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I am deeply saddened and angered by recent events in our country. And like many of us I’ve been searching for the right words to say, the right things to do and the right way to make a positive impact with my family, with our WE agency and our people, and in the communities WE Communications serves both here in the U.S. and around the world.

As I watch these events unfold each day I continue to be struck with the question, what can I do to help?

First and most important, my heart goes out to the family of George Floyd and all the victims whose lives have been taken or damaged by acts of racism and injustice.

Let’s be clear — Black Lives Matter, and we cannot accept unjust killing. The senseless deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and many others reflect deeply ingrained racial prejudice and injustice that still exists in our country today, but we owe it to each other and to our communities to be very clear in condemning these acts of violence.

Over the past several months, throughout this coronavirus pandemic, we’ve often heard and said, “we’re all in this together.” Ironically, that’s never been more true than it is right now. If we are going to fight racism it’s something we all have to do, as individuals and together as communities and as a nation. We must acknowledge our country’s racist past, and understand that together we can build a better future — a future where everyone contributes and feels valued.

As marketing and communications professionals we are wired to create and to act, to build plans, tell stories, and to make a difference through our words and actions. And as LAGRANT Foundation Board members we have an opportunity to take action and make a difference.

I’ve spent the past few days thinking about what I can do to help. To my fellow communications professionals, I humbly offer the following actionable ideas:
  • Check in with your Black colleagues and employees. Ask what you can do to help and support your co-workers. Prepare yourself to listen a lot more than you speak.
  • Get involved with your organization’s employee resource group (ERG) for people of color. At WE, ours is WE PRISM. If you don’t have one, start one!
  • Connect with your clients. Proactively reach out and counsel your clients to put their money where their mouth is, and to back up statements about D&I with investments in D&I. I’m seeing great examples from brands like Microsoft, Lululemon and Netflix. The outstanding responses from Intel, Glossier and others should be a model for all of us.
  • Pledge your support and financial commitment to organizations that create opportunities for communicators and marketers of color. I sit on the board of The LAGRANT Foundation, a great organization whose mission is to increase the number of ethnic minorities in the fields of advertising, marketing and public relations by providing scholarships, career & professional development workshops, mentors and internships. Please give to TLF so that they continue doing the important work that needs to be done.
  • Act. Your actions speak louder than your words. The biggest thing your organization can do is to employ more people of color that represent the communities where we live and work. It’s pretty simple: Recruit, Interview and Hire more qualified Black people and people of color. Support more Black-owned businesses. Work with more Black and minority-owned vendors. Make people of color a part of your daily business operations.
  • Work together. The best work and the best relationships have come when people of different backgrounds, races, religions, genders and nationalities come together around a common goal. It’s more than just a seat at the table — it’s a voice at the table.

Personally, I know I need to do more. I need to give more people of color opportunities. I need to do more to celebrate our differences. I need to reach out more, educate myself, ask questions that make me uncomfortable and really listen to the hard answers. Right now I’m doing a lot of listening and learning. We’re having hard conversations, but ones that need to take place. I’m committed to trying, to getting started and to doing whatever I can do, and then more.

We can all learn, and we can all do better. Let’s get there and #standtogether.

Kass Sells
Global COO, President International | WE Communications
The LAGRANT Foundation Board Member

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I ran past a friend’s house this week, someone I used to have dinner with / go on walks with regularly, and whom I’ve not seen in a while. I ended my run and called him on my cool down. I love his perspective, which is so different than mine. His parents were not born in the United States, he is in a different industry than mine, he has a wicked sense of humor that surprises me and makes me laugh, but which I would never come up with on my own. And yet we are friends.

I asked him how he was doing, and he wondered if there was a single word that captured the emotions of anger, frustration, helplessness and despair, which I think is a good question, and should have an answer, because currently it is how I feel much of the time (someone will now tell me there is a German word for just this thing, because there is ALWAYS a German word). We commiserated. And when we were done, I thought about the absolute need to influence change, now more than ever.

Like all of you, I see what is going on in the United States and around the world. Videos fill my social media feed; murder of an innocent man by police, and “I can’t breathe” (again) and tear gas and batons and fences. Down in Portland where I lived for 18 years, the Burnside Bridge filled with protestors laying quietly on their backs as the police approached. In the news media, talk of “dominating the battlespace” by the military, where the battlespace is HERE, and tanks and armored vehicles in small towns, for some reason I don’t understand. Over and over, senseless violence against Black and African American people. Over. And Over. Not seen, but equally present is their everyday experience, at work, in stores, on the street, when they are forced to worry about what could happen to them, simply for being in that space.

Years ago, I participated in a grueling team multi-sport event that had me running the last three miles up a very steep hill. I said after that our team should have been named “Some, but not enough” as in, I had done some hill work, but not enough, some speed work, but not enough, some distance, but not enough for what I aspired to do. At the time, I said I had learned from this experience, but now, I wonder.

Because when it comes to systemic racism I have worked to understand, but not enough. I have donated time and money, but not enough. I have advocated for internal and external change, but not enough. Yes, this is a hard challenge. But I am seeing the challenge, not living it. This is privilege. There is no room for “some” in this equation. Each of us, wherever we are, have the capability of doing more.

Years ago, aghast at what I saw in Ferguson, Missouri, I reached out to a friend and asked what I could do. He pointed me to some resources, but closed with “Look within.” It was the best, and hardest advice I’ve ever gotten. I looked, and didn’t like what I saw. Today, I look again and know…still not enough.

I accept it is okay to feel whatever that German word is that describes the present, but not to the extent it stops me from new action. More of my time and money to the orgs that are making a difference locally and nationally, more agitation internally for more change, more work to broaden my perspective and understanding. “More, but still not enough.” That’s better.

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