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E01: The Unexpected Momentum Generated by the Black Lives Matter Movement

In 2020, the tragic death of George Floyd led to the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement. What followed was a major societal awakening to the issues facing
Black communities, which in turn propelled many Black-owned businesses toward their rightful place.

Two years later, social impact designer Danièle-Jocelyne Otou is still feeling the effects. She is the co-founder of New Room, an organization that offers program and resource development services pertaining to diversity, equity and inclusion, a venture which was launched in 2021.

Transformation Through the Movement

“My impression has definitely changed. At first, I was divided,” recalls Danièle-Jocelyne Otou, thinking back to how the movement put Black people and communities in the spotlight. For many, the complexity of the situation generated a sense of ambivalence. “On the one hand, I was happy that people in general were confronted with certain things, and on the other, I was puzzled: it took the public death of a Black man for certain institutions to wake up,” explains the entrepreneur.

Progress is being made on the social and political fronts, and many have taken action. Programs such as the BlackNorth Initiative, Futurepreneur’s Black Entrepreneur Startup Program, and the federal government’s funding for Black entrepreneurs and organizations that work with Black communities are all initiatives born from the movement. “There is still work to be done, of course, but I think recognizing the progress that has been made is just as important as looking critically at the work that still needs to be done,” says Otou.

While Otou is not new to entrepreneurship, things have come a long way since 2020. “The difference I feel is the support of the entrepreneurial ecosystem and the resources that are available to us,” says the entrepreneur, who, eight years ago, was living a very different life when she started her first business. “I think it’s partly because in the last two years, a lot of these ecosystems realized how opportunities are not equal.”

What’s Next

The passage of time also allows us to see how far we’ve come in the wake of a movement. “Two years later, I consider that, depending on the initiatives, we have succeeded, as a community, in being able to gauge the level of sincerity of certain initiatives, posts or reflections,” says the entrepreneur. Things like performative statements are still hard to navigate–how do we know if those making them are actually putting in the work? “I think that today there is a real sense of accountability that is being demanded of companies and leaders, so there is a lot of demand, which has propelled us,” says the social design specialist, who, through her work, aims to turn momentum into concrete actions and real change.

In entrepreneurship, you cannot afford to overlook your personal growth. This is the advice of Danièle-Jocelyne Otou: invest in your personal and professional development. “Our businesses reflect who we are. By being the best version of ourselves, our businesses and the people they attract are also at their best,” says the entrepreneur. “We take just as much time to transform ourselves and contribute to the social transformation we want to see. The self always precedes the systemic. We can’t change the systems without changing ourselves.”

To learn more, listen to the podcast episode on how the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement has propelled businesses on Spotify and Youtube.

This article was written by Christelle Saint-Julien

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