I condemn injustice and discrimination and I reaffirm my values and our company’s values towards equality.
– John Chuang / CEO, Aquent/Vitamin T
Trayvon Martin. Tamir Rice. Michael Brown. Eric Garner. Philando Castile. Breonna Taylor. George Floyd. Rayshard Brooks. The list goes on. There are more names, and names that we’ll never know stretching back decades and centuries.
African Americans are nearly three times more likely to die from police interactions than white Americans. In most cases, the victims with names we know all too well were unarmed.
Since Mr. Floyd’s death on May 25—a murder and perhaps a tipping point—our streets have been filled with protesters every night. Tens of thousands of people came together coast-to-coast, which grew to millions worldwide, in Sweden, England, Japan, France, Germany. And at last, we’re all having important and sometimes painful conversations.
Our commitment: Aquent and Vitamin T’s Social Justice Initiative
During the last weeks our two companies have had some open and candid conversations with our staff about how we can take the next step and do better.
One thing we learned is how much there is to learn, even if you have the right attitude, values, and intentions. To that end, we are buying copies of the book The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander for all our employees to read and discuss in an ongoing book club. It’s a stunning account of the rebirth of a caste-like system in the United States, one that has resulted in millions of African Americans locked behind bars and relegated to permanent second-class status. Ten states ban people with certain convictions from voting unless they win an appeal to have their rights restored, and 17 ban people on parole, probation, or both from casting ballots.
In order to ensure all employees have the opportunity to vote and make their voices heard in national, state, and local elections, we will give them the time off they need to get to the polls or help others vote on election days. Because change starts with individuals exercising their right to vote and some elections can be decided by just one vote.
Third, we are donating $20,000 to the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, America’s premier legal organization fighting for racial justice. Through litigation, advocacy, and public education, it seeks structural changes to expand democracy, eliminate disparities, and achieve equality for all Americans.
We’re also instituting a dollar for dollar match, up to $50,000, of all donations made via our donation page to the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund. Contributions will be sent directly to the organization and automatically matched. (UPDATE 9/9/20: We were able to donate over $100k to social justice organizations, including $66k+ to the NAACP LDF!)
Finally, every week Vitamin T and Aquent will shine a spotlight on art that addresses diversity and inclusion, social justice, or is submitted by people of color. Social media platforms are powerful, and we’ll put ours to work to help amplify these voices.
The initiative is a reflection of our founder and CEO John Chuang, who told all our employees “I condemn injustice and discrimination and I reaffirm my values and our company’s values towards equality.” He then got personal, which is where the subject of racism leads us all. “I don’t want my kids living in a racist and bigoted society. So time’s up.”
Most importantly, Aquent and Vitamin T’s social justice initiative is also a reflection of our tens of thousands of employees and talent around the world. With enough of us, and with action, we can make a difference.