A Letter from CEO Melissa Leclair:
This year has put all of us to the test in so many ways. While highlighting our strength as individuals and communities, 2020 has also brought to the forefront our weaknesses, vulnerability, and cultural blind spots. On top of a global health crisis and widespread economic hardship, this year brought us a watershed movement around the issues of systemic racism and police brutality. This is still going, and we are still hearing new stories weekly about horrific incidents of police violence in the US, here in Canada, and around the world.
As a person and as a small business owner, this was an eye-opening and challenging time. We received some tough but important feedback from members of our deeply valued community and I have confronted in a very real way the impact of my white privilege and the blind spots it had caused. We felt shocked and horror at the murder of George Floyd, while others felt anger, hopelessness, and exhaustion. To me, it was a horrible, gut-wrenching story on the news, however, for many others, it was just one more instance that proves what Black people already know to be true: systemic racism and its ugly impacts are alive and well in modern society.
I was never one to think much about skin colour - including my own. I was very unaware of my privilege as a white person, and I incorrectly believed that “not seeing colour” was what we should all aspire to. But the fact is that race is real, racism is real, and it’s simply not enough to be a ‘nice white person.’ It’s never been enough. The idea of active anti-racism was admittedly new to me a few months ago, and I’m very much still learning, imperfectly, but I feel like I have a renewed understanding of how important it is to be an active and ongoing ally to marginalized people. As a business owner and employer in my community, the responsibility feels even more significant.
In June, Sacha and I sat down with our senior staff and had a long discussion about some of the feedback we’d received, the ongoing movement, and what we could do as a company to be more actively anti-racist and to encourage every one of our team members to do the same. It’s been a few months since then and while the work is still very much ongoing (this type of work is never done), we wanted to update you on some of the steps we’ve taken so far:
Recruitment: We have initiated partnerships with multiple recruitment agencies to hire talented candidates from a diverse array of backgrounds. We feel strongly that our team should reflect the community we serve.
Shoppe Vendors: We’ve begun purposefully expanding our roster of smaller vendors to include more products from Black makers and creators. There is a wealth of amazing creative talent out there and we want our products to reflect the depth and diversity of the creative community.
Social Media: While we have always loved to engage with our industry peers across social media platforms, we have been more intentional about uplifting the voices and incredible work of our BIPOC colleagues in the interiors industry. There are so many incredible designers and makers out there and we have loved digging deeper into new inspiration and sharing it with our following.
LD Library: We have assembled a library of books for our team around the topics of race, racial justice, active allyship, and other social justice issues. We have also made available a $50 reimbursement for any materials our employees may wish to purchase to continue their own exploration in this area. We are encouraging them to invest in books, audiobooks, and paid courses.
Community Giving: In addition to a one-time donation to the Black Visions Collective, and Black Designers of Canada. We have established recurring monthly donations to the Black Health Alliance.
Scholarship: One thing that has become clear over the past few months is that BIPOC designers are underrepresented in our industry. To have a greater impact on the design field in our local community, we are in the research phase of establishing a scholarship + paid internship program for prospective designers looking to study here in Ottawa.