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Reflections on Black History Month: A Prosek Ask Me Anything

Joel Henry,  Tamara Gaston,  Shadae Leslie

Prosek’s Culture, Diversity and Belonging Council is comprised of a group of employees at various levels of seniority and aims to provide enriching programming for the firm around the topics of culture, diversity and belonging.

During this February’s Black History Month, Prosek will be hosting a variety of internal informative Zoom forums to acknowledge and educate colleagues on the Black experience through the eyes of our Black colleagues as well as Black external speakers and influencers who will be sharing their knowledge with us on everything from being a Black female in financial journalism to Black Maternal Health.

This week, we hosted an Ask Me Anything (AMA) panel moderated by Managing Director and DEI Chair, Josette Thompson featuring Joel Henry, a Senior Account Executive on our Special Situations team; Shadae Leslie, an Account Executive in PR; and Tamara Gaston a Payroll Specialist from our finance department. The conversation touched on everything from what it is to be an ally to the issue of colorism within and outside the Black Diaspora. Fellow Prosekians joined in the discussion which yielded an open and thought-provoking dialogue – a few highlights below.   

On George Floyd’s murder and the social justice movements of 2020…  

Tamara: I was once asked [in light of the social justice movements in 2020] – how are you doing? Professionally, I was fine. But personally, I honestly was not good. My husband, my family, all of us were impacted. It was mentally taxing. Having conversations with people that are feeling and experiencing the same thing is helpful, but sometimes you just really need to disconnect from it.

Joel: I remember when George Floyd’s murder happened, we talked about it a lot. One of my reactions was frustration. These were issues that as a Black person, I’d known about for years. We always say that 2020 was the year that white people learned about racism. And while I am happy there is increased awareness of these issues, they’re topics that so many of us have been talking about and aware of for a very long time.  

On allyship…

Tamara: To me, allyship is when someone understands their privilege, and knows when to use it to help us [the Black community] get our message across. Having my white friends understand what we go through – and call it out – can make a difference. I don’t need you to be my savior, but I do need you to recognize that there are situations every day where you can use your privilege to be an ally.

When people say they don’t see color…

Shadae: In my opinion and in my experience, I want you to see my color because it’s there. It’s part of me, my experience and how I navigate life. It’s part of the point of view that I can bring to any conversation. You don’t have to say “I don’t see color” to prove you’re not racist. It doesn’t hurt to acknowledge someone’s differences, and you can still treat someone equally while doing so.

As we push to ensure that there’s a strong sense of diversity and belonging at the firm, we’ve committed to having these uncomfortable conversations as we understand that the “Return on Discomfort” as coined by our very own CEO, Jen Prosek, is extremely high. Watch this space for more of our Black History Month programing.

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