Something To Be Proud Of

June 23, 2020

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Finally, June is here. After what has been a harrowing start to 2020, we’ve arrived. Pride Month. A time for celebration, parades and love! But, I have to be honest and say that I’m having a hard time feeling all of the things I’m “supposed” to feel during this time of year. For the first time in a long time I’m asking myself, “What’s there to be proud of?”

It was only a year ago that we in New York City celebrated World Pride and the 50th Anniversary of the infamous Stonewall riots. It was special and history making for many reasons. It felt like there was a lot of momentum and a lot of firsts. I was celebrating (after two years of planning) the pinnacle moment of the amazing work done by our OPEN Pride NY chapter to lead and execute Omnicom’s first ever Platinum Sponsorship supporting NYC Pride. I was celebrating FleishmanHillard’s historic decision and announcement from our CEO to include pronouns in our email signatures across our entire global network. I was celebrating the first time I experienced Pride with a loving partner – holding hands unapologetically and experiencing the power, energy and love sent our way while taking part in the iconic parade in New York City.

Members of the OPEN Pride New York Chapter Operating Board, Paul Caruso, Jacob Porpossian, Kendra Clarke, Wayne Hempe (left to right), enjoy New York Pride in 2019.

Today, parades have turned into marches. Ironically, parades have returned to their roots of protest. Sadly, much like the Stonewall riots 51 years ago, we still see queer and trans people of color chanting and demanding to end the injustices they face. Today, we are marching and protesting to end systemic racism, to end police brutality, to hold law enforcement accountable for their actions, to scream at the top of our lungs, “Black Lives Matter.” But we are demanding justice for ALL Black lives. Black Queer lives and Black Trans lives. Why? Because during the past two months alone, Tony McDade, Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells, Riah Milton, Nina Pop, Penelope Diaz Ramirez and Jayne Thompson – all trans people of color – have been killed in the United States. Some, even at the hands of law enforcement. And those are just the ones we know about. So, when we say Black Lives Matter – we mean ALL BLACK LIVES.

Beyond the Americas, anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment is on the rise and as a global agency under an even larger global Omnicom network, I can’t help but think about colleagues in other countries who still can’t be their whole selves, living in fear of persecution, humiliation and, in some cases, with their lives at jeopardy.

So again, I ask myself, what is there to be proud of?

But it’s hard to ignore the moments of hope during this past week. The Supreme Court of the United States passed a historic ruling that now extends the Civil Rights Act protections to LGBTQ+ workers. In Brooklyn, NY more than 15,000 people (including thousands of allies) marched for Black Trans Lives, igniting support from political leaders and prominent figures for change and justice. That’s something to be proud of.

At FleishmanHillard, we launched True Mosaic, a newly developed DE&I offering for clients, made up of a global community of counselors whose diverse, lived experiences reflect the multidimensional world we live in. We announced our first-ever chief diversity and inclusion officer, who will lead us in continuing our path to be the most inclusive agency in the world. We aren’t perfect and we have a lot of work to do. But in our big and currently unsettling world, I want to believe that all FleishmanHillard offices around the globe can be a safe space for those who need it. A space that provides support, compassion, respect and most of all dignity for its people. To be their 100 percent – always.

But it’s important to note that WE did these things – as a FleishmanHillard collective. We raised our hands, we educated, we guided and are holding our agency accountable to follow through. It’s our form of protest for reform, for change. So that we can move forward in a positive way. That’s definitely something to be proud of.

The reality is the words that have come to define the Pride movement have never rang more true, “No Pride for some of us, without liberation for all of us.”

Happy Pride Everyone.

Photo courtesy of them.us.

Jacob Porpossian is a senior vice president based on our New York team where he leads creative, strategy and content. He also serves as a global board member and chair of Omnicom’s OPEN Pride New York Chapter.