From its origin in Galveston, Texas in 1865, Juneteenth commemorates African American emancipation in the US. Why do you think it has taken so long for this day to become a holiday?
While formalizing Juneteenth as a federal holiday certainly brings visibility into moments that are especially relevant to Black people and culture, I think that America is still reckoning with the uncomfortable truths and long-lasting consequences of slavery. America’s history conveniently and repeatedly fails to include Black narratives, which is why it’s taken so long for Juneteenth to be recognized. And as Critical Race Theory and resources that are committed to telling the full truth of American history are in jeopardy, our nation’s imminent challenges around achieving legitimate racial equity remain. We will continue to fail in the fight for justice, if we’re not able to learn from the history of our nation’s inception. The erasure of Black narratives is inherently damaging to the healing and progress that we so desperately seek and rightfully deserve.
Will you be giving space to people who wish to celebrate? How does observing this day create more awareness?
72andSunny is closed from June 17 - 20 to commemorate Juneteenth, allowing our community to engage in learning and service with the Black community. (We’ve added June 17 as an additional day as part of our larger strategy around employee wellbeing.) As this is the second year we’ve observed the holiday, we typically provide educational resources about the history of Juneteenth, as well as contributing to organizations like Leimert Park Rising who are committed to empowering and providing tangible support to local Black communities in Los Angeles. It’s important to allow space for cultural holidays (we also recognize César Chávez Day and Indigenous People’s Day, among others) because it provides an opportunity for reflection around the significance of the community’s impact. Cultural observances are meant to serve as learning opportunities and our agency prioritizes these days intentionally.
Our Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) in partnership with our Equity, Diversity and Inclusion team often lead cultural programming for the agency as well. We share resources internally and also encourage our client partners to engage in learning. As we continue on the path of inclusion for our various communities, our ERGs play a critical role in creating safe spaces for cultural dialogue across roles, identities and demographics.
Equal opportunity starts at the grassroots level and the structure of the advertising industry makes it extremely challenging for BIPOC to enter, without the right network. Do you have any programs in place to make it possible for underserved communities to access the industry?
We have long-standing relationships with The DaVinci School, One Club, MAIP, The Marcus Graham Project and ADCOLOR which directly serve students from underrepresented communities who aspire to join the advertising industry. Through guest lectures, panels and creative workshops, our agency is heavily invested in providing visibility and access to creative industries for the next generation of creative leaders. In 2015, we partnered with Civic Nation to found Creator Force, an initiative directly aimed at increasing representation by exposing high school students to creative industries as viable career paths. 2021 was the inaugural year of our Residency Program, which focuses on recruiting, mentoring, training and hiring diverse talent across our Los Angeles and New York offices.
We’re also aligned with industry organizations that specifically increase representation for BIPOC talent in Production. Free the Work ensures that underrepresented creators have increased access and opportunity in the bidding process, while Change the Lens focuses on hiring Black filmmakers in the commercial and music industries.
Do you think our industry is progressing well enough towards greater diversity at the executive level?
Progress takes time, especially when considering America’s history of segregation and the deliberate denial of adequate educational, financial and housing resources for Black people. Although legislation like The Voting Rights Act of 1965 prohibited discrimination in voting practices, in 2022 we find our nation still fighting the same fight as Civil Rights activists over 50 years ago. I use that analogy to say that although there are initiatives in place to specifically address the lack of diversity at all levels, and especially in areas of leadership, we’re largely still fighting that same fight as our ancestors.
According to the US Census data, Black people represent 13% of the population, and yet we as an industry fail to hire, retain and promote Black talent into leadership roles across the board. At 72andSunny, our ambition is to reflect the US Census demographics within leadership. If you look at our data today, we’re outperforming that goal, but I know all of our leaders would agree with me in saying we’re still not where we need to be yet, because that data doesn’t tell the entire story of retention, growth and impact. We all have work to do here. As an industry, it’s imperative that we’re deliberate in recruitment and within our talent teams in order to create systemic change.
I look forward to the day when the Leadership page on all agency’s websites are representative of the direction we’re heading, instead of reflective of the status quo.