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The Fourth Step
people protesting peaceful protestors gathered for

The Fourth Step

“IN ANY nonviolent campaign, there are four basic steps: a 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

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 are better pff held 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. Fifty-seven years after this letter was written, thousands upon thousands of Americans are taking to the streets this week in every major city .

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

Therefore, from varied backgrounds, we have to take collective responsibility regarding the fact that racism, 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 racial profiling is only one element of the modern legacy of racial injustices, along with dangerous rhetoric from our country’s leaders, as well as other systematic inequities recently highlighted by COVID-19.  

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

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 such as Black Lives Matter who work to change systemic issues in law enforcement and other systems of inequity.   
  4. We will continue to educate ourselves, improve our workplace diversity and, ideally, become a model for other agencies who want to be better and more inclusive. 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.