Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Light of White Supremacist Violence in 2021

Jan 15, 2021

A bust of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. sits in the U.S. Capitol building rotunda, erected in 1986 and crafted in bronze for perpetuity. That is the picture from the building we feature, even as the images of last week’s insurrection flash across every screen. Neither can be ignored as we work as people and professionals through what it means to be an American at the dawn of 2021.


This is a defining moment and at The Key, we Agree to Speak Truth.

The truth is that violent white supremacists desecrated our Capitol and with that, our democracy. The action demands bold response. If it feels risky or unpopular, remember that the same heroic man whose bust sits in the rotunda - and whose likeness is on handouts in kindergartens illustrating peace - died via assassination while his public disapproval rating was nearly 75 percent.

Speak Truth is one of the Agreements we introduced this time last year that helped guide us through the profound difficulties we weathered in 2020. It helped firm our spines around tough decisions like closing the office while also informing the kind of care we’d take of each other while apart.  

And when George Floyd was murdered last summer, they helped make it clear that we needed to close the office for a day of rest, reflection and action, but also clarified that we needed to declare our intent and solidify plans to become - and remain - an actively anti-racist organization.

MLK Blog Post (1).png

Our commitment to building a diverse and inclusive agency was woven through existing agreements but it needed to be bolder and more explicit. At the end of July, we kicked-off the collective creation of a new Agreement to center Diversity, Inclusion, Equity and Belonging. The process was considered and designed to invite every teammate to engage and contribute to building our new Agreement - whether they’d just been shocked and awakened to the depth of racial injustice in our country, had faced it personally, or had already committed to its study and eradication.

The language was finalized in October, and the illustration followed after several iterations. The timing aligned with our first meetings with Dominique Hollins of WE360, whose holistic and emotionally intelligent approach to educating, practicing, and advancing workplace equity through the actions of every employee in an organization will inform operations at The Key from here on.


Our first poster sits in our long-empty office, mounted on a four-foot poster board we can each see from the desks we once sat at each day. By the time we’re together again in-person, we’ll have dramatically deepened our understanding of anti-racist practices and will have rolled out new policies and practices in partnership with Dominique.

The new one physically centers this new Agreement, because it informs all the others.

We agree to break down systems of oppression in the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. the fighter, the rule breaker, the resonant baritone and the complex man.

We prioritize this work because it makes us better as individuals, as a team, as a business and as global citizens. And as we celebrate Dr. King’s birthday today (January 15) and prepare to take Monday off for MLK Day, we recognize that the system of white supremacy is a primary oppressor in our industry and in our country-at-large, so if we’re going to influence who is included in the stories we tell, our first commitment must be to anti-racist work.

Martin Luther King, Jr. arrested in 1958, Montgomery, Alabama.  Photo by: Charles Moore.
Martin Luther King, Jr. arrested in 1958, Montgomery, Alabama.
Photo by: Charles Moore.

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