The highly experienced writer Sharon Hurley Hall is battling racism with her well-honed skills.
Sharon has spent the past 30 years in the writing business, gaining experience in journalism, freelancing, blogging and journalism education, and she has written six books.
“Writing kind of found me,” Sharon says. “When I finished university, there were a couple of options on the table. One was going into teaching, and the other was taking a job in journalism. I took the job in journalism and never looked back after that.”
Sharon also has her own business where she offers writing services to companies wanting to provide authentic anti-racism content to customers and peers. Plus, Sharon has a bi-weekly anti-racism newsletter that she writes.
Sharon’s many projects are all vital to her, so choosing a couple to discuss was difficult.
“I just started working as Head of Anti-Racism with the Diverse Leaders Group with the goal of helping to create equality for all [and] helping to empower leaders to create equality, and that is very important to me,” Sharon says.
Through the Diverse Leaders Group, Sharon is participating in a new program focused on empowering leaders to develop in fighting racism wherever they happen to be.
The act of writing holds significant value for Sharon.
“Writing is a wonderful way to bring the things you are feeling out and to connect you with other people who might feel the same way,” Sharon says. “It’s a wonderful way to teach and learn. I think it’s one of the greatest gifts a person could have.”
Sharon began her anti-racism activism about two years ago.
“I’ve written about racism before,” Sharon says. “I have a couple of articles going back to 2016ish. The main body of my work dates from 2020. When George Floyd was murdered, I realized how tired I was of racism.
“I lived in England for 15 years, so I know the experience of being a black person in a white majority space. I’ve experienced racism in multiple countries around the world. I felt this deep exhaustion with racism and systemic racism and what it does to people that look like me. So, I wrote a piece called ‘I’m Tired (of Racism).’
“That was the start of it; the response I got to that piece made me keep writing. There were two responses. One was from people who, like me, felt seen and felt the same thing. The other response was from would-be allies who were saying, ‘I’m beginning to get the tiniest inkling of what it’s like to be in your skin.'”
This response encouraged Sharon to launch her newsletter in August 2020.
Sharon’s experiences with racism bring a distinct viewpoint to the table.
“Where I think my take on things is a little bit different is because of the global approach,” Sharon says. “Lots of us think that racism is X and racism is Y, and it’s worse in this place, and it operates in this particular way in the U.S. I think there are so many commonalities no matter where you’re experiencing it. And because I’ve lived in different places and experienced it in different places, I can bring that lens to my work as well.”
In her role as an anti-racism activist, Sharon must deal with those who argue racism no longer exists.
“I invite people to consider that they might be coming from a different perspective and different lived experiences,” Sharon says. “Therefore, I don’t think it’s ever OK to say to deliberately disadvantaged groups that their experience is not real.”
One of the articles that Sharon wrote that she felt has had the most significant impact is “What If The Tables Were Turned?”
“I invited people to think about how you would feel if your children had been stolen from you and shipped halfway around the world because we call that trafficking, and we get pretty uptight about it,” Sharon says. “So, why is that suddenly not an issue when it comes to enslavement? It’s merely inviting people in to see what it might be like to have a different kind of lived experience.”
Sharon focuses her writing on people who suffer from racism and those who are open-minded about the realities of racism.
“My role is to reach the people whose minds are open to the possibility that there is another way to see things,” Sharon says. “If your mind is completely closed, you’re not even listening to me. If I reach the people whose minds are a little bit open, they can reach the people who might listen to them who won’t listen to me. I think of it as a ripple effect.”
As an anti-racism activist, one of Sharon’s most significant struggles is emotional exhaustion.
“For me, talking about racism and anti-racism isn’t an academic exercise,” Sharon says. “I’m talking about my life. Sometimes I’m reliving trauma that I’ve experienced, and I think many activists would say the same. So that can be difficult.”
On top of the emotional strain from the trauma Sharon lives with from racism, she also deals with ongoing personal attacks for being an activist.
“Somebody a while back subscribed to my newsletter just so they could reply with the n-word and tell me to go back to Africa,” Sharon says. “Putting yourself in the space where you’re open to that kind of thing is hard. But I also think that it’s all our responsibility to do what we can to fight racism and create a more equal world. If writing is how I can do that, then I’m going to keep writing.”
During her work as an activist, Sharon has had a couple of experiences where she saw a real impact.
“One was where somebody that was in one of the ally groups with me started to make diversity, equity and inclusion a foundational concept that she would use in searching for new employment,” Sharon says. “That was a result of the work we had done in the group.
“Also, in seeing more people — people who have been reading the newsletter or people who have been in the group with me — showing up and taking part in those conversations and pushing back against false narratives.”
A great many people have inspired Sharon throughout her anti-racism activist work, including her sister Lisa, a fellow activist; Kimberley John-Morgan; Madison Butler; Ashanti Martin, who wrote the New York Times article “Black Linkedin is Thriving;” and the CEO of Diverse Leaders Group, Lea Jovy-Ford.
Of all that Sharon has accomplished, she is most proud of her anti-racism newsletter.
“I know it’s making a difference to people, and I know that people are using it, and I’ve been able to keep it going consistently for two years,” Sharon says. “Sadly, I’m never going to run out of material.”
Sharon also takes great pride in her and her sister’s podcast, “The Introvert Sisters.”
“It has evolved a lot over the years,” Sharon says. “It’s been running for about two and a half years and started as a podcast about introversion. But then we realized we couldn’t separate ourselves as black women from the rest of it. So, there’s an activism thread running through that as well.”
After Sharon’s latest book comes out, she plans to start working on updating one of her previous books, “Exploring Shadeism.”
Sharon gives this advice to other women looking to enter the writing field: “Get into the habit daily if you can. Build a writing practice. Then, find something you know about or are passionate about, and identify a publication writing about it and see if you can get a piece published. Keep writing; you will improve.”
For women wanting to become anti-racism activists, Sharon says, “Find the conversations where you can make an impact and start showing up. Follow people that are prominent or have an impact in the areas where you want to be an activist.
“You have to work out how best to show up, and that may be different depending on whether you’re a white person wanting to be an ally or advocate or whether you’re a black person wanting to share your truth.”
Follow Sharon on LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter. Plus, check out her website, podcast and newsletter.