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One Year Later: How Much Has The Design Industry Actually Improved And How We Can Continue To Push For Equity

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?

photo by ellie lillstrom | from: albie’s new living room round one!

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.

Joy Cho

Andre Jordan Hilton | Joy Cho

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.

Kim Vargo

Danielle McKim | Kim Vargo

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.

Jenelle Lovings

Jenelle Lovings | Kaitlin Petersen

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.  

Rhonda E. Peterson

Rhonda E. Peterson | Charlotte Smith

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.

Gail Davis

Gail Davis | Tobi Fairley

[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. 

Marie Cloud

Marie Cloud | Chelsea McDonnough

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.

Monique Valeris

Monique Valeris | Katy Olson

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.

Nicole White

Nicole White | Sabrina Soto

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. 

photo by ellie lillstrom | from: albie’s at-home movie theater reveal

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

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1 year ago

tnx for amazing article

1 year ago

Great article, and love to see this follow-up. I’m very disappointed that the widened view of the industry hasn’t stuck. I’m also baffled – I have discovered loads of accounts I might not have otherwise, but I’m not sticking with them because of the ethnicity of the creator (often creators don’t figure strongly in their feeds so it’s easy to forget what they look like) but rather their design sensibility.
On a related note, would it be possible to edit it to give links to both designer Instagrams under / above each post? At the moment only one is linked and I’m having to type in the other one. It’s already proved worth the effort, but some people might not have the time to spend. Thanks!

1 year ago

great idea!

1 year ago

Yessss! Great idea!

1 year ago

“Yay? Can we truly celebrate this milestone while two doors down, others are looking to ban critical race theory from our education systems? “
This conversation is so much more nuanced than can be covered in a blog comment. The brief version is that people want CRT banned because it is rooted in Marxist ideology that separates people into two groups – the power group or oppressor (white people) and the oppressed group (BIPOC). CRT essentially splits people into groups by race, attributing characteristics and traits to people based on their skin color. If we want to progress as a nation, indoctrinating children with state sanctioned racism is counterproductive to those goals.

1 year ago
Reply to  Cami

Cami, sounds like YOU have been indoctrinated. That is NOT what critical race theory is.

1 year ago
Reply to  Cami

Take your propaganda elsewhere and leave this conversation to people who want to listen to listen to what these and other voices in the industry have to say.

1 year ago
Reply to  Cami

Cami, our society already has split people into groups based on perceived race – it was literally founded on that principal. A legal framework that recognizes how that existing racism is built into societal systems and seeks to deconstruct systemic racism is not racist. It is literally fighting AGAINST racism.

Also, not sure when you were last an elementary or high school student, but students at that level are not taught the content of law briefs (CRT is a legal framework). Suggesting that students (and let’s be frank here – we’re talking about white students, since black kids are well aware of the existing racism of the United States) should learn an accurate history of the United States – including the way that chattel slavery and racism were baked into its foundation – is neither indoctrination nor state-sanctioned racism. It’s teaching history. Period. The opposite is teaching blind nationalism.

Now how about you hope off a blog post that gives BIPOC the opportunity to talk about their experiences with racism in the design industry and take your ignorant nonsense elsewhere.

1 year ago
Reply to  Verity

P.S. Highly suggest you do some self-education about Marxist theory, as well, since you clearly don’t actually understand what it is (also, look up the difference between “ideology” and social “theory” of human societies).

Marxism does not separate people into oppressor/oppressed categories, nor does it create oppressor/oppressed dynamics – it provides an explanatory framework for understanding systems in which they ALREADY EXIST. Marxist theory allows us to consider how those dynamics came to exist, function, and are perpetuated.

Signed, an actual social scientist who uses Marxist theory.

1 year ago
Reply to  Verity

One last thought, since I’m feeling particularly verbose this morning. I spoke earlier as a person and a scholar, but I want to say something as a teacher:

No good scientist or teacher will ever tell you to NOT be critical. Critical thinking is the foundation of a democratic society and of science. But you cannot be critical of something that you do not understand. We always have to begin with a foundation of knowledge and learning – then we start asking questions and thinking critically. So if you’ve got questions about CRT or Marxism or the history of slavery and the way we teach those things to students, great! But go listen, read, and learn first, so that what you are criticizing is what those things actually are, not some false boogey man that has been set up for you by others.

1 year ago
Reply to  Verity

THANK YOU! It is endlessly frustrating to see Karl Marx’s named invoked so frequently by people who have clearly never read a word of his writing, or substantively engaged with his thinking, as though his name were a kind of universally agreed upon shorthand for all that is wicked in the world.

1 year ago
Reply to  Cami

I hadn’t heard of the term Critical Race Theory. I looked it up.
I read many definitions and articles, the history, etc.
What you have described is inaccurate to say the least, and an oversimplified version.
Globally, racism is embedded into societies, even withing BIPOC societies as in “some people are more equal than others”.
I’m glad I did the research instead of just reading your comment.

1 year ago
Reply to  Rusty

You can bet that Cami had never heard the term either, before the propagandists on Fox News fed it to her a few weeks ago. Critical race theory has recently gone from being a modestly influential framework for the study of law to being the American right wing media’s latest bogeyman.

1 year ago
Reply to  Eliot

I noticed that bent during my researching it. Yup…that’s the REAL fake news…hijacking and twisting something to create chaos.

1 year ago
Reply to  Cami

Critical race theory is framework for analyzing the way discriminatory racial attitudes can be encoded in and perpetuated by law. I don’t even know where to start with your ideas about Marxism.

1 year ago

Quick but important edit: there is a typo in Arbery’s first name.

1 year ago

I found this from the American Bar Association ” Principles of the CRT Practice While recognizing the evolving and malleable nature of CRT, scholar Khiara Bridges outlines a few key tenets of CRT, including: Recognition that race is not biologically real but is socially constructed and socially significant. It recognizes that science (as demonstrated in the Human Genome Project) refutes the idea of biological racial differences. According to scholars Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic, race is the product of social thought and is not connected to biological reality. Acknowledgement that racism is a normal feature of society and is embedded within systems and institutions, like the legal system, that replicate racial inequality. This dismisses the idea that racist incidents are aberrations but instead are manifestations of structural and systemic racism. Rejection of popular understandings about racism, such as arguments that confine racism to a few “bad apples.” CRT recognizes that racism is codified in law, embedded in structures, and woven into public policy. CRT rejects claims of meritocracy or “colorblindness.” CRT recognizes that it is the systemic nature of racism that bears primary responsibility for reproducing racial inequality. Recognition of the relevance of people’s everyday lives to scholarship. This… Read more »

1 year ago

That was YOOOOOOU, albie?!?!?!
WOWZA!!!! I didn’t know you did that!
” It took on a life of its own and became the start of something else …” Well, it most certainly did! I live in Australia and it was/is a thing here, too!
So it became a global initiative, Albie!!!
Congratulations on making a tangible difference in the world.
I bow down to your initiative, diligence and willingness to actively walk your talk.
KUDOS!!! 🤗❤

1 year ago

I just want to say I appreciate you Albie, your voice and the work you did for share the mic and continue to do.

1 year ago

This was such a great, smart project. Well done.

1 year ago

Allie, I’m not even on the socials and I knew what you were doing with Share the Mic, but I didn’t know you STARTED IT! YES. I’m here to keep learning and growing and this article is so helpful. Thank you

1 year ago
Reply to  Sara

Albie! Autocorrect!

1 year ago

The new key word for the socialist left is now “equity” which is a clear shift from “equality”. Equality is essential, and shouldn’t matter what color, race, age, economic background you are or are from. For those who may not realize this new push –>
What is equity in society?
Our society is continuing to make steps towards equality but being equal and fair is not always straightforward. Sometimes, people may need differing treatment to make their opportunities the same as another’s. This is called equity.
A very slippery slope.

1 year ago
Reply to  Eileen

What exactly are you worried we’re going to slip into?

1 year ago
Reply to  Eileen

It’s almost as though we’re trying to right history’s wrongs and give people back what was taken from them in the name of white supremacy. Quelle horreur!

1 year ago
Reply to  Eileen

Equality of opportunity
Equality of outcome
Once you have equity then Animal Farm begins.
All Animals Are Equal But Some Are More Equal Than Others.
Just try, for a second, the think a for a few minutes in a way that doesn’t engulf you with emotion as to why equality of outcome is terrible. Why try? Those that try are rewarded the same as though who don’t contribute. Work hard and earn more? No, that’s not good, we all earn the same no matter if one person is building a business and the other is on welfare watching Netflix.
Equality of opportunity I support, but outcome will be a Socialist Big Government Wet Dream.

1 year ago
Reply to  Jabby

I’m not really sure what this word salad is about, but I can tell you one thing – when you led with “Just try, for a second, to think for a few minutes in a way that doesn’t engulf you with emotion”, I stopped listening.

Seriously, though, what is wrong with you?? Albie wrote this wonderful blog post about an amazing initiative that she led and is trying to give space to BIPOC designers and creatives – many of whom are black women – so that we can all benefit from hearing their reflections on the past year and the work that still needs to be done. And some folks are bringing sexist, racist nonsense into the comments. On a blog post that was shared on JUNETEENTH.

Just STOP.

1 year ago
Reply to  Jabby

Is this just meandering jabber!?!

1 year ago

Thank you for sharing this update! Lots of good reminders here- thank you Albie!

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