BLACK IN JEWELRY COALITION: CREATING CHANGE THAT STANDS THE TEST OF TIME
In June 2020, after the murder of George Floyd and what has been hailed as a "social awakening", racial injustice was, once again, put under the spotlight. Around the world, Black communities voiced their anguish, and behind closed doors across America, the once small, behind-the-scenes conversations within the Black jewellery community became much larger ones, the outcome being the creation of the Black in Jewelry Coalition (BIJC). I had the privilege of speaking with three Board members from BIJC to learn more about their trailblazing initiatives.
Black in Jewelry Coalition (BIJC) is the first non-profit international membership organization dedicated to the advancement of Black professionals in the gem, jewellery and watch industry. BIJC was founded in October 2020 by a group of Black jewellery professionals with the explicit goal of advancing Black professionals within the industry. Composed entirely of Black jewellery professionals, BIJC's Board of Directors share the experience of being Black in the industry. Their Advisory Board comes from a wide array of industry backgrounds covering the full spectrum of the sector.
Annie Doresca, BIJC President; Chief Financial Officer of Jewelers of America
Elyssa Jenkins-Perez, BIJC Vice-President; Director of Membership and Digital Content at Jewelers Vigilance Committee
Malyia McNaughton, BIJC Treasurer; Owner of Made By Malyia
Lisa Garris, BIJC Secretary; HR Director, Lab & Research, North America for the Gemological Institute of America
Adrianne Sanogo, BIJC Chair of Education; Graduate Gemologist
Lisette Scott, BIJC Events Chair; Owner of Jam + Rico
Miya Owens, BIJC Corporate Outreach Chair; Associate Counsel & Director of Mediation at Jewelers Vigilance Committee
Nellie Barnett, BIJC Communications Chair; Manager of Media and Public Relations at the Gemological Institute of America
Reginald Johnson, BIJC Nominations Chair; Chief Diversity officer & SVP NA Field Human Resources at Signet Jewelers
"We and our allies had reached a point where we said enough is enough," said Annie Doresca, President of BIJC, during a webinar with Michelle Graff for National Jeweler when describing the initial meetings that led to founding the Coalition. BIJC is promoting change, and while their goal is to advance Black professionals with a "For Us, By Us" approach, one shouldn't confuse this with a lack of inclusivity or misunderstand the bottom line, which is: Shine Together. "We need the assistance, help and support of allies. All are welcome to join BIJC," Miya Owens, BIJC Outreach Chair, told me.
BIJC is the first recipient of the JCK Diversity and Inclusion grant dedicated to supporting greater inclusivity within the fine jewellery and watch industries by supporting BIPOC initiatives. Miya goes into detail about the vast array of initiatives: scholarships and grant opportunities, networking events, mentorship, and education, along with a wide range of resources which include a "Shop Black Owned" consumer-facing directory of Black-owned businesses and designers, also available to non-members to search, but also for inclusion - an excellent tool for retailers who, for example, are looking to add more diversity to their roster of designers. A membership portal with a membership directory where members can list their contact information, websites, and need or availability for mentorship. Business development tools such as access to funding, securing a line of credit, and developing relationships with major distributors, manufacturers, miners, and gem dealers are available, and student members can look for scholarships, mentorship, or internship opportunities. Another much-needed resource is education for corporate members related to cultural sensitivity and unconscious biases for internal governance, more diversity in hiring practices and closing the pay gap for BIPOC professionals in our industry. "Solidarity is a big aspect, but also resources and opportunities," Miya told me, adding, "There is a real lack of diversity in decision making roles.”
On a more personal note, one board member with whom I spoke with who was not yet married at the time of our conversation, told me about her personal experience as a Black bride, saying that she had not seen much bridal jewellery shown on women that looked like her in the press and on jewellery sites. She stated that many women of colour have to physically try on jewellery in person or seek out a more inclusive jewellery company if the jewellery isn't shown on deeper skin tones. BIJC is working to create a more inclusive retail environment; whether brick and mortar or online, jewellers need to be more inclusive of a diverse clientele.
BIJC is an international membership organization open to all. Becoming a member offers exclusive access to a diverse community of professionals. The first year is free for individual members, including jewellery designers, artisanal small miners, students, and individuals. This is made possible by corporate members; if you have the means to become a corporate member, kindly do so as it allows others to join for free. Community support is the name of the game here!
The Glitterati is a proud member of BIJC since April 2021.
Find out everything you need to know about membership and joining BIJC here.
Initially, my intention in writing this article was to demonstrate enthusiasm and support for a long-overdue grassroots organization within our industry and my friends in the Black jewellery community. But while researching it I have realized that no matter how tolerant and liberal I think I am, there are many things I can do to learn to be a better ally. I strongly encourage you to join or support BIJC however you can. Not only to support the advancement of the Black community within the gem, jewellery and watch industry but, more importantly, to take the opportunity to look inwards, examine your views and learn how you can contribute to bettering the experience of the Black community in our industry.
"Don't be afraid to reach out or read all of the great articles out there about how to be a better ally. It can sometimes feel uncomfortable, learning how to be a better ally, but often discomfort is needed for growth. This discomfort is a small fraction of what many people of colour experience every day. Do the research. Good intentions are good intentions."
Below are some enriching resources I found while trying to further my personal journey in this arena. Starting with some compelling guests on my favourite podcast, "Unlocking Us" with Brené Brown, Emmanuel Acho's web series "Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man" and a list of articles, books, documentaries, and organizations provided by the Anti-Racism Project.
Stay current, check out the BIJC website here
Follow BIJC on Instagram