Yesterday, at least 1,300 publishing professionals started their workdays by informing their managers that they would be using their personal or vacation time in solidarity with protestors of racial injustice, as part of a collective using the hashtags #PubWorkers4Justice and #PubWorkers4BlackLives, that coordinated the "June 8 Day of Solidarity" event.
Participants were asked to post an out-of-office message and use this language on social media:
"Today, June 8, 2020, workers in publishing and media commit to a day of action in solidarity with the uprisings across the United States in response to the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and the many, many others in the long history of Black people murdered by the state.
"We protest our industry's role in systemic racism, its failure to hire and retain a significant number of Black employees or publish a significant number of Black authors, and its pursuit of profit through books that incite racism.
"We stand together against the systems of white supremacy and racial capitalism that legislate these murders and today refuse to participate in complicity. And we dedicate this day to acts of service towards that end (protesting, phone-banking, donating, providing mutual aid, working on books by Black authors). As BIPOC and allies, we also set this day aside for Black publishing workers to rest and heal. If you stand in support of the cause, consider a donation to one of the many fundraisers providing material support to the grieving families and the protesters out on the streets."
The five organizers--four BIPOC and a white colleague--said they began the effort "after processing the statements delivered by the Big Five publishers regarding the current moment in this nation's racist history. We've had enough experience with corporate Diversity & Inclusion initiatives to know that they are largely toothless and built on a top-down model that ultimately benefits only a very select few and often exploits marginalized workers. An effort to build collective power, we realized, was in order."
The Day of Solidarity drew people from across publishing, media, literary agencies and bookselling, and resonated in the industry.
"It's really moving and inspiring to see so many colleagues, especially younger ones, putting themselves on the line to bring necessary change to our industry," said Michael Pietsch, CEO of Hachette Book Group. "Their concerns are real, and they are correct that we have moved much too slowly."
Pietsch added that Hachette has made several donations to justice organizations and will make that the focus of its future charitable work; is expanding its Unconscious Bias Training; accelerating its Equity and Inclusion training; and will take other significant actions shortly that are aimed at increasing tracking and transparency "on more measurable and specific goals."
Penguin Random House sent a letter from its U.S. board to staff yesterday morning that said, in part, "Like you, we have taken time over these last days to reflect and to listen, and to further identify how we can effect meaningful and lasting change in our company and in our society." In addition to committing to the Equal Justice Initiative, the board said the company was adding to its annual donation to We Need Diverse Books and expanding its partnership with it to become the inaugural sponsor of the Black Creatives Fund, a three-tiered approach to encourage black voices in "all stages of the publishing pipeline."
The company also noted its historic role in publishing "groundbreaking Black authors whose words are exactly those that readers and society at large are reaching for today: Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin, Maya Angelou, Malcolm X, Toni Morrison, Bryan Stevenson, Jacqueline Woodson, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and Ibram X. Kendi are just a few of those whose books you support and who are continuing to change lives every day. But our company and our industry haven't published enough works by authors of color. We can, and must, do much more, and in particular, we must live up to our goal of publishing books for all readers."
Yesterday, the Day of Solidarity organizers said, "Now that we have acted together as a group, we must press forward. We must develop a wider, more representative base of organizers and use the collective power we have summoned today to institute real change in our industry and beyond. We can pressure publishers to stop publishing racist books. We can make our industry safer and more welcoming for Black people. We can build structures outside of the corporate publishing world that support Black workers and creators and put the force of collective power behind existing initiatives and groups that are currently leading publishing in anti-racist action."
People interested in learning more about the organization can register here. --Bridget Kinsella Tiernan