Marshall Bridge Building

‘Justice in June’ … and Always

Marshall and Dornsife alumni start a conversation about systemic racism and invite everyone to join

 

July 21, 2020
Bryanna Wallace and Autumn Gupta

As an undergraduate at the USC Marshall School of Business, Bryanna Wallace ’19 (at left in photo)  intentionally sought out opportunities to broaden her horizons and develop a global mindset. She did that with Marshall’s international programs: a LINC course that took her to Tokyo, a fashion business and logistics internship with Kittima Milano in Italy and a semester abroad at Copenhagen Business School. The Renaissance Scholar who also minored in dance was never afraid to step out of her comfort zone.

By the time she graduated, the Brea, Calif., native said she saw the world much differently. “You have to appreciate the value of remaining rooted to who you are but not being afraid to change your perspective on what the world looks like and how you fit into it,” she said before Commencement day.

Now, Wallace and her friend and former USC roommate Autumn Gupta ’20 are trying to help others broaden their perspective on the pressing, emotional and sometimes uncomfortable issue of racism in 21st-century America.

“We want to meet people where they’re at and give them the tools to critically think and grow for themselves. We have to encourage people to step into those conversations and come from a place of grace. We know that guilt and shame do not help to spur people forward.”—Bryanna Wallace '19

Propelled by the police killing of George Floyd on May 25, 2020 that sparked nationwide protests, they created a Google document compiling a list of resources to educate those who wanted to help fight systemic racism and become allies of the Black community. They titled the document Justice in June.

Starting a Conversation

Justice in June all started with a conversation between the two friends.

Wallace, who is half-Jamaican and half-African American, made an Instagram video about her reaction to Floyd’s death, asking people who cared about her: “If it was me being killed just because of the color of my skin, would you be doing anything differently than you’re doing now?”

That statement made an impact on Gupta, who is half-Indian and half-white. “That really struck a chord for me, because yes, of course, this is my best friend, I would be out in the streets,” she said. “I also realized, despite being a woman of color and highly educated, I also had a lot to learn about Black Lives Matter and the Black experience in America.” Gupta graduated from USC Dornsife in 2020 with a B.A. in environmental studies and a B.S. in geodesign.

Gupta reached out to Wallace over the phone.

“I talked for about two and half hours about how it feels to see these injustices flare up again with no clear retribution or consequences,” Wallace said, referring to the deaths of so many other Black Americans before Floyd. “Autumn told me that would absolutely have altered her life. She asked, ‘How can I learn and then do better?’”

Do the Reading, Then the Work

Justice in June offers a roadmap to do better. It offers schedules for spending as few as 10, 25 or 45 minutes a day educating yourself about racism, with links to resources such as books, podcasts, websites and TED talks. Not only are there suggestions for listening, watching and reading, but also for action items, including voting, donating and engaging with your local government.

They created the document for family, friends and associates and never expected it to draw more than 200,000 views. It attracted the attention of The Washington Post and various organizations looking for guidance in their diversity training. All of this spurred Wallace and Gupta to create a website with a highly successful Go Fund Me campaign. The day the website launched (Juneteenth, in timing with the Post article), it brought 25,000 unique visitors. They have 1.9 million impressions on Twitter.

“We are continually amazed at the outpouring of support and the amount of people willing to dive in,” Wallace said. “We want to meet people where they’re at and give them the tools to critically think and grow for themselves. We have to encourage people to step into those conversations and come from a place of grace. We know that guilt and shame do not help to spur people forward.”

With the website’s popularity, Wallace and Gupta are developing “an even more robust, immersive and tailored learning website” and a professional framework for companies, organizations and leadership teams that could be funded by donations to help charitable causes. Without planning to, they have started a nonprofit and need to determine the future of this cause that is so personal to them both.   

“I'm genuinely excited to see where Justice in June goes, particularly to see what work Bry and I can do so that by June 2021, we are living in a better, more tolerant, more empathetic society,” Gupta said.

Everyone, Wallace said, needs to utilize their voice—in private conversations, on social media, and in their government.

“Silence at this point is compliance,” she said. “It doesn’t mean that you’re a racist or that you don’t care what’s going on, but it means that you have the luxury to turn away and continue to live your life.

“And I don’t get to do that, because this is my life every day,” she said.