In June of 2020, in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, the local wedding and events industry, in Raleigh, began to have conversations about the lack of diversity in our professions. As with many people and groups, we tend to recommend vendors and work with the people that look like us. We may only refer our couples to black-owned businesses because they are black themselves. Or maybe we don’t even know about all the black-owned businesses in our area. It was time to get out of our comfort zone and begin to “Bridge the Gap.”
The amazingly talents of Elana Walker (Elana Walker Events & Elux) and Aneesa Glines (Harmony Events & The Graham Mill) put together a phenomenal virtual forum, “Bridging the Gap”, in order to bring industry professionals together. The goal was to 1. Introduce us to black-owned business owners in our area and 2. Begin an open discussion about race and the wedding industry. We heard from over 30 business owners, some of which I admit I had not heard of previously. Others I had known of, but never worked with on an event.
The panel discussion challenged us to see things differently. For example, when a black photographer walks in to shoot a wedding, accompanied by a white person, she was often mistaken as the “second shooter” rather than the owner of the business. We were also challenged to set goals and make changes to the way we do business that reflects the people we serve and want to work with.
And so the work began. I took a hard look at our company, and engaged in some hard conversations with black friends and black business owners. It was easy to make some changes to our vendor list – where we make recommendations to couples on who to hire. I admit, it did not reflect a diverse group of vendors, and we needed to make some changes. Secondly, we added more specific language to our contracts that protects employees from being targeted or harassed at events. If an employee is discriminated against due to race, either by a client or their guest, or another vendor, they have the freedom to leave that event and not continue working.
In a conversation with Amber Robinson (Images by Amber), she called me out on the lack of diversity in my social media content and website. She pointed out that it does not reflect the clients I say I want to work with. And so, we decided to create some of that content. Because I also wanted to work with more black owned businesses, one the planners on my team, Dawn, and I and collaborated to put on a styled shoot in the Fall of 2020. This boho theme was fun to create. This was our first styled shoot ever, we are proud of how it turned out.
More importantly, I loved getting to work not only with black business owners, but WOMEN in business. You guys, things are changing. I know this is just a couple steps in the right direction, and we still have a ways to go. But I am confident that the tide is turning.
I believe black lives matter. I believe women are competent and strong. I believe that everyone deserves a fair shot at making a living doing what they love, and we all bring something to the table.
I was honored to collaborate with the following black-woman-owned-businesses for this shoot.
Amber Robinson – Images by Amber Robinson (photographer)
Tay Brown – Amazing Graze Barn (venue)
Taji – Taji Natural Hair Styling
Sharon Davis – S. Davis Makeup Artistry
Crystal Butler – Quzine Orleans (catering)
Gineen Cargo – Gavin Christianson Bridal
Florals created by Dawn Carr of Lily Rose Events
Specialty rentals provided by Greenhouse Picker Sisters
Cake/ cupcakes provided by Shanda at The Sugar Post Raleigh
Thank you to our models: