Filling the Unspoken POC Quota

I’m Jazerai Allen-Lord. Once upon a time, I was ‘that girl from KicksonFire’, who Barack Obama follows. The girl with the hair, who has executed the visions of Run DMC, MGK, New Balance and many more.  The girl who got married & divorced in Nike SBs, left the west coast for love and then followed her ex, while he followed Kanye West down a rabbit hole. The girl who left her life and her love, for the love of the culture.

At the end of the day, I’m just a woman who loves telling stories. I used to tell those stories through blogs and tweets, writing for millions of daily readers who were addicts of sneaker culture. Kids like my sons, who grew up in what is now mainstream sneaker culture.

It was that dynamic that led me to leaving sneaker media when I was offered a seat at the table at The Collective, with Marc Ecko’s old partner, Seth Gerzberg. While I loved the year that I spent there and the opportunities it provided me, one thing was painstaking clear: the higher you elevate in fashion, the fewer people of color you see.

We had 28 streetwear retail shops nationwide and a dedicated media publication and yet, as I looked around the room in our corporate office, I saw only three brown faces — including mine. There were a handful of asian employees as well, cumulatively barely filling the unspoken POC quota that often exists in the corporate sphere. No shade, just the type of thing you notice when you are a woman of color in today’s America. An America where the people sitting at the table creating, distributing and designing the clothes, sneakers and entertainment that influence the culture, DO NOT LOOK ANYTHING LIKE THE PEOPLE LIVING IN THE CULTURE.

As retail died and the landscape continued to evolve, The Collective inevitably closed. My ex and I went out on our own, successfully launching and sustaining a little brand known as God Bless the Fresh. This experience gave us both the confidence to stretch our wings and fly, and when the wind blew, in came Kanye West and the St. Pablo Tour.

I’d never experienced being a starving artist until my ex was hired by Kanye, and that dichotomy alone was enough to drive anyone crazy. After a few months of watching him work 72 hours straight in the same clothes, while only earning 200.00 a day and yet, STILL going unpaid for months, another lesson was quickly learned —They love what you do, but they don’t really love you.

There’s a quote that goes something like — I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew the kind of woman that I wanted to be — and that wasn’t it. I no longer wanted to contribute to creating the hype, but instead, I wanted to contribute to the culture by creating seats at the table for people who looked & felt like me.

So I sold all of my YEEZY, packed up my ex and I left. It was hard, probably the hardest choice I’ve ever had to make as an adult woman, but the most significant changes always are. I then made a silent commitment in my heart to only produce meaningful work, which is what I continue to do today.

As I said earlier, I am just a woman who tells stories — except, now I tell them for your favorite brands, leading a dope team of creatives at Crush & Lovely. After 13 years, I am finally at the table. Instead of flooding the timeline with the latest cult-worthy sneaker, I fill it with the experiences I am creating, hoping to be an example to another young, fashionable creative to reach higher than being a blogger, or influencer or model. To see themselves as a brand owner, a Marketing VP or an E-Commerce specialist.

I guess that’s why this Footwear News business bothered me so much.

Three weeks ago, Sophia Chang and I had a conversation that has continued in our DMs since then. The latest message was a list published by Footwear News, citing the Top 40 Shoe Executives Under 40. I was getting ready to speak on a panel and glanced at the cover photo, which was full of white faces. Her message said, “Light their ass up. That’s my new shit, unapologetically calling people out.”

I guess I took that to heart.

A few days ago, a few editors hit me up about the said list, enraged at the content and asking me how I felt. Since I am friendly with the publication, I hit them directly and asked them what happened and if, by chance, there had to be a racial issue at play.

During the conversation, they assured me that they were not a ‘racist publication’ and asked if I wanted to speak to their executives, as well as be part of their follow up press – which was supposed to help ‘correct the problem’. They dropped a few names of very prominent POC in the biz and I took a pause.

I remembered what Sophia said. I also remembered what Punch of TDE said, “Jaz, you have to have grace.” And then I responded below:

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