A Letter from Liquid Spark’s Founder

It is the time of reckoning, at a soul level, for us all. I strongly believe that my business can and should be an instrument of change, to support my sisters and brothers of color.  My white lens, by definition, has an incomplete understanding of the racism they experience in this country.  Call it the tip of the proverbial iceberg: 90% of icebergs are below the surface, invisible to the naked eye. That’s all we might see or experience, if we are not black or brown.

As an individual, it’s easy for me to express my personal outrage, sadness, and disgust online, and to donate to change organizations or progressive candidates running for office. As the business owner of my marketing agency, however, I have both the opportunity, and the requirement, to step up a lot more than to express my personal outrage and/or take individual actions.

The tragic and senseless deaths of George Floyd, and the long list before him—Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many more in the United States—have galvanized people of all races to massive protests around the world. These protests are indeed working. The global awareness of deeply entrenched racism feels very different, and hopefully this IS the wake up call that addresses systemic racism at every level here in America. How to go beyond “hopefully”? Certainly in part, by committing to take action now, and by actually baking these actions into our business practices and life philosophies and daily behaviors.

Our Liquid Spark team includes 10 white people: 70% women, 30% men. Here is what we see through our white lens, at the tip of our own industry iceberg. Much of outdoor recreation and adventure travel industry marketing does not reflect the ethnic diversity of our society. We see ads, brochures and videos for outdoor recreation, and adventure travel, and tourism destinations that reflect mostly white participants. Tourism destination campaigns often have beautiful landscapes and primarily white people enjoying them. In developing marketing materials for our own clients, we struggle to reflect the diversity needed to create inclusive campaigns.

Forget the chicken or egg question—“But these are not our customers”. That’s BS. We humans are drawn to things that we can “see ourselves doing”. If you never see people like you: your age, gender or ethnicity, in someone’s marketing, it’s easy to say, “That’s not for me.”  And that’s just the marketing problem (and opportunity). There is way more to do to confront and eliminate racism in travel and tourism operations.

I understand my responsibility to take action as both the leader of Liquid Spark, and as one of many business leaders in our industry. My team is right with me. We do not choose to be neutral. We choose to be part of the collective solution to support diversity, examine and change our own white lens, and confront racism.

We don’t know all the steps to take, but, we damn well know we need to be part of listening, supporting, amplifying, and sponsoring the already large diversity outdoors movement. Yes, it’s already large… we don’t see it because our white lens is not currently diverse. We commit to finding and sharing resources to educate ourselves, and to share with our clients, our networks, our trade associations, our tourism organizations and our chambers of commerce. We commit to outreach with people of color, inclusive marketing campaigns, and to making ethnic diversity our agency goal. We’ve got gender diversity nailed down at 70% female and a woman-owned business. Ok, good start.  Now to work on our ethnic diversity plan. It’s just as important. The diversity conversation must begin with sharing information, in order for actions to follow.

I believe we need diversity in ethnicity and gender at every leadership level in order to support all people equally. The representation needs to reflect our actual society, nothing less. Many of us in the adventure tourism and outdoor recreation industries have a lot of work to do. The Liquid Spark team vows to go beyond our internal conversations and private encouragement of our clients. We acknowledge our overwhelming feelings of inadequacy, cluelessness about our own white privilege, and generational layers of white guilt and shame. Yes, we are afraid that we will make too many mistakes, and that we could end up not being helpful despite our intent. But, we also understand that even saying that is a position of privilege that our sisters and brothers of color don’t have. They have to keep moving forward to help themselves and their next generation. And so must we. We are awake, and now is the time to step up.

We stand in solidarity with all our brothers and sisters impacted by racism and brutality, and with those fighting against it.  While we can’t walk IN your shoes, we absolutely can walk WITH you.