Dear PRSA NJ Members,
Juneteenth commemorates the official end to slavery in the United States. While this is an important day for the Black Community in America, there is also a valuable lesson for communications professionals to remember. Juneteenth marks the abolition of slavery in Texas on June 19, 1865 – two years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. While there are many theories as to why the message took so long to reach the south (and, granted, this was far before the days of instant information sharing), the consequences are crystal clear: words mean very little without reinforcement or action.
We’ve seen an outpouring of support for the Black Community from brands across the country. And while it’s encouraging to see the issue of systemic racism magnified to spark the conversations we so desperately need, it also begs the question – how many flocked to their social media platforms merely to join a trending conversation and to protect their own reputation, yet failed to address what they intend to do about racism in their own organization, community and beyond? As one article so perfectly described it, “The battle to say something without saying anything has been fierce.”
It’s a reminder that those in the PR and communications industry must not take lightly. We need to replace our desire to be “first to market” with one of true reflection that inspires action. Despite many brands missing the mark, we’ve also seen promising examples of companies taking important steps forward, including our industry’s very own Edelman and Weber Shandwick pledging to diversify their workforce. We hope to see this replicated, particularly in our home state of New Jersey.
PRSA NJ is extremely proud to have a diverse board of directors and we are committed to driving larger change. We’ve offered advice on how to spark conversations about diversity and inclusion in your organization, but we want and need to do more. Our board and diversity & inclusion committee are meeting regularly to discuss programming to proactively support you and your organizations on your path to a more equitable workforce. In turn, we encourage your input on what would be most helpful to you both professionally and personally.
If you’d like to share an idea or are seeking resources to further your personal education on the history of racism in the U.S., please contact firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. We welcome your feedback and are happy to share a wonderful list of materials with you.
These conversations are only the beginning, but we fully intend to listen, reflect and turn our words into action.
Anjelica Sena, PRSA NJ President
Jemia Kinsey Singleton, PRSA NJ President-Elect, Diversity & Inclusion Chair