On May 25, 2020, the tragic death of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police department spurred a worldwide series of protests against systemic racism and police brutality, as well as a much wider conversation about race in society at large. Shortly thereafter, we interviewed four Black event professionals on their experience in events as a first step towards giving a voice to a community that is traditionally underrepresented in events.
Jason Dunn, the chairman of the Board of the National Coalition of Black Meeting Professionals (NCBMP), was kind enough to share his insights then, and once again shares the benefit of his experience.
In the following open letter to the industry, Dunn outlines the context of racism in events, the history of the NCBMP, and some practical steps we can all take to stand in solidarity with Black people in events.
A Word From Jason Dunn of the NCBMP
I greet each of our industry colleagues on behalf of our board of directors, members, and allies — and in the spirit of our founders. Over the last few weeks, our country has come face to face with the ugliness of racism, police brutality, and systemic injustice. Demonstrations, peaceful protests, and civil unrest have taken place in ALL 50 states and around the world. The NCBMP board members and partners applaud the hospitality and events industry associations and corporations that are issuing statements denouncing racism and injustice of any kind in their organizations and throughout society. While NCBMP applauds organizations and companies that have taken a stance and are standing in solidarity, we have also kept note of those who have remained silent. Your silence is deafening.
In 1983, our founders assembled, organized, and created a platform that spoke to the inequities, disparities, and exclusion of African Americans within the industry even before the word diversity became popular. They chose to speak up for collective empowerment and blazed the trail for what is known as the diversity market. Many of the organizations that are represented by NCBMP members were founded as an answer to the economic, political, social, religious, and educational injustices of this nation. Frankly, many have increased the profile of their cities in a time of despair, set record revenue numbers within hotels, contributed to legislative policies that have changed the country, and produced some of the best talent in the industry. For the last 37 years NCBMP has trained some of our industry’s best professionals and has vowed to “do business with our friends”. The creed of our organization must stand the test of time. Our mission must not lose its integrity. The moral consciousness of our industry is at a crossroads.
NCBMP is open to partnering and aligning with organizations that value humanity, racial justice, equity, and specifically, the lives of Black people. We can no longer allow meeting organizations and those that support them to stand on the sideline in this moment in history, particularly when a large percentage of our members support some of these destinations, hotels, and associations. Nor can we align with organizations that support those who are silent. We have become keenly aware of destinations’, hotels’, and associations’ decisions to lay off friends of NCBMP — specifically those that have pledged their support of Black hospitality professionals. One of the most recent Nielsen reports states that Black consumers will spend $1.3 trillion with brands that are loyal and socially responsible. We will continue to ask the tough questions and report on where brands and destinations stand so that our community can see clearly.
WE ARE ASKING OUR FRIENDS TO ALIGN WITH US BY DOING THE FOLLOWING:
Before registering or confirming a destination/hotel for conferences, events, and educational programs, ask for the following:
- Public ethnic equity statement
- Percentage of ethnic diversity within key management positions
- Percentage of ethnic diversity within board positions
- Percentage of paid ethnic speakers and presenters
- Percentage of ethnic/Black contractors employed
- Partnerships with Black or ethnic organizations
Our members have been asked to take inventory of the above actions and encouraged to support those that believe in our mission.