Eight years ago, Rebel Nell was born with the goal of creating a company that would employ and empower women with barriers to employment. When we started the company we were naive, we thought that we could have a meaningful impact by providing a job and wraparound support to women who were experiencing homelessness. While our intentions were pure, the complexities surrounding this work and how deep rooted the systemic realities that faced (and continue to face) our team, their families, and millions of people who look like them, opened our eyes to the grim and very real real fatigue they face just by living their truths. Throughout the years, our team members have allowed us to see into their world, providing us a glimpse into the trauma that they face on a daily basis. While we are grateful for this level of vulnerability and intimacy with our team, the severe trauma in which they face daily, from a world that is asking them to beg and plead for their basic humanity is a very real thing to be seeing behind the scenes.
The racism that is so ingrained in every aspect of our society is obvious to those who are on the receiving end and too easily ignored by those who aren’t impacted by it. Housing policies, redlining, the banking industry, access to reliable transportation, policing, the justice system, the list goes on and on; all of the systems that are supposedly set up and designed to create a society in which we are ‘all created equal’ are so glaringly full of barriers for our BIPOC family.
When we say this is a very real thing to be witnessing behind the scenes, we mean that deeply. There are countless and consistently devastating, gut wrenching stories of our team members out living their lives day to day only to be shook to their core by blatant acts of racism in our community and beyond. Whether they are on the receiving end of over-policing, being criminalized for living in poverty, living in fear that their children won’t return home once they step out of the front door, it can all be summed up simply -- as individuals in places of perceived power treating our team as less than human because of the color of their skin.
And here is the harsh reality in which we find ourselves and must be comfortable facing --- Rebel Nell would not exist without systemic racism. Full stop. We are a social enterprise. What does that mean? We are a business that aims to make a positive difference for social benefit. The positive difference that we aim to make would not exist if the women we serve were provided equity on a daily basis, in every facet of their lives. For us, as we’ve evolved over the years, we have taken a long hard look at who we are as a business and the role we play. While we began with a mission to provide employment and wraparound support, today our mission goes deeper into putting in the work well beyond our day to day operations and business. We know that it is our responsibility to fight for equity for our team and their families. Amy’s favorite quote, “A rising tide lifts all boats'' is a simple phrase on the surface; however, taken more seriously, this quote has a much deeper meaning to us and it is the driving embodiment of our work. We know that when an individual is lifted up, we all rise.
Yesterday’s verdict hopefully serves as a small comfort for George Floyd’s family and for many other families that have been subject to racism and to unimaginable violence and trauma both physical and psychological as a direct result of the color of their skin; however, it’s just one step towards providing the black community with justice. In order for a more just and equitable world, we must continue to fight for equality until our friends and neighbors can truly live in a world where they are not persecuted for the color of their skin. Keith Ellison, the Attorney General of Minnesota, “I would not call today’s verdict justice, however, because justice implies true restoration. But it is accountability, which is the first step toward justice.” It is our core belief that justice must be fought for together, by people of all backgrounds. We hope that the work we do, in partnership with our team, is leading to a world in which justice is served, a world in which we all rise together.
Love, peace and healing,
Amy + Diana