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A Day in the Life of a Young Black Professional Working Through Sensationalized Trauma

If you’re reading this, you probably went to work on Monday, May 16th, or Tuesday, May 25th.

On Saturday, May 14th, 13 innocent people were killed in the act of domestic terrorism and racially motivated crime in Buffalo, New York. On May 24th, 18 innocent children and teachers were slain at Robb Elementary in a mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas.

In ten days, we lost 31 innocent due to mass shootings. And we were required to work throughout all of it.

For the last ten years, every summer felt like “open season” on young Black bodies. I was about 11 when George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin. The Sandy Hook Shooting was a few months after my 13th birthday. I was 18, a freshman in college when Parkland happened. Today, I am 22 years old, and I’m the Associate Director of Social Impact at JUV Consulting and watched two mass shootings occur in ten days.

I’m on the older side of Gen-Z, so I’ve graduated high school, undergrad, and finished the first year of my graduate program in the last decade. Yet, I can’t help but think of the thousands of co-workers, classmates, bosses, friends, and community I could’ve had with the people that lost their lives in the last decade of violence and trauma I’ve witnessed.

I say this to illustrate the framework and the lived experiences that shaped this generation’s personal, academic, and professional perspectives. A decade of political unrest, national trauma, and global crises shaped the future of the workforce.

Today, I held a restorative circle at work, a safe place for our community to share the heaviness of our hearts with our staff members. We rallied to cry, curse, and scream our frustrations with being subjugated to witness more senseless violence.

As a young Black professional, Gen-Z is tired of the well-meaning mass emails and messages of support. Tragedies like the ones we’ve seen this month evoke conversations about the intersections of race and mental wellness. While many Black and employees of color are vulnerable to experiencing systemic violence and tragedy, many of us are desensitized to feeling extreme emotions when these situations occur. Not because we are inherently more resilient or unemotional— but because we do not expect our workplace communities to “show up” for us in a way that extends beyond the platitudes sent on the company listserv.

Before clicking send on the email titled “Supporting You During Unprecedented Times,” stop and think, “what does my support look like when times aren’t hard?” We forget humans are attached to the name we read in sensationalized news headlines as a society. Your staff members and co-workers are afraid of being the next names featured in a breaking news headline.

As the future of this country and workforce, we demand that our lives be honored while we are around to see it. We require support and empathy from our jobs. Performance metrics and long-term operational viability mean nothing if no one is left to fill the seats. Support your staff through crises by:

1.Allocating paid mental health days

2.Hosting town-halls and safe spaces led by trained professionals to promote community healing and discussion

3.Providing continuing education programs on social justice and EDIB best practices

4.Creating and accurately funding affinity groups for underrepresented, marginalized communities

5.Upholding and implementing internal and external commitments to advocacy and corporate social responsibility.

These are not perfect solutions to supporting your staff’s emotional needs or stopping the world of violence we live in, but it’s a start. Businesses are the curators of our cultural zeitgeist and milieu. We have an obligation to use our position to promote equitable and sustainable societal changes. Our social responsibility starts in our backyard.

While we continue to work and heal from the world’s chaos, we look to our employers to support us and make us feel valued beyond our labor. The past ten years have shown us that our lives can be taken from us at any minute. While we’re here, we deserve to be celebrated, supported, and met with dignity.

Our lives are worth more than the next trending hashtag. 

Daniel Ojo

Daniel, 22, is a Nigerian-American from Houston, Texas, and the Associate Director of Social Impact at JUV Consulting. Currently, he is a graduate student at Cornell University’s Institute for Public Affairs, where he will receive his master’s in public administration with a concentration in Human Rights and Social Policy. He is a recent graduate from the University of North Texas, where he received his B.A in Political Science and Criminal Legal Studies. Daniel was an active student leader involved in the Student Government Association, Black Student Union, University Program Council, and many more during his undergraduate career.