Where are the black designers?

Article artwork by Chineme Elobuike.

“Hire black designers first and foremost,” say organisers of Where are the Black Designers? anti-racism conference

Black culture is undoubtedly the most popular form of entertainment throughout the world. From music to fashion, it has permeated all areas of life, transcending issues including class and religion.

On June 27th, a virtual conference called Where are the Black Designers? took place. Seventeen amazing speakers and over 10,000 attendees came together to celebrate Black voices in design and address pressing issues in the design industry.

“The expectation was that maybe a couple of hundred people would attend,” said co-organiser Garrett Albury. Instead, close to 10,000 people attended online. “We’ve just had such an overwhelming response,” said Mitzi Okou, who ran the event together with Albury.

#BlackoutTuesday

Earlier this year, the hashtag #BlackoutTuesday dominated social media feeds as part of a campaign initially sparked by two Black women, Jamila Thomas and Brianna Agyemang, who work for Atlantic Records and Platoon respectively. 

“First and foremost, we need to protect Black artists and challenge systemic racism. That’s why I called on artists to unionise, as everything depends on us. For example, too many young Black artists are going on tour without financial or mental health support,” he said.

Photo by Edward Howell on Unsplash

Now is the time for black voices

What recent events have also highlighted is the systemic racism which prevails not just in America, but internationally, and permeates all aspects of the world – not least the creative industries. Now is the time for black voices, works of art and projects to be amplified, and for a conscious effort to combat endemic whitewashing. While following someone on Instagram might seem like a trivial action in light of the necessary work that needs to happen at the very core of our society, it’s a way to help ensure that, after the black squares fade, blackness does not.

During June, a number of short films aired on Channel 4, every weekday as part of the Take Your Knee Off My Neck series in response to the killing of George Floyd. The films explored the effect that Floyd’s death had on Black Britons.

Lucy Pilkington was one of two executive producers for the series, which attempts to reckon with the historic trauma of British slavery and racism, while striking an optimistic tone about the future during a galvanising historical moment.

She said the industry’s diversity figures have improved from when she started her career more than 20 years ago. However, she acknowledged that a lot more work still needed to be done.

“There’s more people in senior positions from diverse backgrounds. But we need more diversity across the board, especially at the independent production companies. However, more funding is needed to achieve this and it needs to be ring-fenced,” Lucy observed.

Use the power of our voices

An important note: Make sure that you continue to support these businesses well past a time of organized protests and social media fervor. Don’t just buy one thing, congratulate yourself, and head straight back into the clutches of Jeff Bezos.

As content creators, we all can use the power of our voices to rally our audiences for change. And we want to use our voice to share more diverse stories. In this blog post, we want to share a few ways you, too, can support Black content creators. And, if you’re looking for ways you can empower change in your community, buying from black-owned businesses is a great opportunity to do that.

We’ve put together a list of resources to help you discover and support incredible Black content creators & Black-owned businesses:

https://blackswho.design/

https://wherearetheblackdesigners.com/

https://www.instagram.com/explore/tags/supportblackbusiness/

https://www.instagram.com/explore/tags/supportblackart/

https://webuyblack.com/

https://www.blacknation.app/

https://iamblackbusiness.com

https://www.etsy.com/market/black_owned

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