Listening + Learning: Our Latest DEI Discoveries

, Feb 25, 2021

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Over the past several months, we’ve been working to keep our promise to listen, learn, and grow together. By partaking in crucial conversations related to diversity, equity, and inclusion in our industries and our community, we’ve been taking advantage of our close-knit agency culture and capitalizing on our ability to meet frequently and engage in dialogue that allows all Marchers to share their points of view. And there’s no better time to summarize our latest experiences than during Black History Month.

In July 2020, we kicked off our diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts by listening to 1619, a podcast from the New York Times by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones. Our objective was simple: learn more about the history of racism in America by listening to an episode every other week and discussing our thoughts, feelings, and observations with each other. When the DE&I committee first chose the podcast and structure, we weren’t sure how the sessions would go – would the topics be too heavy, too controversial, too much to balance on top of client work? These concerns quickly vanished.

Even amidst the pandemic and learning how to work remotely, Marchers came together full of compassion and an eagerness to learn. Each episode of 1619 took us through pillars of American life that not only stole from, but also continue to oppress Black Americans even 400 years later, including our democracy, the economy, music, healthcare, and even the land itself.

Our response to this podcast activity was overwhelming. Many of us had our eyes opened to truths that have been intentionally kept out of view. Surely if our early education focused on these topics, we’d have a better chance at dismantling systemic racism. As an agency, we were blown away by the history we never learned in school and how pervasive racism is in our country. As an individual, I have never been more impressed by my coworkers or more thankful to work in an inclusive and open-minded environment.

Following 1619, we took the same approach with Nice White Parents, another New York Times podcast hosted by Chana Joffe-Walt. While 1619 focused on history’s effect on present systems, this series dove into segregation practices that remain very apparent in New York City public schools. As Joffe-Walt presents perspectives of well-intentioned wealthy white parents against working class parents of color, we listened and discussed each episode in contrast to our own experiences.

These chats often circled back to our own diverse perspectives spanning age differences, varying experiences with education, and the difference in views between parents, guardians and non-parents. We learned that prejudice against students of color is alive and well in America today. We all had opinions to share and lessons to learn when it comes the US education system. In a safe and open forum, Marchers engaged in tough and meaningful discussions. This series also reinforced our appreciation for courageous, hands-on reporting.

These podcasts opened the hearts and minds of countless listeners, including ours. Our discussions quickly grew from initial 30-minute surface-level chats to hour-long deep dives into the systems built to oppress people of color in America and the work that we can do to dismantle them. A combination of incredible journalism and willing participants who made the time to listen to the podcasts and to each other made for a unique personal and collective growth opportunity.

If you haven’t already, we highly recommend listening to 1619 and Nice White Parents. We’re eager to hear about the content others are tuning into or reading to better wrap their arms around DEI efforts. Drop us a note or connect with us on social to hear more about these two series or to recommend content for our next group discussion.

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