LOVE CAN SAVE THE CREATIVE INDUSTRY

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YBN Principle No. 2:

We are spreading a message of love and equality. Learn more about our principles HERE.

YOU BELONG NOW will be producing a series of ten articles related to the 10 guiding principles of the platform. Each piece will feature the story of a marginalized content creator. Every week for a 10-week period, we will uplift their stories and share words and images from them.

As a Black woman, issues of discrimination are personal. I’m not speaking in the abstract or making a best guess, these are my lived experiences. I’ve experienced disparity in treatment because of my color, and on the other hand because I hold certain privileges, I’ve experienced tokenism. 

I believe that before any real change can be made in the creative industry, there are particular belief systems about me and people who look like me that have to eradicated. There needs to be a complete culture-shift in the industry, and unless that happens, tokenism will continue, appropriation will continue, and blatant discriminatory acts followed by half-ass apologies will continue. The creative industry continues to slap a band aid on the deeply infested wound of racism. It’s time to rip the band aid off and tell the truth. There is no real equality without truth-telling.

For me, it is important that the truth is told through a message of love. I believe in the power of love because it healed me as a person. Love may sound simple, but it is actually a lot of hard work. It requires taking the time to understand other people and seeing the humanity in everyone. While it can be difficult in a world like ours which is constantly torn apart and divided by hatred, it can and must be done.

So today, I’m going to tell my truth and share some thoughts on how the industry can start to shift its culture. This may be hard for some people to read or understand, but I encourage everyone to have conversations about these issues. If you agree with me, share this article with people who may disagree with us. If you feel uncomfortable reading this or find yourself feeling guilty, take a few deep breaths and know that I mean no harm to you. I’m simply seeking to undo the deep-rooted systemic oppression that you knowingly or unknowingly benefit from. Love can save the world, even the creative industry. 

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1. See the beauty in my Blackness.
There is no use in being colorblind. Despite society’s effort to make me hate the color of my skin, my thick lips, my nappy hair, I have fought through to love myself. There is no use in pretending not to see all these things. So, see the beauty in me, see the beauty in the people and the things you’ve been taught to exclude. Society doesn’t need colorblindness, it needs people to see people as people. It needs people to love people. 

2. Recognize my own diversity.
Tokenism is simply unacceptable. There is so much diversity among people who look like me. Black women have different interests, styles, aesthetics, hair textures, music tastes, body types, the list is endless. So, the few characteristics which are used to identify me cannot be expected to represent an entire group of people. If we are able to constantly distinguish between the personalities and styles of White bloggers, models, artists, photographers, editors, then we should be able to do the same for Black people.

3. Call out discrimination. 
It is time to challenge ourselves and those around us. Everybody has a responsibility to speak out against discrimination and take steps toward promoting inclusivity. The directly affected people in the industry cannot be expected to carry that load alone.  While we may have a clearer picture of the solutions, it is everybody’s duty to amplify our voices to the places our voices do not reach. Furthermore, while diversifying content is very important, diversifying the voices and thought process behind the content is just as important. We need more Black editors, casting directors, marketing managers, social media directors and decision-makers in general.

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4. Treat me equally.
Over and over again, Black creatives are expected to work twice as hard as White creatives to get the same amount of exposure, pay, opportunity, etc. Talented Black actresses are offered significantly less money than their counterparts, Black models are expected to have a distinct “exotic” look to fill a designer's diversity quota, Black bloggers are expected to have a significantly higher social media following or have exceptional style, and even then most don't get the opportunities they deserve. While I strive for excellence in the work I do and for Black excellence in general, it does not negate the fact that White creatives are not subjected to the same level of scrutiny. Put plainly, it is discrimination. 

5. Take the time to discover Black creatives. 
The intentional lack of representation of Black people in the creative industry has created a myth that we do not exist. You barely have to scratch the surface of social media to discover the vast talent of people in my community. Even before the age of social media, in areas like the modeling industry, people like Bethann Hardison, Iman, Naomi Campbell and many more, spoke out about the blatant exclusion of Black models despite their talent. We have to do away with the myth that Black creatives are not producing good work. While every human being has room for improvement, we cannot deny the blatant racism that occurs in the industry. 

It is up to all of us to make these changes. They will not manifest without our voices and without our work. The YOU BELONG NOW platform is a community space for all people. We want to build a coalition among all creatives, but we would be doing a disservice to that mission if we do not tell the truth about this industry. 

Love,
Valerie Eguavoen

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