Nathan Young Steps Down as President of Diversity Advocacy Group 600 & Rising

After divisive comments on Twitter, the organization will shift to a 'bottom-up structure'

nathan young
Young, a strategist at agency Periscope, was a co-founder and president of the group. Nathan Young and 600 & Rising

Nathan Young, the Minneapolis ad strategist who worked to spark industrywide progress on diversity and inclusion, announced this morning he is resigning as president of 600 & Rising, the advocacy group he co-founded after the police killing of George Floyd.

Young faced vocal criticism from his fellow diversity advocates after tweeting on July 29 that another, more established equality organization, Adcolor, is “completely divorced from reality.” While some on Twitter expressed agreement with his criticisms, many others rallied to defend Adcolor and its founder, Tiffany R. Warren.

As the debate played out on Twitter as well as private conversations and group chats, it added a discordant tone of division to a previously unified movement whose name was derived by the more than 600 Black advertising professionals who signed an open letter to agency leaders titled A Call for Change.

On July 31, 600 & Rising’s board of directors released a statement supporting industry efforts, citing Adcolor by name. “We want to collaborate with the groups, like Adcolor, that have been doing the work to make diversity a reality, long before 600 & Rising was created,” the group wrote. “We want to uplift the voices of Black women whose contributions to the cause cannot be overshadowed.”

The board sent a letter regarding the change to 600 & Rising members today, which can be read in full at the end of this article.

“It is with deep consideration, extensive conversations and significant reflection that the 600 & Rising Board of Directors moved to make structural changes,” the board said in its statement. “The Board is sharing those changes with all signatories to be fully transparent.”

Today, Young posted a series of messages on his Twitter account announcing he is stepping down from 600 & Rising and saying that the group will be shifting to what he described as a “inclusive & democratic bottom-up structure.”

Young’s co-founder at 600 & Rising, Bennett D. Bennett, has not commented publicly on the change in leadership structure or whether it will change his position.

On July 30, Bennett tweeted that he did not support Young’s statement about Adcolor and described the incident as “counter to why the open letter in June was written and against why the organization exists in the first place.”

The following letter was sent to 600 & Rising supporters today from the organization’s board of directors:

A Letter from 600 & Rising

The 600 & Rising Board of Directors has moved to make changes in light of recent events.

Yesterday, in a special meeting of the Board of Directors and officers, Nathan Young resigned from his position as president of 600 & Rising, after careful consideration and deliberation with the Board members.

The Board continues to believe in the mission of dismantling systemic racism in the advertising and public relations industries. Subsequently, the Board members and officers are dissolving the current structure of the organization and taking the next 30 days to reassess, with the intent that 600 & Rising becomes an advocacy community led by the signatories—Black talent and non-Black allies—that works for the interests and with the input of all involved, moving forward.

Hold The PRess will continue forth as a separate initiative, remaining focused on transforming the public relations industry for the betterment of Black talent.

The Board members stand by the initial Call for Change open letter, 12-step action plan for the advertising and public relations industry and the #CommitToChange campaign.

Ultimately, the initial goal of this movement was to leverage the collective power of the more than 3,500 signatories to spur the advertising industry to take decisive action in beginning to break down the systemic barriers for Black talent. In that, 600 & Rising was successful. All five major advertising holding companies and more than 100 independent agencies released their diversity data and made public commitments to make meaningful change.

However, in the haste to keep the industry focused on diversity issues, the signatories were not provided a chance to give input and support for actions of the movement that reflect them. The Board members understand that this has not centered their voices in the movement, particularly those of Black womxn, who are the most marginalized among us.

This mission is too important to structure an organization around it in an inadequate and inappropriate way. The Board members are now available to the signatories as a coalition of individual peers who are also signatories and can help see through the mission.

The voices of the signatories to the Call for Change open letter must not be muted nor erased, and the need for immediate action from the advertising and public relations industry remains pertinent.

The Board will reach out to signatories, committed agencies, advisors and like-minded initiatives over the next 30 days, to truly collaborate on creating a better future, including:

– Leveraging the perspectives of Black talent and non-Black allies on how this advocacy group can better operate
– Collaborating with diversity, equity and inclusion leaders and organizations who can advance the efforts of the advocacy group
– Conversing with agencies regarding their questions and perceived hurdles in continuing to enact the 12-step action plan

Thank you for everything. #BlackLivesMatter.

600 & Rising Board of Directors

@griner David Griner is creative and innovation editor at Adweek and host of Adweek's podcast, "Yeah, That's Probably an Ad."
@ErikDOster Erik Oster is an agencies reporter for Adweek.