We both fled our homelands at a young age, feeling increasingly unwelcome and unsafe in our respective countries. Julia’s family fled religious persecution from post-Soviet Ukraine. Deroy’s family fled Cuba, seeking a safer and more free livelihood elsewhere. Now, decades later, here we are: fully assimilated into American culture, accepted and even respected in our society as individuals and as leaders of Hyperakt, the design studio we co-founded almost 20 years ago.
We got here because we worked hard and benefited from the support and contributions of family, mentors and talented teammates. We also got here because of the privileges we inherited: we are both white. As refugees, we walked through life believing that the American dream was alive and well; we lived it.
For Black Americans, and for many people of color and indigenous background, the American Dream is a bald-faced lie. Hard work is hardly a factor when state sanctioned violence is an everyday possibility and reality. Rayshard Brooks, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Tony McDade and over 1,250 more Black people have been killed in just the last five years in brutal and unnecessary acts of police violence.
Since 2010, Hyperakt has flown our flag as a “social impact design studio.” As we worked with clients who address systemic racism and inequity, we’ve learned about the racism in our justice system, our school systems, our healthcare system, the design of our cities. Our education has been a long time in the making, but in the last month, one thing has become clear: the racism we know and acknowledge in our society is intricately linked to the white privilege we carry in ourselves, everyday.
We will continue to support our courageous clients in their work. We are proud to be able to do this. And we have an ethical and moral responsibility to take concrete, anti-racist action.
We commit to these immediate steps:
- We have donated $2,000, including $1,000 in employee matching, to organizations fighting for Black lives.
- We closed in recognition of Juneteenth, starting this year, and will do so every year moving forward.
- We encourage and support team members to take time to protest and take mental and physical rest whenever necessary.
- We support our team members’ commitments and desires to volunteer for causes that are personally meaningful.
- We will use our social platform and reach to amplify the work already being done by Black organizations working for change.
Over the next 6-12 months, we have committed to take these concrete actions:
- We will make $5,000 in annual donations to organizations working to dismantle white supremacy in its range of manifestations. Half of these funds will be used to match staff donations to organizations that support an anti-racist agenda.
- We will create a sustainable system for connecting BIPOC with our existing professional networks.
- We will expand the diversity of our team through improved recruitment processes and by cultivating a work environment that earns the sustained trust and talent of Black and Indigenous team members. As a small team, we don’t hire very often. Nevertheless, we commit to examining and redesigning our recruitment processes before we embark on our next hire.
- We will build a robust pipeline of freelancers (designers, photographers, illustrators, artists, copywriters, etc.) who are BIPOC.
We also know that actions need to be bolstered by a robust team culture. To that end, over the long term, we will:
- Participate in ongoing, frank team-wide discussions to address power and privilege within Hyperakt.
- Articulate a more thoughtful and considered point of view on the role of design in dismantling white privilege and racial injustice, and take action on those views.
- Define the meaning of social impact as it applies to our work, and examine the values, responsibilities, and actions required to continuously and actively earn the use of that descriptor.
- Work to build a culture in which we, as leaders, are educated and aware of white privilege and anti-Black prejudice in our actions, decisions, and project work so that we can all act to dismantle privilege and prejudice.
We have a lot of work to do. It will take a sustained effort to redesign practices and build new ones. It will take time, and we’re ready to roll up our sleeves.
Julia & Deroy