NewsOne on Tuesday hosted the third and final installment of its virtual conversation series of panel discussions with corporate leaders and executives who are using their voices to advocate on behalf of Black communities. The series is in partnership with 100 Black Men of America, Inc. and is sponsored by Wells Fargo.

John Ballay, CEO and Co-Founder of Knot Standard, a custom clothing company for men, and Tristan Walker, CEO and Founder of Walker & Company, which makes health and beauty products for people of color, participated in an important conversation moderated by Jason Rosario, the Chief Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Officer at BBDO Worldwide, an advertising firm, to discuss the steps they are taking to create meaningful change amid the global pandemic of COVID-19 as well as the scourge of ongoing systemic racism.

Rosario kicked off the discussion by talking about how the nationwide protests against police violence and racism have led to an outpouring of statements and gestures of support from brands. But, Rosario said, they’ve been “met with mixed results” based on the perceived sincerity behind them. Rosario asked Ballay and Walker to discuss the challenges they’ve faced at their respective companies in strategically and sincerely addressing systemic racial inequalities in Black communities.

Walker said he relied on a three-point plan in Walker & Company’s response to the country’s apparent racial reckoning happening. The first objective was to acknowledge the trauma, then build a model before finally moving to act, he added.

“Without a clear transparent acknowledgment, you can’t do anything,” he said. “We have to treat our consumers like humans.”

That’s why, he said, Walker & Company took on an “investment mindset” by offering the community free subscriptions to its services with a focus on mental health. Walker said that would acknowledge folks’ humanity, “as opposed to statements or donations that have no return to the benefits of this movement.”

Ballay said Knot Standard took a similar approach while remaining conscious that it needed to make sure whatever he did was “in line with the company” and had a strong follow-through to maintain any momentum gained.

“If we put an initiative that was well within the values of the fabric, specifically around driving confidence and helping develop talent … we’ll have a formula for repeatable success,” Ballay said, “as a way to develop a body of work that they can be proud of.”

Ballay, Walker and Rosario go on to cover a handful of other relevant topics during their conversation. Watch the full panel discussion below.


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