During the final week of Black History Month, top agencies spell out how they’re supporting the Black community, promoting Black health and wellness, investing in Black talent and celebrating Black art, culture and food.
Mosaic, our identity group within our larger multicultural business research group, developed programming full of independent exploration and digital group gatherings meant to ground our understanding and embolden advocacy for dismantling racism and supporting initiatives such as The Crown Act.
We steeped in the significance of BHM’s 95-year-history. We listened to Mosaic’s Spotify playlist with intention. We watched Netflix’s High on the Hog while ordering from Black-owned businesses – and then we went on a culinary journey with chef Sober Pierre. We explored mindfulness with Lulafit and unpacked the realities of Black representation in media, what Black disabled women in media face and [the reality of] continued healthcare inequities.
On February 28, we’ll sip and savor the nuances of the wine industry and its budding Black-owned wine brands with Shaquana Joseph of BLKGIRLBIGWORLD.
Kai Deveraux Lawson, senior vice-president of diversity, equity and inclusion, Dentsu Creative Americas
Publicis Groupe’s commitment to honoring the contributions of the Black community to our industry is not limited to Black History Month – there’s an ongoing body of work happening across our organization including efforts such as MSL’s Influencer Marketing Racial Pay Gap Study, Publicis Media’s Once & For All Coalition [which aims to build a more equitable ad industry] and Groupe-wide talent programs including our Black Talent Summit & Black Talent Career Development program, developed to create equitable experiences and support career development for our self-identified Black talent.
With that said, we also have ample programming happening across Publicis Groupe US in February to honor facets of intersectionality across the Black community – hosted by agencies including Leo Burnett, Spark, Starcom, Digitas and Sapient; plus initiatives co-created by our central Talent Engagement & Inclusion practice and Business Resource Groups. These efforts span fireside chats with Black authors and filmmakers; events celebrating Black guest speakers, artists, musicians and influencers; and panels.
Geraldine White, US chief diversity officer, Publicis Groupe
In honor of Black History Month, UM’s Diversity, Equity & Belonging Council hosted several programs for both internal and external audiences. Our community was honored to host a virtual cooking class with Top Chef finalist Eric Adjepong to take us through the culture and cuisine of the African diaspora. The event was part of our ongoing Food for the Soul series, where we spotlight cultural cuisine, bringing our community together in the best way possible: over a great meal.
Additionally, in partnership with our parent company Mediabrands and sister agency Initiative, we hosted a conversation entitled ‘B.E.S.T (Black Excellence Story Telling) Conversation Series: Recognizing the Influence of Black Culture in Art, Fashion and Music’ with trailblazers in the arts as part of ‘Real Talk,’ our interactive speaker series on DEI-specific topics and current events.
Jeff Marshall, chief diversity officer, UM
Omnicom’s Black History Month celebration, titled ‘Black History Month Reimagined,’ featured programming across Omnicom to honor history while also thoughtfully blueprinting the future.
On a global level, our newly-formed ERG Black Together led key conversations available to all employees. This included a panel on Black intersectionality; a discussion led by renowned Black psychologist Dr Shaakira Haywood Stewart on the importance of mental health and wellness in the Black community (a Black History Month theme); a video of employees reflecting on their favorite moments that celebrate Black identity and community; and a ‘Homecoming’ panel where Black senior executives and rising leaders discussed how their educational experience impacted their career journey.
In addition, we provided the opportunity for interested employees to invest in underrepresented communities by donating to the United Negro College Fund. Beyond this, numerous agencies throughout the US celebrated through panels, cooking nights, art competitions, book clubs, wellness workshops and more.
Emily K Graham, chief equity and impact officer, Omnicom Group
After the experiences of the last two years – the pandemic, the continued fight for racial justice and more – Edelman Griot, our Black employee network, wanted to recognize the importance and power of self-care and community. This year, the group curated events around the theme ‘Joy-full: Manifesting Wellness and Unity.’ While we pause to acknowledge the contributions of the Black community throughout history, it is essential to reflect on one’s own state of being – mind, body and spirit – while supporting each other.
This year’s programming focuses on the importance of prioritizing self-care, community and wellness, including personal and financial health. The Edelman Griot team built a calendar of events including yoga and guided meditation; a poetry slam; and a conversation about wellness and advocacy with Terri Jackson, executive director of the Women’s National Basketball Players Association (WNBPA), and Tamika Tremaglio, executive director of the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA). In the coming months, the group will continue to develop programming around honoring Black history and excellence throughout the year.
Trisch Smith, global chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer, Edelman
The work I’ve seen from across the Media.Monks family in celebration of Black History Month reflects the spirit of the company so evident to me from day one. S4 Melanin – an ERG built to provide a space for exploring and understanding the Black diaspora while offering support and mentorship to our Black workforce – has put on month-long programming, from speakers and newsletters to trivia and a content series that uplifts our Black talent.
One thing that really stood out to me this year was a four-part showcase, Constantly Making Good, dedicated to the beauty and importance of the Black creative process – which was developed by Decoded’s ERG, BLK@D. Importantly, these initiatives aren’t limited to one month, and our approach allows our people to come together across the network, while also embracing initiatives so unique to the culture of our merger companies.
Cashmere initiated OneOpp, a collective call to action for those in the marketing and media industry to contribute financial and media resources in service of challenging systematic policies and consequences of police brutality. Decoded launched a small business accelerator program that provides pro-bono work for BIPOC-owned small businesses, in addition to $20,000 toward the costs of media, production or other costs beyond Decoded resources. So far Decoded has donated more than $700,000 in agency time to the small business accelerator program.
James Nicholas Kinney, global chief diversity officer, Media.Monks
To commemorate Black History Month this year, the Black Employee Network at R/GA focused on the theme of ‘making space.’ The month kicked off with the Black Owned Business Challenge, which is a partnership across multiple agencies that challenges employees to make an intentional commitment to spend as much money as possible with Black-owned businesses – which can range from small daily purchases such as food or home goods to larger purchases such as event venues.
The next leg of the celebration was BEN FEST, a two-day experience consisting of programming designed to center, empower and uplift R/GA’s Black talent. The first day of programming included a workshop focused on ‘creating your self-care roadmap for 2022,’ tackling topics such as incorporating more movement into the workday, affirmations and intention-setting, and utilizing storytelling to identify key areas of support. This was followed by a live DJ session where employees were invited to jam through the rest of their day. Day two continued the theme with a fireside chat featuring Black content creators who specialize in NFT development, personal fitness, photography and videography, who participated in candid discussions around their unique journeys and ways our industry can be more intentional about amplifying/supporting Black creators.
Aaron Francois, senior connections strategist and Black Employee Network co-chair, R/GA
This year’s celebration was dedicated to Black hair. Historically, across the African diaspora, Black hair has sat at the foundation of our culture and history and has been the thread to weaving our stories. Our hair has assisted in how we identify and are identified. Be it tribe, social status, religion, fertility, expression, beauty or grief – our hair has been the pinnacle of how Black people across the globe have audaciously chosen to exist.
Rooted: A Journey of Roots and Resistance is how we paid homage to the culture. We packaged an expansive palette of digital engagement that included [a number of different elements]. [We created] a curated playlist called ‘Don’t Touch My Hair,’ which tells a story of truth, resistance and reflection; an alphabet lookbook [spotlighting] hairstyles past and present that have defined the times and culture; a panel featuring the Black hair industry’s most exemplary folks; and a film showcasing stories of our own 72andSunny family on hair journeys of self-discovery and acceptance.
Sequaña Williams-Hechavarria, equity, diversity and inclusion program manager, 72andSunny
It’s been amazing collaborating with our colleagues, client partners, celebrity partners and honored guests to bring together a great day of conversation around Black health and wellness [in the agency’s second annual Just Ad Flava event, a virtual conference celebrating the 2022 Black History Month theme of Black health and wellness]. Black History is more than just a month – it’s all year. By focusing on our health and wellness we, as a people, can take our futures into our own hands and advocate for ourselves now and throughout the year. It’s important, now more than ever, to practice self-care and make sure that we are prioritizing our health and wellbeing.
Brandee Lake, director of client engagement, VMLY&R, Fluorescent co-chair, Just Ad Flava chair
By Kendra Clark