On the heels of what some might consider America’s great awakening to the realities of systematic and institutional racism, brought to the fore by the Black Lives Matter movement, a group of Black jewelry professionals has created a nonprofit organization dedicated to the inclusion and advancement of Black professionals in the gem and jewelry industries.
The Black in Jewelry Coalition (BIJC) was conceptualized and founded by a consortium of Black industry leaders. The nonprofit’s board is composed of Annie Doresca, CFO of Jewelers of America (president of BIJC); Elyssa Jenkins, director of membership and digital content at Jewelers Vigilance Committee (vice president of BIJC); Miya Owens, associate counsel and director of mediation at Jewelers Vigilance Committee (BIJC’s corporate outreach chair); Lisa Garris, human resources director for lab and research for North America for the GIA (BIJC’s secretary); Nellie Barnett, manager of media and PR at GIA (BIJC’s communications chair); Reginald Johnson, chief diversity officer and SVP of North American field human resources at Signet Jewelers (BIJC’s nominations chair); Malyia McNaughton, founder and CEO of Made by Malyia (BIJC’s treasurer); Adrianne Sanogo, GIA graduate gemologist (BIJC’s chair of education); and Lisette Scott, founder and CEO of fine jewelry brand Jam + Rico (BIJC’s events chair).
“The jewelry industry has been slowly awakening to realize that it has not been a hospitable environment for people of color, especially Black people,” said Jenkins in a prepared statement. “Black in Jewelry Coalition is needed now more than ever for all Black professionals in corporate, trade, jewelry design, mining, manufacturing, and more—even Black consumers. Many of us have been working for quite some time towards these initiatives both with and without our allies so that there will be true change that stands the test of time.”
Doresca added, “Black people work in and support the gem and jewelry [industries], yet there is disparity in our access to resources and opportunities.” She further noted that what makes the BIJC unique is that its board is entirely composed of Black professionals. “We have a shared experience of what it’s like to be Black in the jewelry industry, and because of that we can identify roadblocks—some we have personally faced—and create solutions, but most importantly, access.”
The coalition’s list of planned strategic initiatives includes the creation of a consumer-facing directory of Black-owned designers and—for industry professionals—access to funding and resources for developing relationships with major distributors, manufacturers, miners, and gem dealers. Black jewelry and gem students will have access to exclusive scholarships and internships, and BIJC will also develop programming and resources “focused on establishing diversity in the hiring process, including senior leadership development, and closing the pay gap in the jewelry industry for the BIPOC community,” according to the statement.
Top photo: Black in Jewelry Coalition board members Annie Doresca, Elyssa Jenkins, and Malyia McNaughton (top row from left); Lisa Garris, Nellie Barnett, and Reginald Johnson (middle row from left); Adrianne Sanogo, Miya Owens, and Lisette Scott (bottom row, from left)
(All photos and logo courtesy of the Black in Jewelry Coalition)
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