A Rather Assertive Ted”ish” Talk About Allyship

February 19, 2020

Kai Deveraux Lawson

Kai Deveraux Lawson, uses her life long passion for culture, and 8 years of experience in advertising, to tell honest stories that shed light on the need for Diversity & Inclusion in the workplace. Her experience led her to launch the culturally focused platforms, Mixed Company Podcast and her blog, Mylifeofkai.com. On these platforms, she shares her first hand experiences in life, travel and career, from the perspective of a millennial woman of color.

Kai has been a featured guest on several podcasts including The Drum’s Exceptional Women of the World podcast, David Sable’s Madison & Culture podcast, and Adweek’s “Yea, That’s Probably an Ad”. Most recently, she was also selected for the 2018 Advertising Club of New York Women’s Fellowship and nominated for The-Dot’s 2019 International Women’s Day - 100 Trailblazers redefining the Creative Industry.

*This piece was originally published on My Life of Kai and is reposted with the owner's blessing.*

Throughout my life, I’ve experienced what it truly means to be “othered." Before I open my mouth, to self identify, I am judged on the basis of my race and my gender. It has been my life long experience and expectation that people who look like me are often underrepresented in media and marketing roles, and quite frankly, it wasn’t until the last few years, that I even had the pleasure to know more than 1 black woman in executive spaces. It’s for this very specific reason, why Simeon, Karinna & I started Mixed Company Podcast. 

We work in an industry where black and brown faces are deliberately and systematically silenced and gaslit. So we created an industry platform that we had wished for, in so many of our own experiences, to feel like we belonged. We crafted a safe space where we could be open, honest, comfortable and vocal. A place where we could always celebrate what was important to us. 

Over time, this podcast has become a central hub for many people to hear their own truth and in a way that resonates. We’ve made it our mission to see all of the people who have felt unseen, as well as say the things that have been left unsaid. So when a person of privilege and prominence stepped into our safe space, to interrupt our celebration of black and brown people on the cover of a publication, with a spirited note about what diversity “is also”, beyond being of color. I took this extremely personally. I want to be very clear, that in this moment, as I write this post, I am 100% an angry, hurt and completely triggered black woman. Because, while I expect this from people with privilege and prominence, it cuts more deeply when this is a person who boldly but claims to be a big supporter of racial inclusion.

In 2020, I find it alarming, that there are leaders and influencers among us in this space of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Belonging, etc…that need to be reminded what it means to be a true ally and how to properly respect the people you suggest you advocate for. I’ve said this before, and I will reiterate it again; we do not have room for any more PR focused leadership in this conversation. We do not need any more talking heads. We need people who are really here to do the work. So, In the event anyone needs a refresher on what that looks like in real life and not just behind a desk, on a stage or in a trade publication, please see below:


Allyship is a Lifestyle. If You Are Not About This Work, Then You Are Not About This Life.
You don’t get to call yourself an ally because you say you are. Allyship is strictly about action. Who have you stood up for? Who have you stood up to? What personal action have you taken? If you don’t have answers to these questions, you may not actually be an ally. Just saying…

As An Ally, You Should Understand Advocacy for the Inclusion of Some DOES NOT Mean An Exclusion of Others.
All lives matter is sooo 2016, and in the spirit of 2020 progress let’s be a LOT more deliberate with the challenges we choose to focus on, and empathetic to the people experiencing those challenges. Inclusion is NOT a catch all, or a bucket for everyone’s experiences and struggles. This sentiment is dehumanizing and offensive.

In the Words of Derek Walker, “STOP TELLING BLACK PEOPLE TO WAIT."
In this country, people of African descent are afforded the least of privileges when it comes to social constructs. This is the case even after attaining education, wealth and professional status. As an Ally, it is your duty to know and understand this nuance. So every time you suggest that somehow racial and ethnic advocacy isn’t true diversity, you are directly playing into the perpetuation of white supremacy. And to be clear, that makes you a part of the problem. 

Real Allies Have Real Conversations.
No one expects you to know everything. What is expected of you as an ally is your willingness to listen, learn and be better. You do not have the right to step into a community’s safe space, offend members of that community, and then turn around and claim “ATTACK”. In those moments, you’ve earned yourself a free lecture. Use it as a teachable moment. You need to be able to have brave conversations that spark change. If it makes you feel better, you can even ask to have that conversation in private. When you know better you should do better, if you decide otherwise due to fear and pride, you’re not an ally.