Executive director Joy Francis explains why Words of Colour has relaunched as ‘The Immersive Change Agency’ and describes the impact George Floyd’s murder and the Covid pandemic has had on its mission.
Words of Colour has been trying to carve out space for intersectional narratives for over 16 years. During this time, we have prioritised and centred writers, artists, creatives, entrepreneurs and communities of colour in a world where they are often sidelined, overlooked or gaslighted.
The last two years have exposed us to a global Covid pandemic, amplified racial inequalities and the traumatic, public murder of George Floyd. After a period of anger, grief and pro-action, we took stock and reprioritised. Evolution is part of who we are, but this time felt different.
The pandemic allowed us to pull together nearly two decades of knowledge, learning, constituencies and ecosystems. We realised that it was time to shed what we had outgrown and to own what we had become. This meant being more visible, holistic and braver in our approach.
When we first started, we were here for writers of colour. We wanted them to be seen, published and have sustainable careers. Today, we have evolved into co-creating platforms for writers, creatives, artists and entrepreneurs of colour.
Our roots are now also located in the public and NGO sectors because racial equality, inclusion, intersectionality and creativity don’t thrive in silos or isolation. This expansion has helped us to co-create impactful projects, such as the award-winning Synergi Collaborative Centre, and to help launch national and UK-wide research projects, including Spread the Word’s Writing the Future report and the Centre on the Dynamics of Ethnicity’s ground-breaking Evidence for Equality National Survey.
The downside of this wide-ranging approach is that our identity hasn’t always been clear. This reality has been amplified by the fact that we also host and run Digital Women UK, The Black Love Project and, more recently, the creative wellbeing hub.
As is the way with activists, we do too much. But I have no regrets as it has led us to who we have become: The Immersive Change Agency. We are heart-led disruptors, driven to make a meaningful difference. We are relational and so will only work with those who are ready to do the same. This principle allows us to be IMMERSIVE regarding the work and to inspire others to do the same.
CHANGE is our goal, otherwise what’s the point? What keeps us motivated is that we inspire ourselves, our collaborators and partners, to have the AGENCY to take risks. And being an independent social enterprise gives us the freedom to be agile and flexible.
Part of our internal change process has led us to no longer use our website as a PR platform to promote the work (and even job postings) of creative and publishing industries. We gave space for this because we believe in diversifying the sector. The reality is that it required emotional labour that drew attention away from our core priorities and the promotion of our own work.
For over 12 years, we have provided a much needed reviewing platform for TV, books and film which allowed us to develop and showcase reviewers and artists of colour. This too will change, for the better. We are collaborating with partners to develop a sustainable model for reviews and reviewers. For too long we have been self-resourcing and serving creative industries that are not investing in us.
Words of Colour has always believed in developing and showcasing talent, but we want reviewers to be paid and recognised. In the interim, we will host occasional reviews on our Instagram platform.
We take responsibility for this situation. In our quest to champion inclusion, we made ourselves too available. We will continue to be generous, but with a caveat: that creative industries invest in what we have to offer.
It is now time for the learning to be translated in other spaces, to cultivate the growth of a standardised respect for writers, artists and creatives of colour.
We now publicly embrace self care as a guiding principle as we have woken up to our value. A realisation that will benefit us all.