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ThinkLA Town Hall: A Necessary Discussion about Race

Posted By Administration, Friday, July 24, 2020

Latasha Gillespie -- Head of Global Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for Amazon Studios --  moderated an intense, wide-ranging dialogue in ThinkLA’s first Town Hall: A Necessary Discussion about Race on July 23, 2020. She opened the discussion with these thoughts:

  • The first thing we want to come to the table with is radical humility. Let’s all make space to learn.
  • Be comfortable being uncomfortable.
  • Resist the urge to judge.
  • Focus on systems, not incidents.
  • Stop and take ownership and accountability for where we have benefitted from systemic racism, or are silent in the face of injustice.
  • Take responsibility with a sense of urgency about doing the work needed.
  • Don’t forget to breathe!

In her introduction, Latasha reminded us of several key points to consider:

  • We need to be intentional about the words we use. When we say “racism” and “white supremacy,” we are talking about systems and structures that are as old as our country; systems that seek homeostasis unless they are dismantled. How do we begin to dismantle these systems?

  • We are now facing a pandemic of COVID 19, which disproportionately affects black and brown people. There is a second pandemic - the callous murders of many people of color. It’s disheartening that it has taken black bodies to incite real change, and hopeful.

  • This is a worldwide movement and is occurring throughout  many industries. While we may not agree on all of the changes, we can all agree that this is a time for structural change leading to access to wealth, mental and physical health in black and brown communities. There needs to be equitable awards, promotions, and contracts, as well as reconciliation for the generations of harm to Black, Latinx, and Asian communities, among others.

  • How do we educate ourselves and take action? We are not talking about hashtags and black squares. How are organizations aligning their purses with their purpose?

How can we take this beyond Town Halls into measurable action? How do we disrupt anti-black racist systems?

How do we keep this top of mind as individuals?

  • Karen Hunt - Reading more. Taking the 21 Day Anti-Racism Challenge, Watching 1619. Asking my children to read Stamped.
  • Edgar Rosa – this year only reading work by people of color
  • Lisa Solomon – Concerned about saying the wrong thing as a white person. Created a book club – their first book is So You Want To Talk About Race.
  • Remember to support your black owned bookstores when you start book clubs,uch as www.esowonbookstore.com

As an Organization:

  • Karen Hunt: As an agency, we are doing a 5K for justice 5K to raise $ for color of change.
  • Marcus Wesson – started a group called Three’s a Crowd for black people in advertising. Pledge for 13.
  • For agencies: Bid Black – started by someone at RPA.
  • Free The Work
  • When creating videos aimed at ppl of color, what vendors are used? Does anyone have a good system?
  • Sohini – there’s no accountability now. How do we create accountability?

Are you putting water in a leaky bucket by hiring more people of color without putting systems in place to ensure they thrive?

  • Josh Huang, DNG - Make sure you are doing cultural sensitivity training for leaders
  • Do the work to ensure your org is ready to actually contribute to change, not just have a hashtag
  • UM – have mental health resources. Mental Health resources on the ThinkLA DIG Site: https://thinkdig.org/mentalhealth
  • It’s OK to ask people how they are doing – ask everyone! You don’t know who they are married to, what their ancestry is.
  • Create Juneteenth as an annual day of reflection.
  • Michaela – rather than having leadership share their perspective, we opened up the agenda for everyone to submit how they felt and then created a video. No participants were black – their feedback was that this didn’t help them. Then we listened. What do they need? Based on their responses we developed our commitments: agency audit, make sure our work accurately reflects black culture, provide mentoring and coaching, ensure we are working with black-owned vendors, created days off annually for Juneteenth and election day.
  • 4A's great new program:  Workplace Enlightenment Certification. Great training for leaders as well as videos to be shared more broadly.
  • ConCreates offers a unique, and often overlooked, perspective on creative.
  • When you say diverse, be specific, be intentional: “We don’t have a track record of getting women in senior positions.” “We have customers with a variety of lived experiences. They are not reflected in our team.” Speed bump to ensure you get more people in the funnel.
  • Improve the interview process. Include women, men, company divisions, racial backgrounds for diverse perspectives. Don’t bring a homogenous candidate slate.
  • The same thing is true with marketing. Don’t create a campaign for a group and not include people from that group on the team.
  • Amanda - Mind-shift change. Make sure you include diversity. Cultural ADD vs. Cultural fit.
  • Include different generations. Mutual mentorship.
  • Resource for employee mentorship and sponsorship by Diversity Best Practices
  • Dani – we lead with culture; had to look at pay equity. Even as a multicultural agency we can still get it wrong. We checked the boxes but can still get it wrong.

What are you doing to make room for people?

  • Include fresh voices – not just young people. Are you looking at people from a youth standpoint, or only those with “experience”? What are the fungible skills? Include non-advertising backgrounds.
  • Apprenti offers paid apprenticeships to candidates who have taken a non-traditional educational or career path.
  • Employee surveys – what are you doing with that data to assess your culture from an inclusion standpoint? If you are only setting goals and looking at inputs without looking at outcomes, you still have a problem.

The benefit of an employee survey with an inclusion index is to be able to dig into the data and see if people are having equitable experiences. Identify discrepancies to get to the root of the issue and change the system and structure. Use it to inform hiring, promotions. You can set aggressive input goals – you also need to set outcome goals.

Exercise: Write down 10 people closest to you who are not related. Put a check next to their name if they were:

  • Born in the same country
  • Are the same ethnic group
  • Have the same education level
  • Have the same Religious beliefs
  • Marital status is the same
  • Have or don’t have children

For most of us it’s the same. Our “Trusted 10.” We are tribal people, and when we hire people, we tend to go to that box. Go to people outside of that box.

The 4A’s is conducting a Diversity Data Survey that closes 7/24, if you’d like to contribute to industry research:

Remember that systems and structures are seeking homeostasis; we need to disrupt them!



Tags:  #DIG #race #TownHall 

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