us. Our experiences are similar but the differences are important.
  • Click the links in my writing and let us use this document to crowdsource helpful information around the black experience. Please be mindful to mark content with “Trigger warning” as appropriate.
  • Google your questions and have conversations to raise your consciousness of the experience of all diverse groups. 
  • If your mental health is being affected, seek support, re-arrange meetings or take a sick day (which can be taken as mental health is health)

I by no means want to put a burden on those of us that are black to educate the World, we have our own journey to walk. 

I also don’t place any judgement on ANYONE in this moment and implore you not to get caught up in guilt for not doing whatever you think you should’ve been doing. Acknowledgement is the most powerful first step, education is the next and guilt will keep you stuck and inactive. I didn’t walk out of the womb knowing my black history and school sure as hell didn’t paint the full picture, I only learned what Juneteenth was last year. 

So again, we have our own journeys to walk.

I would be happy to know if you would like a space to have conversations as peers or simply a space to listen; IDE, Mixability and Blackpanel are here for you so reach out and let us know how we can support.

With all my love and compassion,

Jaz

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