Showing Up For Black Lives
I’ve spent the past few weeks doing some of the deepest reflection I’ve ever done as a founder. I don’t think there has ever been a more important time for our leaders to show up and be accountable to the movement—and that’s what I intend to do. I want you to know who I am, what motivates me and how I’m personally and professionally showing up for Black lives.
Looking back, I think there were two things that led me to focus my life on serving others. First is my dad’s multiple sclerosis (MS). From a very young age, this made me aware that not everyone was like me. My dad went from walking, to walking with a cane, to using a walker, to being permanently in a motorized wheelchair. I often say that my dad’s MS has made me who I am and for that I’m grateful.
The second experience that was especially formative for me was going on an educational trip to Ecuador when I was 16. I was lucky to travel as a kid with my family, but this was my first time visiting a country that wasn’t like mine (46% of the population lives below the poverty line)—and it changed my life. During the end of the trip, we met a nun who said to our group, “If you don’t save the world, you’re going to hell.”
I’ll never forget that moment, because something clicked in my teenage brain. Her point wasn’t that she was damning us to hell. Her point was that we’re privileged. Her point was that if we’re not actively examining and leveraging our privilege in service of others, we’re failing. I still believe that to this day and you’ll hear me say the same thing on my deathbed. Privilege exists to be leveraged. It is not yours. It exists to be given away.
That led me to college, where I majored in International Studies and Human Rights, which only solidified my focus on serving others and dismantling oppressive systems and ideologies. After I graduated, I spent about five years in the apparel industry before launching Radical Girl Gang.
Radical Girl Gang is a 100% self-funded small business. We have only one full-time employee: myself. In the near future, we’ll be fundraising in order to scale and better serve both our brands and our community. As we grow and hire new teammates, building a diverse and representative team is one of my number one priorities. In fact, since launching Radical Girl Gang, the only freelancers we’ve worked with have been women of color. Those have been conscious decisions to create a balanced and inclusive team, especially with me being a white woman founder.
But there’s something else that needs to be said: it’s not enough.
That’s been one of my biggest learnings these past weeks. For all of my “caring” about inclusivity and representation, I utterly failed at this in regards to amplifying Black women entrepreneurs on our platform and this is something we’re rectifying immediately (UPDATE: meet Soy Society). While I’m incredibly proud of the brands we carry and that more than 25% are owned by women of color, at the time of the George Floyd protests, we didn’t yet carry a single Black women-owned brand. There are a lot of reasons that’s the case, but ultimately none of those excuses matter, because that’s what they are: excuses. And excuses don’t mean shit.
Being “aware” and “passionate” is not doing the work. So, that leads me here, to some ways I’m doing the work, both professionally and personally:
- I’m reading White Fragility and The New Jim Crow.
- I’m spending time daily educating myself.
- I’m joining Rachel Cargle’s “The Great Unlearn.”
- I’m participating in peaceful protests and marches.
- I’m having difficult conversations with both Black and non-Black friends.
- I’m apologizing to my Black friends as appropriate.
- I’m intentionally building a more diverse network.
- I'm donating to anti-racist organizations and causes.
- I'm putting my money behind Black-owned businesses.
- I’m holding myself accountable.
- I'm speaking up.
Radical Girl Gang:
- We’re prioritizing launching Black women-owned brands above all else.
- We’re determining what our breakout of brands by race should be and will release those numbers/goals as soon as we have them.
- We’re focusing solely on serving Black people and making a conscious decision to de-prioritize making any revenue this month in an effort to remain focused and unencumbered by other business objectives.
- We’re prioritizing building an Advisory Board that is racially diverse (this is one of the best ways founders are held accountable too).
- We’re determining more ways we can serve and amplify Black women entrepreneurs on our platform and will continue to provide updates as we roll out new initiatives.
That leads me to the end here, where I want to talk for a moment about what Radical Girl Gang is and why it matters.
Radical Girl Gang is not a business. Radical Girl Gang is a force for change.
I created Radical Girl Gang after seeing the massive rise of women entering entrepreneurship *and* experiencing firsthand the challenge in finding women-owned brands. Why does that matter? Because every time we spend our hard-earned dollars, we’re casting a vote for the kind of world we want. That’s how it works. We have the power to shift power dynamics in this country and to do it on a massive scale. Simply by shopping.
Women alone possess nearly 80% of all spending power in this country. Imagine if we used that collective power in service of all women. Imagine if women in this country had more money in their pockets. Imagine if you could help women-owned businesses grow and thrive. Imagine if they could then hire other women. Imagine if we could disrupt the reality that the current male-to-female CEO ratio is 19:1. Imagine if women’s voices were heard proportionately. Imagine if we were at the table, making the decisions. Imagine if we built our own house, with our own rules.
THAT is the power of Radical Girl Gang.
As your founder and accomplice, I will continue to fight on behalf of all women. I will continue to build the Radical Girl Gang that we collectively deserve. I will continue to use my voice, be accountable and leverage my privilege to build new systems and create better realities.
Bre — Founder + CEO