The last week has fundamentally changed me in ways that I am just coming to terms with and that I know I am still going to be unpacking and trying to understand for a long time to come.
If you know me in my personal life, I am someone who has always been very vocal and open about social justice and battling racism. For me, it’s something that is a non-issue as a cis black woman living in the United States, especially having black children. It isn’t something I thought greatly about because it was just how I lived my life.
I have been an ‘influencer’ on Instagram and creating content for a year and a half now. I always have been super open about myself and who I am. I never tried to hide my blackness, my views, or any of that. It simply wasn’t something that was the main focus of what I was putting out there, though. I talked a lot about motherhood, and fashion, and life in general in between doing paid collaborations with brands that I respect but I didn’t talk a lot about how it all related to me being black. I wasn’t afraid of somehow alienating my audience or anything like that, it simply wasn’t the place that it was an outlet for me. If we are Facebook friends or friends offline, I know you all are very well acquainted with that side of me.
The death of George Floyd broke a dam inside of me, though. There was a well of grief and despair and it felt like it was going to drown me. I started seeing a lot of things from my influencer peers that felt hurtful, dismissive, and downright racist in regard to everything that was going on in the country. I cannot pretend that there already isn’t an unspoken divide between white/NBPOC and black influencers on social media. I know a lot of people will say they feel surprised by that, but if you’re black and carving out a career from this, you feel it from feeling like you’re the token black person of the crowd to when you actually start talking to your white peers about money and you realize you’re making less than them for the same collaborations. The inequity in salaries even reaches this realm of work, trust me.
With all of that said, I started to feel angry. And I realized that I wanted to use that anger to speak out. To talk about the pain and fear of living black in this country, my fears for my husband and my children, my fears of police brutality, the ways in which people have done and said harmful things, regardless if they intended to or not. I opened up myself in ways that I haven’t ever done in a public way, sharing my pain and my thoughts and my life as raw as I possibly could. There was no prettying it up, no ‘highlight reel’ of squares with just one story. There was both the good and the bad running tandem together, just as it is in my offline life.
The words kept coming and so did the people to read them, to bear witness to them. And the people actually saw the value in my words and my labor and started paying me for them. Deep in my heart I knew that the time and the emotional bandwidth I was using to put my life out there in such a way was worthy of monetary value but I honestly didn’t imagine that people would. But they did and continue to do so.
As of right now, I have two highlights on my Instagram page that are dedicated to the work I am doing. I am flooded with several hundred new followers, more shares than I can count, messages, with support (so far no one being awful but I’m smart enough to know that will happen at some point), and with questions that I do my best to answer but also tell people that they have the tools to find them, they don’t need me to tell them. That’s really the biggest takeaway I want people to have; it is ones individual responsibility to find the resources and information to become actively anti-racist.
And now I have asked myself; so what now?
I know for me my platform is forever changed. I will still be doing collaborations with brands that I feel are a good fit for me (because Mama needs to make money, y’all). I still love fashion and when I feel good about sharing that, I’ll share again. I love sharing things about my kids and my husband and my home. That’s all part of the package.
But I feel like my purpose has fundamentally changed. I feel like this work I am doing now, this is what I need to be doing and where my heart belongs. This is my way of protesting, this is my way of showing that my black life matters; by showing people a FULL black life and what it’s like to be fighting for change and speaking up and out, all while being a mom and a wife and a friend. I can’t go back now because this is what I am being called to do in the deepest depths of my spirit.
I know a lot of white and NBPOC influencers have been asking themselves if it is okay to talk about other things, to accept collaborations, all of that. My take on it is this and I can only speak for myself; this is more than about what your Instagram feed and stories are. This is more than a day, a week, a moment. I want people to change their minds and their hearts and start dismantling their minds and live out anti-racism in their lives. I am pretty aware that eventually folks will post other things; I care more what is going on in your day to day life. People, especially people who are new to this sort of thing, becoming full time activists out of nowhere is a dangerous slope and frankly would feel disingenuous. Especially for the people who didn’t say a thing about it before now. Y’all aren’t equipped to do all that.
Life is going to continue. The thing is now that I hope more people than ever understand that within that, the lives of black people need to continue as well and that we have the right to do so. People need to take the energy they have right now and put it into their families, their children, their community, and themselves, to dismantle white supremacy and systematic violence at the hands of police.
As for me, I’m answering the call of what I know I need to do. And I hope you all will be along for the ride.