MILWAUKEE — As last-minute shopping ticks down to seconds, it’s not too late to include equity in your gift giving.
“Everybody has a different way of celebrating and different things they’re celebrating,” Deanna Singh, Chief Change Agent with Uplifting Impact said. “It can be a hard line to make sure we honor all of that diversity and make sure everyone gets a chance to feel like they belong and they are not being excluded based on things they do celebrate or things they don’t celebrate.”
After George Floyd was killed by police in May, a wave of change flooded the entire country. Singh says there is no reason you can’t include equity and inclusion in the holiday season.
She says, when celebrating around the holidays with friends of different backgrounds, it’s important to be intentional.
“Make sure you’re inclusive of restrictions people may have from a food perspective,” Singh said. “Do you have non-alcoholic options? Vegetarian options? Look at days people may be fasting and take it into consideration.”
Conversations around diversity, equity and inclusion can feel uncomfortable at times but Singh says this doesn’t have to be.
“I know people may feel overwhelmed but sometimes, it’s just a simple question,” Singh said. “We’re having this festival; give me one thing you’d love to see on the menu. One thing that would really make your heart happy. That’s a simple, non-aggressive question and a pretty easy thing to fulfill.”
Things can be a little more difficult when it comes to family but a gift that celebrates change is possible.
“When we’re thinking about giving gifts, this is an extraordinary opportunity to amplify wonderful cultures in the world and diversity in the world too,” Singh said.
When trying to figure out the best gift to introduce equity and inclusion into a family member’s life, Singh says don’t think about a gift you would want.
“Think about the person on the receiving end and work backwards,” Singh said. “If it’s a person who loves to read, they just devour books, absolutely get them a book. If it’s a person who loves art, think about some local artisans who are people of color and think about gifting something from them. If they’re into food, give a gift certificate to an ethnic restaurant in the city.”
But if all else fails, buying from a minority-owned business is another great way to spread diversity and equity.
“This is the busiest time of year for Confectionately Yours,” Adija Greer-Smith, owner and head baker at Confectionately Yours Bakery said. “We’re working nonstop.”
Greer-Smith says this year has been tough because of the pandemic. However, this is the time of year she does the most work. Typically, she does nearly half of her annual business during the time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.
She says, even if you’re not getting an inherently diverse gift, buying from minority-owned businesses can bring more equity to the city.
“Shopping with Black-owned businesses is great for the economy overall, but also great for the City of Milwaukee,” Greer-Smith said. “When they spend dollars with Black small businesses, they’re getting greatness.”
Singh suggests not stopping at just purchasing from a minority-owned business. Sharing where you got it from, what your experience was like and more will help these minority-owned businesses thrive from repeat customers.
“Think about how you make these an opportunity to share goods but also where you got it from,” Singh said. “Post it! Make sure it’s listed in a card. Give a gift card or take them back to place you purchased so it’s not one time but becoming an advocate for businesses.”
That kind of support would go a long way towards supporting business owners like Greer-Smith.
“Sometimes it’s a small convenience to come down to the Sherman Park area,” Greer-Smith said. “It’s a minor convenience for you but it is such a great benefit to businesses like me.”
If someone on your list is looking for ways to become a better ally, Deanna Singh is offering a three-day seminar on the topic from Feb. 1 to Feb. 3. You can find more information on the Uplifting Impact website.