Alberthe Buabeng, known by most as Albie, is a Washington-based interior design content creator and all-rounder of ideas. His passion for decoding spaces is the culmination of nearly a decade of work in the visual merchandising and retail marketing industries, interspersed with a lifetime of experiences. With a space design and storytelling experience, coupled with her real-life lessons, Albie creates content to connect her decor-obsessed audience with beautiful and functional design inspiration.
Her desire to contribute to the design community was also manifested in the adaptation of the #SharetheMicNow Instagram initiative for the home industry; self-publishing Organize the house you are in, an anecdotal and ambitious house book, and hosting The influence of design, a podcast and community dedicated to supporting other interior designers in the digital space.
In 2020, the domestic industry, like much of the world, was rocked by the death of George Floyd. As discussions arose around the topic of inequality, diversity and inclusion in the design industry, it looked more like the same conversations, followed by little or no action. By the time the “black boxes” that were meant to symbolize a need for change emerged on Instagram, there were all kinds of signs and lists put together to showcase black designers and architects, but I hadn’t seen any yet. one that could spark sustainable conversations for change.
Inspired by the original Share the mic now campaign on June 10 – founded by Bozoma Saint John, Luvvie Ajayi Jones, Glennon Doyle and Stacey Bendet – I decided this could be the start of something really powerful in the domestic industry. A week later, we hosted the first Share The Mic Now: Home Edition, featuring over 100 attendees over the two-week Instagram buyout for candid and enduring discussions about diversity and inclusion in the home industry.
Celebration of the first Black History Month since the organization of the #SharetheMicNowHomeEdition initiative, coupled with all the events of 2020, which led to the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, I am hypersensitive to everything that has not changed yet. As a first generation Haitian American married to a black man and raising a young black girl, I am keenly aware of the discrimination our society can and always has been. While also mourning George Floyd, I also remember painfully the attack on Abner Louima over 20 years ago. After being bombarded with “change” and “equality” emails, it was time for me to write down the words you are reading now. Last summer, I posted this statement to my white peers on Instagram with the aim of launching the #sharethemichomeedition initiative:
“What if we could translate a momentary sharing into a longer conversation by allowing black creators to appear in front of the audience of their white counterparts ‘in person’?”
It was one of the most uncomfortable and liberating comments I’ve ever made publicly about the state of the interior design industry – one that has often made me feel like a stranger in need. someone else’s validation.
Typing in some of my most controversial thoughts made me proud. Making my peers uncomfortable made me proud. I’m talking about abolishing the establishment so that we can all prosper on the basis of merit as well.
Why should I ask for a longer conversation to address our long, not-so-secret professional segregation? Why ask a peer for permission to speak to an audience that deserves what I already know how to bring to the table? Why ask for someone else’s microphone to be shared with me?
How can we, as designers collectively, be tasked with designing and decorating beautiful spaces when our own interiors are rotten? What looks like an inclusive, holistic industry is more alienating than accepting. Who are we, as “designers”, to stand up for what is beautiful when we have so long ignored the ugliness of our own elitist and exclusive walls?
Who we are, as consumers and creators, do we joke when we “amplify” the voices for a day? One week? A month? A season?
When behind closed doors opportunities are riddled with prejudice – the bias of privilege at best, and ignorance at worst?
Browsing the pages of shelter magazines, browsing the list of home TV networks, and scrolling through social media for branding campaigns has long shown a clear void – a lack of depth resulting from a lack of diversity. We’re tapping around the who, what, when, where, why, and how of all of this, but the conversations we have ad nauseam don’t provide solutions… just more conversations.
We are supposed to be the curators of beauty for the world, but is this beauty marked with an asterisk? What were we really saying when we shared our mics? What do we hope people hear? I’ve heard a lot of the same, with some seeds of change. I have heard from “allies” pledge to learn, change and grow. I have heard promises of fairness and inclusiveness. But what did I see?
All my excuses.
More of the same.
But little to no action.
Hyper visibility has turned into unanswered emails, lost contacts, birthless opportunities, “tired” allies. We didn’t know that being “awake” still had a bedtime.
Allies, I was amplified. Can you hear me now?
Are you an ally or an amplifier?
The benefactor of iniquity must be the one who steps up the effort to bridge the gap. How fitting that black boxes become a symbolic social gesture for the ally … black boxes, usually synonymous with the only surviving element of an accident to investigate the cause.
Ladies and gentlemen, we crashed and the black boxes spoke.
But the season of conversation, learning and treatment is over.
We have seen the truth – an ugly, not-so-new, naked truth – and to claim otherwise is more blatant than never having said anything at all.
Calling on all gatekeepers, educators and decision makers, amplification is responsive. It’s time to proactively change. Look at your teams – to your left, to your right, above you and below you. Does everyone look like you or do they look like me too? Are they like the smallest of us … the rest of us … the best of us? Do not tick a box but reflect the true beauty of the world around us?
- Make the marginalized the majority. Talent on air. Writers. Editors. The producers. Photographers. Cover characteristics. Hosts. Authors. Brand ambassadors. Product innovators. Hashtag all things. Because the lack of talent is not for lack of talent.
- Put down your microphone. No more conversation. We passed the microphone. We made the requests. We have said all there is to say. We don’t need amplification. We demand representation. We would like to see diversity, but we demand inclusiveness.
- The talent on the covers of our magazines, the animation of shows on our screens and the securing of the licensing agreements of our products should be like us… all of us. The wealth of the industry should not be contained within the four walls of client residences. Customers should see themselves in us. Consumers should feel empowered.
Collectively, we are the microphone.
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