What do I text my Black friends?
What does it mean to be Black?
Which Black person do I listen to?
These are just a few questions that, Gloria Atanmo: business coach, entrepreneur, travel writer, and author, addresses on her Instagram.
For the last few months, she has produced highly engaging graphics that give her community clarity, conversation-starters at home, and ways to navigate their new path of allyship. I spoke with Gloria to learn more about how her content has sparked change.
Kate Talbot: What inspired you to start creating conversation-starting Instagram graphics?
Gloria Atanmo: I hit a low after Ahmaud Arbery’s brutal murder. Everything was triggering to me. I uninstalled social media for 6 weeks to heal and sit in silence with my pain. That time allowed me to process, pray, and ultimately channel my anger into something productive. As a creative, sharing my art is cathartic, and I knew I needed to step up and be a voice for the exhausted Black community.
I’m highly observant and I often see the world through an idealistic lens, which allows me to be a light-worker of sorts, because I can see the potential for those who are changing, rather than sit with the reality of those who aren’t.
Talbot: Where do the questions that you confront in your content come from?
Atanmo: The initial series was called, “What do I text my Black friends?” and that was inspired by the text messages me and many other Black people were getting from our well-meaning white friends who didn’t realize how their words triggered us even more.
The thing with “white guilt” is that it often puts more responsibility on your lap to hold space for their sorrow, while you’re also grieving, and you’re unsure of whether you should tell them how depressed you actually are. In the beginning, the questions were to help white people navigate the emotions of their Black friends and colleagues, and then I whipped out a notebook and put myself in a white person’s mind and started mind-mapping all the questions I’d have if I weren’t Black.
I really had to start unpacking the layers of not just my identity, but Black people as a whole, because we’re so dynamic.I get thousands of DMs a day now, and I’ll open 10 or so, and I’ll see follow-up questions there too that inspire another series. The content is endless, and I currently have three 8x10 pages full of bullet points for upcoming series; so basically enough ideas to last me until November.
Talbot: What has been the impact of your content creation?
Atanmo: All I wanted to do was create a safe space for Black people to heal and allies to learn about our pain, and never did I imagine my posts would grace the screens of some of my heroes. And each of them haven’t just shared, but they also followed back! I was making an impact when I had 100 followers, so I’m doing the same at 100,000, 200K, and beyond.
Talbot: Can you share an inspiring story about someone who has listened and is learning more from your content creation?
Atanmo: There have been so many testimonies. One that particularly stuck out and made
me burst into tears on the spot, was a lady who shared that when she was a kid, she always remembered her grandma would immediately lock the car doors when a Black person was passing by. She then grew up to do the same thing as a mother and she had a moment where she realized her kids are watching her do the same behavior she adapted.
She was forced to check this bias after reading a journal prompt from my Ally Resource Guide that asks allies to truly get to the root of some of their behavior. Many white women are sharing that their grandmas first instilled the “fear of Black people” in them, and when they come back to me and tell me that a recent post made their grandparents of 80+ years finally understand, they’re overwhelmed with joy about the transformation. I’m overcome by emotion that my words can really spark change like this.
Talbot: Your community, called the GloGetters, are passionate! Can you share how they promote positivity on your feed?
Atanmo: It’s just so incredible how I have such a positive community and connection with my Instagram family. It’s the easy thing to do, to be mean, rude, bully, or gang up on people, when a troll or someone leaves a hateful comment. I always ask my community to respectfully engage if they have the time, or to educate them on where they’re misunderstanding. Notice I didn’t say “where they’re wrong.” No one likes to be wrong. I approach these conversations as misunderstandings, because it allows people to not get so defensive, and instead, view the conversation from another angle. I don’t believe in playing a shouting game of hurling insults. The peace I have in my life comes from accepting that in this digital age with a plethora of information on literally everything; ignorance is a choice.
Talbot: How do you make the graphics and how do you measure success?
Atanmo: I sing Canva's praises alllllll the time! It’s an incredible tool for entrepreneurs and content creators to codify and simplify their messaging to make it digestible for everyday scrollers who have a 15-second attention span. The KPI's that I track most are the saves and shares. Anybody can double-tap and keep scrolling. But it takes a little more effort to click share and post this in your stories. Not only that, but it's saying that this was so good, I need to make sure my network knows too. Saves are also valuable because users will refer back to it in the future.
Talbot: What advice do you have for Black women wanting to get their voice heard?
Atanmo: I want every Black woman to be reminded of her value. To never settle for anything less than your worth, and if the prices you’re pitching and negotiating don’t make you want to throw up, you’re not charging high enough. For so many years, I devalued my worth to keep brands happy and not being “difficult” and potentially losing work. I know I’m an asset, and I know what I bring to every menu and table. So my hope for every Black woman, is that she knows the same.