We are appalled and deeply disturbed by the events at the U.S. Capitol on January 6. As our team absorbed the words and pictures used to illustrate the lawlessness and violence unfolding before us, we took action in the only way we knew how – sending messages of care and support to each other, our clients, journalists and friends.
Today, we sit in the emotional trauma of these events.
We cannot unsee the confederate flag flying in the halls of the Capitol for the first time in history. We cannot unhear the chants of an angry mob or the speech of a president hell bent on lighting the fire.
While we could not have imagined this threat and condemn any attempt to use violence to overturn the will of the people, we are also aware that fear, racism and hate smolder inside the hearts of many. And as communicators, we understand that words provide oxygen to ignite acrid smoke into flames of rage.
As we sit in the aftermath of this event and reflect on the history that shaped the present, one truth rises to the top. Our responsibility in this moment as a team of women who identify as allies is not to speak, but to listen.
In 2020, our team boldly declared our purpose as a company to further the power of people to change our world for the better. We are dedicated to the work of systems change and believe it only happens when people change. Through our work, we contribute to systems change by facilitating the person-to-person storytelling that allows people to see the world through a new lens – that of a neighbor, a co-worker, an American whose life experience is different than your own. We have seen it in action, we have felt the change firsthand.
There are thousands of voices speaking about their experience confronting racism, intolerance, misinformation and other evils that pose a real threat to our democracy. Their stories personalize the impact of words, actions and policies. They challenge our preconceptions and help us change the way we interface with others. But this can only happen if we validate the experiences of others by making a conscious effort to both hear their words and absorb to our core the messages they are trying to communicate.
These issues are not new. Their impact is well studied. This week we were forced to confront what lies ahead if we make it acceptable to turn off our humanity.
To those who lead inside businesses, nonprofits, government agencies or even in your own home, make listening the norm. Find opportunities for your team to listen to and learn from storytellers who have experienced a different America. Look for ways to change internal practices, channel funding to help those you have learned from and advocate for authentic, informed civic engagement. Turn the volume up.
In this moment, it is easy to let shock and confusion dwarf our action. But empathy and compassion will burn hotter than hate if we fuel them. As we move forward, we challenge you to join us in using the strongest fuel we have to change the hearts and minds of people – listening.
We have the power to listen.
Sarah Hogan & Cori Streetman
Co-Founders, Barefoot PR