I am the amalgamation of over 400 years of slavery, a single-parent household and a system that perpetually places me in inauspicious positions.
I feel terrified. Will I be able to realize my dreams, aspirations and goals? Are my efforts in vain? These notions have never dominated my headspace as they have recently. When I see the murderers of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery, I can only think these thoughts. Now I revisit my past experiences and question everything. Was it a new form of racism when I was told I’m too smart for a role at an agency? Did I really ever have a shot to realize an idea that I pitched to one of the biggest brands? Am I ever going to break through that glass ceiling?
I feel angry. Why aren’t we as a society and industry making progress? Rightfully so, we’ve celebrated the accomplishments of the Alex Boguskys, Jeff Goodbys and Rich Silversteins of the world. What about the Steve Stoutes, Rich Pauls and Andre Harrells of the world? Are their success not as important?
I feel sad. Poor wages, hours and lack of mentorship and growth has pushed great talent out and kept fresh talent away from the industry. My black brothers and sisters are getting discouraged. We’ve been fighting the good fight for years and have become disillusioned to the notion of ever having true equality.
I understand that life and the pursuit of greatness isn’t easy—it’s not supposed to be. As it has been told to me, anything worthwhile is worth working for. But as an African American, I’ve come to realize that I have to work twice as hard to get half as far. I’m starting to fatigue and I’m not sure I’ll be able to continue pursuing my dreams.
The solution to what plagues us as a country and industry is not easy. It’s going to take a lot of effort to course correct the path steered by years of slavery, discrimination and hate. Brands and agencies like Pabst Blue Ribbon and 72andSunny have begun campaigns like “Grabst a Pabst” to address the issue a lot of creatives are dealing with because of coronavirus. For the next 12 months, they’re committed to supporting the creative community. How about other brands and agencies extend that ethos (indefinitely) to the African American community? Start programs and mentorships that help us break into the industry. Develop platforms, town halls and experiences that allow us to have a dialogue and a seat at the table. Don’t pacify us by hiring a minority in response to Beyoncé walking out of a meeting because there was a lack of diversity in the room/team/company. Become our partner and walk shoulder to shoulder with us as we march and fight for equality.
At the end of the day, we need more action and less talk.