Saturday Morning Pens Letter Asking Industry to Take ‘Bold Steps’ to Protect Black Lives

The Black-led agency, launched in response to police shootings, asks, 'Why are we still here?'

Four Black advertising leaders are asking the industry to "not shy away from the difficult issues of racism and injustice." Saturday Morning
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Saturday Morning started with a letter. In 2016, four Black advertising professionals reflected on the killings of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling—two men shot to death at close range by police, though neither was breaking any laws.

It’s been four years since Saturday Morning was launched by Keith Cartwright, Geoff Edwards, Jayanta Jenkins and Kwame Taylor Hayford. Though the social impact collective has created powerful campaigns to address racial injustice and shine a light on the struggles of Black lives, little has changed in the way those Black lives are treated by law enforcement and public policy.

Saturday Morning has produced powerful spots for P&G, including “The Look,” a campaign that took white viewers behind the eyes of Black Americans to see what it’s like to face bias with every step you take. The agency helped Spotify celebrate Black history all year long and created Peace Briefs, underwear printed with messages like “Don’t Shoot” and “My Life Matters” along the top band with the intention of giving police officers pause during confrontations.

But even with a growing number of ads taking a bold stance against racial injustice and police brutality, the recent police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade and others show there is still much more work to be done.

So in the wake of protests that have sparked a racial justice revolution, the men who launched Saturday Morning issued a new letter today reminding the advertising community why the group exists. The letter is a call to action, a plea for commitment to ending racism and a reluctant manifesto of sorts.

The ethos: We shouldn’t have to create this agency, we shouldn’t have to exist, and yet we won’t stop this work until it’s no longer needed.

We’ve reprinted the letter from Cartwright, Edwards, Jenkins and Smith in full here:

Once again, we open this letter with the highest level of optimism, that this moment will bring about real change in the world. We have always believed that the true success of our organization can only be realized when Saturday Morning no longer needs to exist. George Floyd, Breeona Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and so many others not captured on video are vivid reminders of how far we are from realizing our mission.

James Baldwin once said, “Why is it that when any white man in the world proclaims, give me liberty or give me death the entire white world applauds. When a black man says exactly the same thing, word for word, he is judged a criminal and treated like one.” The protests around the world are like nothing we’ve ever seen in our lifetime. An affirmation that the silent majority are ready to confront our history of separation, hatred and oppression, and finally after 400 years we are beginning to realize the words of our own Declaration, “we find these truths to be self-evi- dent that all men are created equal.”

This means the world must be ready to address so-called Whiteness for what it really is, a fabrication based on your complexion and not your origin. Whiteness is not a race. It’s an auxiliary of countries, a construct for separation, and a metaphor for power.

We cannot fight for our equality without also fighting to redefine so called whiteness, and the belief that this world is a birth right of a select few. When in fact it’s a co-op of complex cultures and ideals built for every man and every woman.

These are the struggles that we have to face to make sure that this moment is not just another moment. In order for us to find true equality there has to be sacrifice and not just sympathy. Otherwise this moment will fade away like so many before it, and we’ll find ourselves here again asking why we are still here.

We have been fortunate to work with leading companies and brands who understand they have a role and the power to be a voice for real change. Once again, the true success of our organization can only be realized when Saturday Morning no longer needs to exist. We encourage others in this moment to take bold steps and not shy away from the difficult issues of racism and injustice. Now is the time for action. We are continuing our work and have the highest level of optimism that this moment will bring about real change.

@MaryEmilyOHara Mary Emily O'Hara is a diversity and inclusion reporter. They specialize in covering LGBTQ+ issues and other underrepresented communities.