The Fourth Step

“IN ANY nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices are alive, negotiation, self-purification, and direct action. We have gone through all of these steps in Birmingham. There can be no gainsaying of the fact that racial injustice engulfs this community.” – Martin Luther King, Letter from Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963

Black Lives Matter Protest in Washington DC

In this letter, Dr. Martin Luther King is responding to a cohort of eight, white, Alabama clergymen, who have publicly stated that the protests and demonstrations he’s leading for racial justice are ill-placed on the streets and should instead take place in the courts. Dr. King responds, “we have gone through all of these steps…racial injustice engulfs this community.”   

Racial injustice still engulfs this community, and the community isn’t just Birmingham. It’s in every single one of the United States. And now 57 years after this letter was written, we have thousands upon thousands of Americans taking to the streets this week, in every major city in this country, because “racial injustice engulfs this community.”  

So, we as a team at Proof Strategies say this honestly and with true conviction, that after days of protests stemming from the police brutality and murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Aubery, and countless others, we cannot, in good conscience, continue to tacitly stand by and watch on the sidelines. We are at the fourth step, “direct action.”

Therefore, we, from varied backgrounds, have to take collective responsibility regarding the fact that racism, and specifically racial profiling and abuse by law enforcement of Black people, is endemic and pervasive. Innocent people are being hurt, bullied, arrested, jailed, abused, incarcerated and murdered for no other reason than the color of their skin. And unfortunately, racial profiling is only one element of the modern legacy of racial injustices, including dangerous rhetoric from our country’s leaders, as well as other systematic inequities recently highlighted by COVID-19.  

This isn’t okay. It’s never been okay. And none of us are fully equipped as individuals to take this on, yet the onus is on us as a team to listen, learn and take steps towards change. 

Black Lives Batter Protest in Washington DC

Therefore, we are taking “direct action.” 

  1. Each of us is speaking with our clients about suspending public communications about their initiatives and recommending they too make a change of direct action. 
  2. We will continuously and actively work to expand our diverse talent pipeline and foster an inclusive business environment. We will work toward building and reinforcing structural equity through our hiring processes, marketing efforts, new business outreach, vendor partners, and contracts, as well as other corporate efforts.
  3. Proof Strategies has given a contribution to Campaign Zero, and we will also inquire about how we can use the resources and skills we have, whether writing, creative or digital strategy to reach out and amplify the impact of organizations, like Black Lives Matter, who are not only working to change systematic issues in law enforcement but other systems of inequity.   
  4. We will continue to educate ourselves, improve our workplace diversity, and ideally, move toward being a model for other agencies who want to be better and more inclusive. In order to promote this model, we are pleased to announce that Lisa Borders, former head of the WNBA, The Coca-Cola Foundation and Time’s UP, has agreed to be a featured speaker at our next DC Communicators, and will walk us through the important steps to think through when leading through this crisis. 
  5. We will make sure each of our staff feels supported and cared for, giving them the time they need to think, reflect, protest, and/or support one another on the path ahead.

The status quo is unacceptable. And yet these current events of atrocity have forced us to reconcile the inconvenient truth that our silence is part of the problem and will continue to be if direct action is not part of our workplace culture. 

We hope these initial steps move us towards a new normal, one that is more equal and safe for all. 

The Proof Strategies Team: 

Mimi Carter

Adrian Gianforti

Allison Smith

Chris Burright

Heather LeVasseur

Henri Vies 

Luci Manning 

Mark DePaul

Megan Cahalan

Rachel Hampton

Shelby Burns 

Sonia Del Rivo

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