I was talking with a friend earlier today, about how I haven’t been able to get much work done recently, that I’ve found myself sitting at my laptop and not really knowing what I’ve done with my time. My personal grief had gotten all jumbled up in my head with the pandemic, with the fight for racial justice and with simultaneous anger, fear and cautious hope in humanity. But then, as I continued to share, she reminded me that the work was still being done, but it looked differently than before. The work was both internal and reflective, as well as big-picture and long-term.
In the past, as a consumer, an educator and as a multiracial woman of color with a whole lot of privileges, my position as an ally and activist tended to be centered on advocacy through teaching (and, let’s be real here, at other times also through doing a lot of emotional labor).
But now, as a business owner, the opportunity I have is to ensure that the actions of my company do the long-term work to live up to my values and ethics. If I don't want my words to reflect a surface-level performance, and if I've felt disenchanted by corporations whose leadership, hiring practices, culture or vendors don’t match up to their words, especially when it came to race and equity, I now have the opportunity and responsibility to be intentional about the kind of company I create.
I can be honest about where Yardia has acted and where it falls short, where I've found solutions and where I'm still seeking answers. I'm sharing these questions and reflections for anyone else who might be seeking to reflect along similar lines. Consider this an independent journaling opportunity if you’re in need of one.
Here are the areas in Yardia that I'm currently targeting and reflecting on:
1. Supply Chain
I've been in the process of examining my manufacturers and suppliers to determine how to best maintain Yardia's core values by paying attention to the values of partner companies. The main categories I've been looking at are: What does the company have to say (or does it) when it comes to equity and anti-racism? Are there any red flags in corporate messaging on blogs, social media or websites that warn their values may not align to those of Yardia? What does the leadership and team look like? And also: Do they provide environmentally friendly options in their products or services? Where are they located? Are they local to Seattle? These kinds of questions help me to seek out companies I'd like to form long-term working relationships with in an intentional manner.
During this audit, I've found two suppliers to immediately replace, confirmed one replacement supplier that I'm very excited to work with more, and found a few promising leads locally and nationally. It's an ongoing process to continue to look into with a lot of moving parts, but was far overdue for a refresh.
2. Art and Audience
I've been reflecting on my artwork and communication, an area of business that is less about quantitative data and is instead more internal and personal, so my work here has reflected that.
When it comes to art, I'll continue to create with my authentic voice. That's often going to look like landscapes, nature, and the places where I find solace and belonging. And although I rarely paint images of people, when I do, I’ll continue to paint them in the skin tones I wished I could have seen more often in art when I was a child and student, seeking anything that felt like representation. I'm going to paint from my heart.
I've also reflected on communication and on the audience I'm speaking to. Some questions to ponder include: How often am I writing with a white audience in mind and how often am I writing with a BIPoC audience in mind? What explanatory commas am I inserting, consciously or not? How have I protected myself from white fragility? When have my words worked to maintain white supremacy? When have my words worked to dismantle white supremacy? How have I managed internalized racism? Who am I serving and who am I listening to? Does any of this change my voice?
These aren’t so much questions with simple or single answers, but have been helpful in journaling and processing thoughts. I included them in case they are helpful for your own reflections, too.
3. Hiring and Human Resources
Although I'm nowhere near being ready to hire employees, especially not since the pandemic brought things to a halt, my next area of action is to begin to formalize plans to make Yardia be the kind of workplace I've wished for: one that prioritizes hiring black and brown talent. Although I've kept a few resources and organizations in my head with the thought that I'll turn to them for help to recruit employees of color when I need to, I plan to get this into a living document for when the time is right.
Some reflection questions include: How will I be intentional about recruiting employees from diverse backgrounds? How can workplace policies and procedures center and support inclusion and ethics? How can my workplace lift up employees to support their own goals, whether or not they include Yardia in their future? What kinds of financial realities will need to be in place to ensure policies, procedures and benefits are sustainable?
Right now, with no immediate plans to hire, these processes may be more on the general big-picture side, but creating a living workbook now will help me if and when the time arrives.
4. Giving Back Financially
One of the easiest actions to take was to formalize Yardia's commitment to giving back to the community financially. I'm ashamed to say that although this has been something I've "planned" to do as a company since 2016, it took my grieving process of wanting to honor my grandfather's memory in a tangible way to finally take action in a long-term, sustainable manner.
To start, this looks like giving 5% of gross retail revenue from yardia.co to local charities on a monthly basis. What this means for you is that from now on, when you purchase anything from the website, you'll see a notice on the product page that 5% of the purchase will be automatically donated to Washington charities: Rainier Scholars, The ACLU of Washington Foundation and The Nature Conservancy of Washington. You can learn more on the Shop for Good page.
On a side note, while writing this blog post, I realized that this is right around the time that marks one year of self-employment. While I could have never have expected what this year had in store, I'm even more committed and grateful to be able to continue to learn and grow, to see the results of reflections and actions from a year ago, and to have the energy, drive and hope for the direction that the year ahead will take with the reflections and actions being put into place at this moment.