According to Forbes Magazine, “An ally is any person that actively promotes and aspires to advance the culture of inclusion through intentional, positive and conscious efforts that benefit people as a whole.” Following the biggest international social justice movement in history, the word allyship was included as one of twelve of Oxford Languages’s annual 2020 Word of the Year. The national reckoning surrounding issues of racial and social justice have brought about an intense focus on creating a more inclusive society. Allyship is a critical component of this effort. It is vitally important that people who may not be adversely affected by prejudice and discrimination champion the cause of those who are. Only through the combined effort of everyone involved can we bring about the change that is so desperately needed.
While the term allyship is relatively new, the concept is not. One such example from the early 20th century is the Rosenwald Schools. Smithsonian Magazine wrote, “It was through the shared ideals and a partnership between Booker T. Washington, an educator, intellectual and prominent African American thought leader, and Julius Rosenwald, a German-Jewish immigrant who accumulated his wealth as head of the behemoth retailer, Sears, Roebuck & Company, that Rosenwald Schools would come to comprise more than one in five Black schools operating throughout the South by 1928.” Through this allyship, Rosenwald built approximately 5,000 rural schoolhouses that served over 700,000 Black children. While Rosenwald was not personally impacted by the lack of educational resources for Black Americans, he saw a social injustice and took serious action to remediate it. Rosenwald is a prime example of an ally.
Although Rosenwald’s allyship is truly impressive, it does not take such a significant investment to be considered a present day ally. Today’s allies are mentors in the office. In this capacity, they intentionally provide support and resources for Black co-workers. At the same time, when allies step into the workplace mentoring space, they are able to meet mentees on equal ground and acknowledge Black cultural contributors such as Issa Rae from Insecure as easily as they can discuss Rachel from Friends. These allies are people who shop at Black-owned businesses and seek out products in big brand stores that were produced by Black artisans. Allies are in schools supporting the movement to create multicultural school curriculums. Allies are also individuals who are cognizant of the donations that they make to non-profits and ensure that their giving is inclusive of Black-led organizations. These are people who can make a difference.
To learn more about taking the Allyship Pledge, please visit: https://www.yahoo.com/lifestyle/tagged/allyship-pledge
Sophia Hanson serves as Senior Program Officer with the Brandywine Health Foundation (BHF). The Brandywine Health Foundation is a responsive philanthropic organization that focuses on changing the persistent inequities in health care, housing, education, and economic opportunities in the Greater Coatesville, Pennsylvania area.