Hi all, hope everyone is well.

Out of respect and admiration for what you all do, I’ve sat on what I’m about to say for a while. I’ve taken some time to think about what I want to say, and how I want to express it, because as much as this means to me, I didn’t want the message to come from a place of emotion.

When COVID interrupted our lives, we banded together. It was a life-threatening issue that affected all of us, not only as business owners but as community leaders. It gave me hope to believe; the hope to believe that maybe this industry is more united than I originally gave it credit for.

Then, just as we were seeing the beginnings of a reprieve, 2020 decided to throw yet another spanner in the works. This spanner isn’t new, it’s not a sudden revelation, it just finally got the media attention it needed.

So, I posed a question to this group. How many studios run hip hop classes? What was I looking for? A way to gauge how many of us consumed and profited off BLACK CULTURE.

The response? I think everyone but the ballet schools. I’d go as far to say all commercial schools have it. Olivia was right on the money. We all do!

I then asked myself, surely we’ve all watched the news? Surely everyone knows what’s going on? Why isn’t anyone saying anything? Maybe this means more to me as a black woman in the industry, as someone who continues to witness endless injustices meted out to people who look like me. Maybe all this history put me in a place where “it hit different”, as the saying goes these days.

To my disbelief, the same community that was in such an uproar over not running classes, that was so vocal about the potential shuttering of business brought about by a disease that none of us asked for, maybe that community wasn’t as opinionated on the issue affecting the lives of a community and culture that we all benefit from.

The reality is, we are people in the position of power and influence. Whether we signed up for it or not, we have young lives looking up to us, looking for guidance on global issues, including BLACK LIVES MATTER. We have a responsibility to educate them, or at the very least educate ourselves on what this truly means to our industry and communities.

Now some might argue, that’s not my place, I keep my political views separate to my business.

But what does our silence say about us as a community? We were all affected by COVID, so we all spoke up, we all did something. Maybe the BLM movement does not affect you personally, but it does affect the lives of people in the community that has created a culture the entertainment industry can profit from.

You don’t need to have kids and families of colour in your schools to realise the impact of this revolution, to realise and use that power you have to create beneficial and lasting change in the wider community. I hope that the take away message here is acknowledgement that we owe black lives the love and support that they need in this time, and at all times. To remind them that, we see you; we might not comprehend the full extent of your pain and trauma, but we see you.

In addition to this, can we find a way to show some form of gratitude to the musicians, writers, creators, innovators, dancers, teachers, industry leaders and studios that we pull our inspiration from? Whose crafts and skillsets give us and our businesses such benefit? Some of us may already have ideas, may already be doing things. Some of us may have teachers working for and with us who are already motivated in this way. Let’s share those ideas! Let’s start the dialogue and start, or keep, acting!

As leaders, I personally feel we owe this age-old life-threatening pandemic the same love, attention and solution-based mindsets that COVID received.

At the end of the day, what you choose to do with your business and clients is entirely that. Your business. But if you consume, love and profit off black culture, then wouldn’t you say using your platforms and influence to demand change is a good step towards the solidarity and equality we all deserve?

I’m not asking you to draw up and post SAFETY PLANS all over your studios. Nor I’m I asking you to sanitise and change the infrastructure of your studios.  I am merely asking you to please not ignore the impact of what’s going on as it is so real for so many of us. Don’t let BLACK LIVES MATTER be yet another hashtag.

With thanks and gratitude in advance

Rita Nita

 

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