An Auction Almost Happened in 2013
I have a previous engagement already scheduled. I had entertained the thought to stop in to participate for a while. That was until today’s announcement that an auction [of people] would take place during Black History Month. Though I’m sure it was planned for a good cause and for fun [as a fundraiser], I find such an activity, during this month or any other, disrespectful and insensitive [to the collective staff and customers, which are majority African American]. ~ An email written to leaders of an organization I won’t publicly disclose.
Sitting at an all all-team meeting, I listened intensely to the president’s prideful presentation about the great strides the organization has made since last year. Locally and regionally, the organization’s customer-base increased and employee turnover decreased. Overall, it seems to be doing very well. Taking copious notes, I felt hopeful. Promises of a new and positive direction always excite me. An engaged participant, I couldn’t help evoke the Call-Response.
The second part of the agenda was turned over to another leader who began explaining more good news: starting with Black History Month, new activities had been planned to engage customers, their families, and the organization’s teams in order to raise money for its financially needy customers. I considered the announcement to be a major milestone. Since the cessation of McDonald’s Black History 365 campaign, Black History Month promotion seems a distant memory.
Several minutes into this presentation, I heard the leader say the word “auction.” Though referring to a featured activity for the organization’s Valentine’s Day party, I felt an energy shift. My gut told me we were headed in the wrong direction. Hoping to be wrong, I responded,
‘And what’s being auctioned?!’ I said, praying the “what” would not be a “who.”
“Hold on…,” he said.
Prayer…unanswered. Intuition…correct. I suspended my inner-talk in a thought bubble above my head as a third presenter explained the auction details. I heard…
managers…directors…will be auctioned…your servant for a day…
Auction?! I heard my voice of disbelief transmit through someone else.
Plans had been made to auction people during Black History Month. This was my correlation. Disturbed, I wrote the email.
My train of logic was soon questioned for clarification. In reply to my email, the president cancelled the activity with an apology, not directly to me: they meant no ill intent. Really? I accept the non-direct apology and the swift resolution. Still, I stand by my words…
Auction: a public sale in which goods or property are sold to the highest bidder. When people are being sold, it’s slavery. A parody thereof, even for a FUNdraiser, is despicable. What is there to not understand?
Before leaving the building, and during the weekend, colleagues thanked me for being “our voice.” We were all thinking the same thing. I was just the one who spoke up – rather worded up.
I’m dumbfounded that of us nearly 80% of African Americans in the meeting no one used their words in defense of what is right. Some, I imagine, chose not to use their words, verbal or written, because of their security in the organization, reputation, desensitization, ignorance (i.e. ignoring the matter), or lacked courage. Me, I couldn’t not write the email.
In response to my psycho genetic memory, transmitted to me from my enslaved ancestors, nourished by fiction and non-fiction slave narratives – especially since my high school reading of Broadside Press author Margaret Walker‘s Jubilee, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, and autobiographical transcriptions of former slaves archived by the 1930s Works Progress Administration’s Federal Writers’ Project, which included Walker’s works – I wrote the email to defend my Black Female heritage.
We have survived the defamation, disgrace and heartache of being stripped bare naked, exposed, paraded, degraded, prodded and inspected on auction blocks to be sold from our children with our identities defiled. With great strides made since slavery, Jim Crow, Civil Rights, Women’s Rights, and other Rights, we must now, in 2013 and beyond, continue to secure our Rights-full position, maintain and raise our self-esteem, and exercise our Rights when wrongs present themselves.
Being lackadaisical about a parody of a slave auction [even for a FUNdraiser] is wrong; it lowers our esteem and allows others to continue to disrespect us. Moreso, it threatens our collective mental health. Collective PTSlaveryD we must now overcome.
I will unapologetically use my words to defend our Rights to continue our healing – I may have only one time to do so. I will write any wrong I witness, can prevent, protect and to correct. And, I encourage you to do the same. We must use our words. At home, in our communities and at work.
My words halted an auction this Black History Month. What will your words do this February?
Keepin’ it Black Bottom™