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?
The experiences and history of BIPOC communities have historically been off the radar of the wider public as the legacy of slavery has not been fully acknowledged or addressed. As a result, the marginalization of Blacks, and of their experiences, have been considered the sole plight of Black Americans, not all Americans. American history has not integrated Black history into its story. It took the murder of George Floyd, and the ensuing global outcry, to serve as the impetus for acknowledging our country’s painful history and the impact it continues to have on Black Americans. George Floyd’s murder spurred an awakening from Americans that we, collectively, must address current systems of oppression and we must collectively share in the pain, hope and necessary action to achieve racial equality.
Will you be giving space to people who wish to celebrate? How does observing this day create more awareness?
In celebration of Juneteenth, we will be giving Monday, June 20th off as a holiday to reflect upon and honor the significance of this day. Observing Juneteenth as a company compels us to remember what we have experienced as a country, what we have been able to accomplish, and the work we still need to do to achieve racial equality. The commemoration of Juneteenth places Black Americans, and their experiences, at the center of the conversation. It encourages our employees to reflect on what freedom means, not just in the past, but in present day society, particularly for Black Americans.
Plans to commemorate Juneteenth across our collective are in full swing, and celebrations will include programming led by our Black Employee Resource Groups, external speakers to discuss the historical legacy of Juneteenth and current civil rights initiatives, and a trip to an African American museum that focuses on enrichment and education on the cultural heritage and history of African Americans.
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?
Many of our agencies have programs designed to introduce talent from underrepresented backgrounds to the industry. To name a few, TBWA\Chiat\Day New York has the Young Bloods program with a focus on diverse creative talent, TBWA\Chiat\Day Los Angeles launched a six-week high school curriculum for Compton Unified School District high school students, and Juniper Park\TBWA’s Trampoline program was designed to introduce diverse talent to careers in advertising.
Do you think our industry is progressing well enough towards greater diversity at the executive level?
While we would like to see increased diversity at executive levels happen faster, we also understand that this is a long-end game that requires sustained effort. In addition to focusing on recruitment through partnerships with organizations that support underrepresented talent and addressing the interview process to mitigate bias, we are also focused on the development and retention of our current talent through mentorship, advocacy, formal learning programs and other support systems to ensure they are prepared for advancement and other growth opportunities when they arise. Our DEI work at TBWA, which includes consistent forums for discussion around DEI related issues, seeks to raise our consciousness around the experiences of our diverse workforce and create an environment that is open, curious and welcoming. This work, along with our sustained focus on both developing a more inclusive pool of talent from underrepresented communities as well as prioritizing the development and retention of current talent within our own walls, will bring us closer to achieving equity for historically marginalized communities at executive level.