One thing is undeniably true: Americans (and, by extension, American advertising agencies) are currently engaged in an at-times uncomfortable conversation whose central component is race.
This goes beyond the fact that African-American representation in advertising is quite low and that many conversations have begun within the agency world concerning the #BlackLivesMatter movement and the industry’s ability to speak to that demographic.
Four high-level black creative leaders want to change this trend … or at least move the resulting conversations in a positive direction. Butler, Stern, Shine and Partners ECD Keith Cartwright got the initiative started along with colleagues Geoff Edwards (DOJO co-founder and creative executive at Creative Artists Agency), Apple/Beats global CD Jayanta Jenkins and Amusement Park chairman/CEO/CCO Jimmy Smith.
The four have come together to launch an initiative they call Saturday Morning because—as they put it on their home page—”Sunday is the most divided day in America” while Saturday is a time for emotional calm and, hopefully, mutual respect.
According to the release, the four got together for the first time recently to discuss their own experiences as black men moving through life in America and the ad industry along with the attendant challenges and opportunities. They now want to extend that conversation to other agencies as well as those who are interested in the topic at hand but do not work in the advertising industry.
According to their mission statement, they will coordinate on more such events and then release a quarterly PEACE BRIEF summarizing work done in attempting to “tackle a peace-related cause and/or initiative.” The release continues, “This could be in the form of helping passing a law, building awareness around an injustice or helping garner donations for a cause.” The ultimate goal is to counter the pervasive idea that “black lives are in some way not as important as others,” and the project implies that the ad industry can and should play a role in moving this conversation to another, more positive place.
Here’s the full letter as sent by Mr. Cartwright to various media outlets, ours included:
This letter starts with the highest level of optimism, that powerful voices are gearing up right now to take a stand.
I don’t know if there’s ever been an opportunity as great as this to make change.
My Friday morning began with a text message. I reached out to three of my friends:
The text read, “We need to come together. And say something.”
We’ve all known each other for some time, and not once have we sat down together to have a conversation. Friday’s text led to a meeting Saturday morning in Los Angeles, one of the best meetings of my career.
We talked about our families, our careers, and how shocking it was that we’d never done this before—but how important it was that we were doing it now. Geoff, Jimmy, Jayanta and I talked about our own experiences growing up as black males, and the racism we’ve encountered in our lives. None of us grew up in the same city or town, but we all shared similar stories and have had to approach our lives and careers with a dual consciousness. To this day we all still share the unique fear that comes with flashing lights in a rearview mirror, and the bias placed against us for the color of our skin.
The brutal deaths of Philando Castile, Alton Sterling and the five police officers murdered in Dallas, Texas, brought us together this Saturday Morning to talk about how we can help change the perception that black lives are not as important as others. The dehumanizing effects of this belief are causing African-Americans across this country to be brutalized, incarcerated and even killed, at an alarming rate.
How do we as an industry change that, and how do we enlist others around our industry to join the discussion?
It has been said that Sunday morning is the most segregated day in America. So, let’s get in front of that together. If Sunday morning is seen as a day of division, then Saturday morning should represent both a day of change and a way to dispel the myth that there is no hope for tomorrow. SATURDAY MORNING will be an organization that helps build awareness, promote change and shift the overall perception that black lives are in some way not as important as others.
Our vision is that SATURDAY MORNING will be a coalition across industries. This letter is the first call to action. We’ll now begin the process of inviting thought leaders across technology, music, entertainment, advertising, media, art and design, and anyone willing to participate in this conversation. Our action will be brought to life through a quarterly PEACE BRIEF, which will outline our objectives. Those objectives could be anything from raising money for a foundation or helping pass legislation, to bringing awareness to a cause or creating peace-based technology—all in an effort to make every Saturday Morning better than the last. We are currently active, working to bring this vision to life. There will be more to come in following weeks.
Please join us at saturdaymorning.co as we start to seed our beginning efforts. If you want to be part of this movement and take a role as we put ideas into action and identify opportunities where we can have impact, please email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Again, this letter ends with the highest level of optimism, that powerful voices are gearing up right now to take a stance. There’s never been an opportunity as great as this to make change.