This time last year, I was up for consecutive late nights planning a massive digital undertaking — Share The Mic Now: Home Edition. In case you missed it, in an effort to instigate real conversations around diversity, inclusion, and race in the home industry, I adapted the original Share The Mic Now initiative.
It was huge!
I half expected no one to really take to the event, yet it was such a catalyzing moment, not only for me, but for many of my peers in this space. I watched personal & professional relationships develop, content consumers diversify their feeds, and brands make sweeping promises to change. I was blown away by how well the event was received, not just by the participants but by everyone watching. It took on a life of its own and became the start of something else in the industry.
But how’s the saying go… It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.
On the one hand, it really started to feel — for the first time — like there was an actual shift starting to happen. On a personal level, my world was turned upside down — being recognized for the initiative, cheering my friends on for their professional recognition, and seeing brands make small strides towards better practices. On the other hand, I strongly suspected that a lot of it may have been performative. The days turned into weeks turned into months, and a lot of the heightened interest in diversity began to fade. Emails went unanswered and, for a lot of people, everything went back to “normal”, and diversity was just another talking point for PR spin.
So for the past year, I’ve been watching…
What’s everyone going to do next?
Where do we go from here?
Will anything really change?
This past year has undoubtedly rocked many/most of us to the core. Between the pandemic, the election, the protests, and just the overall tornado that was 2020, the STMN was a bright spot in my year. It gave me hope, when most days felt hopeless. It brought me friendship, as so many were losing loved ones. It inspired me to push forward, even if it’s into an uncertain future.
As the STMN anniversary started to get closer, I found myself thinking a lot more about the initiative, what it meant, and everything that’s transpired since.
Top of mind were —
- What are the participants from STMN doing now?
- Are allies still “listening and learning” or are they proactively being part of the solution?
- Have editors, social media managers, producers, and other gatekeepers been listening to our cries to more well-rounded voices now that they’re more visible?
- Is this industry actually ready and willing to change?
I can write all day long about what I’ve observed since hosting the initiative and feelings it’s stirred inside of me, but I decided to do my own version of “where are they now” and reach out to some of the STMN participants. STMN was my introduction to a lot of the participants and, if I’m being completely honest, it’s not always easy to keep up with our online friends… not the way we’d always like to; so this was the perfect opportunity to actually check in on my people.
As an Asian-American, I already knew that there was a lack of exposure for BIPOC designers within the interior design world, but [being a STMN participant] opened up my eyes even more to the discrepancies present.
I have seen many industries, brands, influencers, etc…spend more dedicated time, space, and money on BIPOC artists, makers, designers, and brands which has been wonderful. We are nowhere near the fully inclusive world in which we would love to see, but we’re inching closer and closer.
I’ve also made sure that my business is using my reach to bring awareness to more small businesses that I love highlighting and sharing. And within my day-to-day life, I am supporting BIPOC brands even more however I can, from clothing I purchase, restaurants I dine at, and overall choices I make on where to spend my money.
I hope to see a true immersion of inclusivity…more BIPOC faces on the cover of magazines (I am currently on the cover of Domino and only the 2nd Asian-American ever), on TV, in features, being hired for amazing work, etc. I know we can get there, but everyone needs to play a conscious part in order for that to happen. To be able to have my kids and other BIPOC kids grow up seeing people who look like them as notable figures will do wonders for our future generations.
On a surface level, I was lucky enough to become friends with my STMN partner, Danielle [McKim] @tuftinteriors. Digging deeper, her honesty and vulnerability of sharing her home buying journey is something that will strike me at any given moment. It allows me to give myself a good gut check at every opportunity that may come my way, and ask myself the question: Am I taking the place of a voice that has a great story to share, with a different life experience? As a result of STMN, I hold all of my business relationships accountable to ensure that I’m part of an inclusive community and always lifting others.
STMN has impacted in so many ways. This campaign gave me the push I needed to finally begin my design firm. After gaining so many followers, I had no choice but to pull the trigger on an LLC I was sitting on since 2017.
STMN assisted in introducing a Black interior Design community to me. I had no clue there were so many of us (still a few by comparison). Everyone, for the most part, has been extremely warm, inviting, and supportive. I feel that I’ve made legitimate connections and friendships as a result.
Being a part of STMN has definitely proven to be lucrative. I have participated in paid page takeovers and, of course, the income generated from my business. I was even given the opportunity to interview for a television show, something I would have never even thought to want, let alone seek out.
Being a part of STMN is a little bittersweet. While I am so grateful for all of the love and support I have been given, it isn’t lost on me that some of that support was as a result of the need to promote Black voices during a time of unrest. This whole movement was on the heels of the murders of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery, along with many others. That outcry of social justice moved many people to finally seek out Black businesses and brands and show support for the Black community in a meaningful way. Finally, we are beginning to have our voices heard and our contributions to culture seen in a way that is beneficial to our community and not just repackaged for others to profit from.
I have always had a desire for mentorship and have felt its importance…most of all, my need and desire to be a mentor to young Black women in the interior design industry. I have had students reach out for advice. I have even pushed and encouraged a woman to start her own design business as well. I think, now more than ever, we are developing this mentality that there is endless room at the table, so why not help bring, push, pull, another up?!
As far as business is concerned, I have a few things in the works that I am looking to develop. Being exposed to so many great minds and talent has inspired so many ideas of how I can better serve this industry and grow my own business, which is exciting. My goal is to be fully self-employed within the next 5 years, and now, I feel like I am on a path to achieve that.
I hope to see even more inclusion to the point where it is just second nature. I realize that is something that may take longer than a year to accomplish but that is my hope. I would also love to see even more partnerships and collaborations between Black designers. Designers from all over, teaming up on projects, learning and growing from each other.
Participating in the first Share The Mic Now: Home Edition was both empowering and liberating. Many Black interior designers, architects, craftsmen, bloggers, and influencers rarely are seen and heard in these areas because we are not selected to be featured in mainstream publications, speak on industry panels, or be a part of activities and events where our talents are showcased.
This initiative allowed me the opportunity to share my voice with an audience that otherwise would have not known or let’s be honest, given any thought to my existence. I was able to share myself and my story in a way that allowed the audience to see that there is more that connects us, than divides us. It created an interest and a dialogue that continues one year later, that I think has strengthened and gained in momentum.
Being a part of this initiative gave me that extra push to do something different, to move forward with what had been placed on my heart to do with my daughter, Gillian, with GiGi and Rho. GiGi and Rho began as a way for me to help my daughter navigate middle school, by strengthening her confidence, self-esteem, and character. We began sharing our journey in a number of ways, including our social media platforms, in hopes that it too would inspire, encourage, and motivate better relationships, not only between moms and daughters, but all women, in effect becoming our own movement/initiative. Again, just as with Share The Mic Now: Home Edition, showing that regardless of what stage in life we find ourselves, at any given moment, there is still more that connects us, than divides us.
One of the most impactful things you can do for an individual or group is to allow them to be seen and their voices to be heard. It empowers and liberates everyone to see past barriers, to find and create opportunities that will be life-changing.
[Share The Mic Now: Home Edition] allowed my voice to be heard in front of people that would have NEVER known or asked about me. Sharing Tobi [Fairley]’s platform allowed her followers to hear from a POC their first-hand experience in this country and industry.
[I’ve experienced] a broader audience, and also feel more powerful in myself and what I offer to the world. I no longer waiver & I ask exactly for what I want.
A year later, I hope to see continued change.
Participating [in STMN] has helped fuel my courage to post and share boldly, while encouraging others to do the same. It brought on another layer of community for me. Seeing other Black designers voice the same concerns and frustrations ironically brought a sense of unity and pride in my Blackness within the home industry. I’m committed to speaking truth and advocating for space, credit, and compensation for those of us that have been suppressed, marginalized, and not welcomed more often than not.
I have encountered and connected with genuine allies and brands, not many, but a few. Lol…those that continue to advocate beyond the black square…those that cut fair checks to Black creatives/businesses…those that have an intentional approach to ensure their leadership and board room has Black representation..and I can’t forget those that call-out privilege and are not afraid to speak boldly on behalf of others. Yes, I have definitely witnessed these and other strides forward.
Then there are others *sigh*
…those that are just waiting on this “caring for human rights” trend to fade out so they can go back to being a sh**ty human, in hopes that no one will notice because it’s so normalized. This unfortunately is what I sense is common.
Overall, I do see a slight shift but we have a long way to go.
Ensuring that I speak up more in industry spaces is vital for me now. Asking the questions that some minorities are afraid to ask or exhausted from asking. Such as “is there any intentionality around inclusion or diversity of leadership?” or “what are you doing to create visibility and representation of Black faces and their talents?” This line of questioning doesn’t stem from a place of confrontation but from a place of concern that Black people may not have been considered. So I see it as a duty to ensure that the questions are asked and that we are seen and heard.
My hope is that we continue to pursue opportunities to amplify the work, stories, and the impact of Black people in the design community and beyond. The ultimate goal is to reflect a unique tapestry full of various shades and expressions that we can be proud of. Wow, that sounds so lovely and unified, right? It would be great if we all believed and wanted that.
To bottom-line it, I want to see this industry…pay Black designers what we are worth, put them on the cover and throughout your pages, give them that leadership role they deserve, give credit for their dopeness and please, please stop asking us to teach you how to care about us and our lives.
I was honored to be a part of the Share the Mic: Home Edition last year. As one of the few Black design editors, it was a moment to share my experience and, hopefully, set an example for minority students and emerging journalists who strive to obtain success in this competitive industry. You approach work differently as a Black editor—there’s so much against us, so I wake up every day proud to represent us as best I can. I’ve made it a goal to introduce new, diverse voices into my editorial content over the past year and I’ve also been able to showcase my passion for the home space across a range of platforms, including TV segments on behalf of Good Housekeeping.
I know meaningful change won’t happen tomorrow, but I’m confident in my community’s ability to remain strong and hope that people of color continue to shine in the face of racism and discrimination.
I think we are all still exhausted mentally and physically from the weight of George Floyd’s murder. For a lot of us, that exhaustion is especially heavy because our businesses are thriving now more than ever in part because of that death. We’ve been “discovered” as black designers and creatives because of that and experiences like Share The Mic Now, but it’s been bittersweet to digest. It’s mixing gratitude with sorrow daily and that’s been a real struggle for me.
While in many corners of the interwebs, it may seem like the past year went by without any change, within our little circle here, our optimism is still alive… the changes are happening… and the community is strengthened. I don’t think that any of us had delusions of overnight change, simply a demand for progress. And I’ll admit, with the way things were looking, sometimes the progress is hard to spot. I’ve personally had doors open up to me that seemed like impossibilities, opportunities that were once only vision board items, and built a community that also includes you reading this.
All because of the Share The Mic Now initiative.
What Is My Hope For The Next Year… And The Many Years To Follow?
The past year shook tables that needed to be shaken, and by getting uncomfortable, all of us were forced to reckon with a lot of dark corners of our industry… and society at large. My hope is that we continue to get uncomfortable and seek out ways to do away with what we already know isn’t working.
I’ve received countless DMs expressing the impact simply following more diverse creators has made on people. Imagine if we keep that same energy everywhere, not just on social media — the businesses we patronize, the politicians we elect, the literature we read, etc. So I also hope that we continue to hold people accountable, have difficult conversations, and see the true beauty in diversity.
What Can You Do? How Can You Help?
A year ago, I addressed that question that most Black people were being asked — “how can I help?” I suggested that you can donate to organizations that are in support of social change, diversify your feeds with a variety of creators outside of your usual bubble, and to normalize a variety of faces & cultures in your households…because that was the point of the STMN initiative was — to shake up the Instagram algorithm, to better reflect the diversity of the world around us, and to highlight the marginalized.
Over the past year, right here on EHD, the team has shared Indigenous owned shops to support, as well as content creators & resources to help diversity the content you consume. I have shared countless books — for adults and for children — that touch on diversity and racism, to also help get conversations started. All these suggestions and resources are still relevant, but after a year of learning and listening, this racial reckoning requires more action — from consciously supporting brands, businesses, and creators that align with our values, to holding our elected officials accountable when it comes to the legislation that’s being proposed. As I write this, there is a lot of talk around Juneteenth becoming a federally recognized holiday. Yay! Yay? Can we truly celebrate this milestone while two doors down, others are looking to ban critical race theory from our education systems?
This is where we have to step in.
This is when our voices matter.
Large sweeping gestures aren’t always feasible (or necessary), but when we start in our own communities, homes, social settings, schools, etc., we can, hopefully, start a ripple effect throughout society. And where you fall short, pour into others that are doing the work.
Did you follow along with the Share The Mic Now: Home Edition last year? How did it impact you? What did you take away from the experience? A year later, what changes have you seen and/or hope to see?
*Graphics by Albie K. Buabeng