As always the vibe was super respectful and informational. But I knew the connection was off from the jump. For starters, I’m ‘old’ by most industry standards so I know that throws folks off. But our squad ranges to 21 and up so I’m well versed in the youth environment so my Dad jokes are intentional — ”yes, I watch the TikTak”.
Second, we are not cheap. No apologies here. We don’t charge for our time or itemize services. We are thinkers and problem solvers. You get what you pay for and some folks are interested in paying. All good.
But the disconnect in this particular interaction was driven by the sight of two people out of thirty who loosely reflected the images on the covers of their magazine or feeds of their social.
Admittedly, I was uncomfortable. Seriously.
I lived on the Upper East Side for five years, worked in Beaverton for over ten years and attended white universities. Why was I so shook now?
The older I get, the less I’ve played into code switching or respectability politics. Truth be told, I was never all that good at it, but I did try to make other folks feel comfortable when I knew they were out of their element. As it turns out, toning the office music down from Mobb Deep to Mos Def wasn’t as big of a leap as I thought it would be. My bad.
But I’ve honestly grown tired of making other folks feel comfortable at my expense so I frankly stopped worrying about those who don’t understand that it’s a two-way street.
Do we lose out on jobs? Of course.
Do we miss opportunities to extend our message? Definitely.
Do I worry about it? Nope.
In my career I’ve been in serious HR violation moments that I shrugged off but that hour in that office unnerved me. I talked about it for weeks.
I really can’t explain why.
Then, a year later,
I read this tweet from Jazerai Allen-Lord.
Look Who’s Talking
Seeing our stories on big and small screens is meaningful and we are accustomed to seeing them told from our POV — because no one else cared to tell them.
But when our stories became compelling and profitable, other folks wanted to tell those stories too.
And I completely understand.
But when we are completely void in the telling of our stories, I feel sick.
Twice in the last month I’ve watched nonprofits in Harlem that I work with have their stories shot and told by others. We weren’t staffed in time to submit proposals, but my heart sank each time I saw the all white crews paid to capture our community.