The conversation surrounding racism and the destructive systems upheld by racism in the United States experienced a significant shift in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. From outrage to devastation to disbelief, the conversation surrounding racism has finally taken center stage. While there is a lot of support for the cause of fundamental change to eradicate institutional racism, many people are at a loss of how they can have a significant impact for the cause and even how to start having meaningful conversations.
Taimani Emerald uses her passion for drawing to create artwork that helps facilitate these conversations. While her artwork is geared towards children, it makes an uncomfortable subject matter accessible to people of all ages and races. In our conversation, Taimani shares great advice on how to take small, but important, steps to support the Black-led cause and how to be an active ally.
Taimani Emerald, of Emerald Creative, is the creator of whimsical illustrations that are changing the world. She uses her unique, artistic voice to create illustrations that teach a message of kindness, anti-racism, and community empowerment to people of all ages.
Her commitment to changing the world of anti-racist education spurred the activation of The World Changers Program, which donates community-sponsored art to classrooms all over the US.
Taimani is an illustrator. A beautiful human. An activist. Today she shares with us how to be an active ally and show up for the fight in a meaningful way.
Like many mothers, Taimani has struggled with what to say to her children about racism, how to explain it in terms that are meaningful and informative without scaring her kids. She realizes her position as a WOC may not be the same as others, as she is a mixed woman married to a white man. Her brother and father are Black men. All these things factored into how she needs to educate her children about racism and how it will impact their lives.
Taimani also struggles with anxiety, which made finding the ‘right’ words difficult for such an important and heavy conversation. But then she had another idea. She has always had a passion for drawing and realized this could be a more effective method of communicating with her kids. That’s when “A Is For Ally” was born. Taimani wanted to illustrate each letter of the alphabet and associate each letter with a word related to anti-racism, allyship, and kindness.
After coming up with the initial idea, Taimani knew it was important to reach out to those in the community to see what they thought was important for children to know about racism. She reached out to mothers, teachers, and people inside and outside of her community so that she could understand what people were hearing at home, on the news, and in schools.
Taimani realizes that racism doesn’t necessarily look the same in every country and she wanted her artwork to be a conversation for communities everywhere, to create a bridge to challenging conversations for all people, no matter what their age or race.
Before long, she had identified terms for each of the 26 letters and had orders coming in from New Zealand, Canada, UK, and the Philippines. What makes her artwork so impactful is that it communicates anti-racism in a way that children can understand what the current reality is, but still gives them hope.
Taimani admits she has a natural tendency towards anger that she must consciously work against. She avoids watching the news or getting sucked down the social media rabbit hole. She still faces racism on a regular basis and that stirs the anger in her soul when she thinks about the possibility of the next video on the news being her dad or her brother.
While anger is a driving force in this movement, she knows anger alone will not bring about the change needed to replace centuries-old racist systems. While the racist systems penalize POC, it was created by white people and will require white people to join the fight to achieve real change. Taimani is able to find hope through her anger by seeing the people that have identified their own privilege, realized their complacency in a racial system that benefits them, but still feel their own anger at the injustice of the system.
The anger felt by both communities can come together to put together actionable plans to create change. The key is that the plan is led by the Black community with the white community supporting the Black-led effort.
It is no surprise that we have seen Black Lives Matter movements across the country taken over by white voices. Even if the voices are well-intentioned, it is once again centering the white experience. Instead, white people should acknowledge the racist system that they have benefited from and upheld, many times unknowingly. And it’s ok that you upheld a racist system because you didn’t really have a choice in the matter. But now that you know better, you can do better and that starts with acknowledgement. Then ask the Black leaders of the movement how you can best support their efforts.
While Taimani notes that she is often moved by seeing the communities come together, this isn’t necessarily the same reaction for all BIPOC who have been repeatedly victimized and harmed by white people. So as a white person, you can’t expect your support to always be welcome. And that’s okay. Find another way to support the movement that is welcomed by supporting Black businesses, donating to BLM, and having the uncomfortable conversations at home.
Everyone has their corner of the world to make a difference. One of the best ways you can show your support for the cause is to use your life’s purpose to help create a small shift in the community that you impact.
If you are an avid runner and part of a large running community, take a look at the names of some of the trails you regularly run. Do any of the names belong to BIPOC? If not, maybe start a petition to change the names of a trail or two. It may seem small, but it is a shift and if we all make a small shift in our corner, the world will feel the impact.
Are you a chef and want to amplify Black voices? You can create a dinner special that features recipes crafted by slaves. While demonstrations and marches are important, just as important are the shifts we make in our daily lives.
Taimani says the most important thing we can do to change the face of racism starts with how we raise and talk to our kids about racism. If we continue raising racists, there will continue to be racists and the cycle will continue. Taimani works hard to get her posters into schools and libraries and homes where they can start regular anti-racism conversations. It’s important that all kids see themselves represented in a positive way and begin to learn about the racial dynamics they are part of every day.
She also says it’s really important that we start changing the way we talk about racism, removing the narrative that it was a “necessary evil.” In truth, slavery was hostage and torture and rape. It was an evil business and even though slavery has ended in this country, the repercussions are still felt today and many of the racist systems created during slavery are still in place today. It’s important to change the way that we talk to our kids about racism, and change the way that we talk to them about the history of the United States. They need to know what actually happened. That it was bad, but also that if we change the way we talk to each other and change the way we treat each other, then we are giving them hope for a better future.