I heard about a small bright spot coming out of the Cambridge community this week: Danielle Geathers just became the first black woman to serve as Student Body President at MIT. In the article linked above she reflects on the importance of prospective students seeing their own culture and background reflected in the student and staff community - especially in leadership positions.
The Greater Boston community has a long way to go though. I work in an MIT-owned building in Kendall Square, a Cambridge neighborhood and business community often criticized as an ivory tower exponentially driving up property prices and rent largely due to the presence of Google, Facebook, Amazon, plenty of biopharma companies, and more. My company’s main function is to provide affordable and flexible workspace and accessible networking opportunities for startups and innovators, in an otherwise expensive, exclusive, and densely occupied business neighborhood. But, as the price of rent continues to sky rocket, the company ends up having to charge more per square foot just to cover our own rent, which works in direct opposition to the goal of accessibility and affordability. (Note, we offer free events and donate space to/partner with various community-oriented initiatives and nonprofit orgs, but this is obviously not enough to fix the issue of inaccessibility overall.)
With the current exclusivity in our neighborhood in mind, last year, the Kendall Square Association kicked off a monthly Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion learning community bringing together local KS business leaders. The focus of this discussion group was "Can Kendall Square pilot and scale ways of building inclusive institutions, by applying its [Research & Development] mindset to the diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) issue?"
Since that group started, it sounds like there has been a lot of openness to accountability and self-criticism and lots of thoughtful ideas for future changes and initiatives to support the goal of making KS a more equitable and inclusive community. But of course there is still a lot of work to be done and a lot of those ideas are far from being rolled out. (Read more on the KSA DEIB initiative here.)
Because it’s easy to point to everyone else and whether they are/are not doing enough, I’m trying to turn the mirror on myself as a cog within the greater Kendall Square wheel. My big questions for myself within this context are:
1. What can I do as a member of a Talent Acquisition team in a Kendall Square business to make sure I am helping create a company that provides a welcoming, safe, worthwhile, and engaging community for existing and prospective BIPOC staff?
2. How can I work with my company to bring more BIPOC into positions of leadership and other parts of our work that are not accurately reflecting the community and population within which we operate?
Given that my team works in hiring and HR, DEIB (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Belonging) naturally surfaces in our work every day and it's something we always address up front when hiring for the Talent Acquisition department. But I am challenging myself with the questions above because my professional identity has always felt secondary to me; I've often felt like my individual identity is that I like to make art and that my professional day job is a way to pay the bills while I also work on creative things during my free time. But I'm recognizing that with my line of work, that's a place where I can make a tangible impact in the Black Lives Matter movement.
Here's some sobering context: Boston was recently voted last in a survey on how welcoming eight major US cities are to people of color. Last. In a region of the world know for being extremely progressive and liberal. On average, I interview anywhere between 5 and 25 people every week, have worked on entry-level to C-level searches, and my team reviews hundreds of resumes and applications from all over the world each month. We are responsible for finding valuable contributors who reflect the fabric of the community around us. And right now, we have a number of ongoing initiatives to keep ourselves accountable... but we are continuing to listen and learn and admit where we can do better.
Layla F. Saad held an Instagram Live lecture on the topic yesterday, titled "The Revolution with not be Colonised... by White Business Leaders" and this has been a nice resource to make sure I am pointing the finger back at myself and my company whenever I think about racism. She reminds me that it is a shield to simply call out others who are not doing enough when the most effective calling out should be happening within myself and my immediate sphere. View Layla's full session here.
Some helpful words written and emphasized by Layla that white business people like myself should keep in mind:
“The revolution will not be businesses, brands, and leaders who have silenced black voices for all these years, only now to post a black square and proclaim “Black Lives Matter”. The revolution will not be white-washed into a movement where people with white privilege get to feel like benevolent white saviors once again. The revolution will not be slotted into capitalism and used to sell white supremacy back to us.”
Our friends Nick and Rachel got married yesterday! The ceremony was in a beautiful athenaeum in Providence, RI. The officiant made quite an apt comparison between a hall of learning like the athenaeum and the friendships and cultures of those around you, which are all collected in one room during a wedding.
Afterwards, we drove to Gracie's Restaurant for cocktails and hors d'oeuvres, dinner, speeches, and dancing. It was a wonderful evening of catching up with friends, dancing to hits from our middle school days, and talking about old times. I didn't go to school with this crowd, but I've known everyone for about ten years now, so through exposure to stories I almost feel like I was there for a lot of it.
The highlight was likely the last song of the night, "Hands Down" by Dashboard Confessional. I was pretty thrilled to find that there were at least 20 people besides me who were screaming all the words and jumping up and down. Who says DC was all just "emo"?
Anyway, I think this is a wrap on wedding season for us. Glad we ended it with a bang!!
(Also, below you will find a slideshow of Nick, Chris, and our friend Ben taking throwback photos commemorating their high school band "ATL". This was at the afterparty.)
Deidre and Sam's wedding was on Sunday, out in Western Mass on a beautiful farm. On Sunday morning, I drove an hour north and met up with Chris, who was getting ready to take photos with the other groomsmen. We chatted and determined that the wedding party would be hungry after the reception and the party would likely continue in one of the farm houses on the grounds, so we ordered 20 pizzas from Domino's and stuck them in various fridges for later. I think the people at Domino's thought I was a bit crazy when I carried them all out to the car.
The wedding was beautiful. The centerpiece of the grounds is a giant old tree out on the far end of a field, which made the walk of the wedding party and eventually Deidre very summery. Sam's grandfather officiated the wedding, and got a lot of laughs when he combined their named by accident and made it a catchphrase.
Cocktail our took place in a covered area with lots of cheese, charcuterie plates, hors d'oevres, and drinks, then we headed into the barn for the reception. The highlight was definitely their first dance, to a touchingly peaceful acoustic version of Andrew Bird's "Night Sky" (5:15 in the video below). There were also a couple of lovely/joke-packed speeches by Deidre's sister and Sam's best friend.
It has been such a pleasure to be part of all of these weddings the last couple of weeks and to see how uniquely each couple has chosen to celebrate. Excited for the next one, in October, for Nick and Rachel!
Still fighting jet lag, and only worked four days last week before heading out to Connecticut for my friend Jess's rehearsal dinner and wedding. It was an unplugged wedding so I didn't take any photos of the ceremony, and I wanted to stay in the moment during the reception, so I only got photos of the rehearsal and wedding prep. But some highlights were Sammy's dad making a hilarious speech during the rehearsal dinner regarding a photo on Sammy's phone, Jess's dad making a speech that revolved around Harry Potter and his daughter's resemblance to Hermione, Jess and Sam's adorable, heartfelt, and tearful vows, and their first dance (which started traditional and then ended with a lot of jumping and a lost boutonnier). Congratulations, Jess and Sam!
Next up is Sam and Deidre, which came the next day, but I'll make a separate post. All wedding photos will be posted in the "events" section on the photography tab. I've never professionally photographed a wedding, but it's so fun to unofficially document the weddings of my friends.
Hannah Dunscombe is a painter and portrait artist based out of Brookline, MA.