Havas Chicago Created a #BlackAtWork Obstacle Course for Black History Month

By Erik Oster 


Havas Chicago tackles the everyday racism of a typical agency workplace with its #BlackAtWork “jobstacle course” for Black History Month.

“I love reading these articles about how white and old the industry is, and the industry itself acknowledges and talks about the problem versus actually changing and activating on the kind of issues we have,” Havas Chicago chief creative officer Jason Peterson told Adweek. “In my point of view, America is multicultural, so if you’re an agency that doesn’t have or isn’t made up of a multicultural point of view, there’s no way you can do your job properly.”

So Peterson turned to art director Jason LaFlore and other creatives in Chicago to come up with a Black History Month project that would “show our point of view and not be passive and have a real active positioning.”

The initiative addresses not the overt racism of, say, an agency CEO comparing black people and Guatemalans to monkeys, but rather the subtler forms of racism which nonetheless make navigating the workplace environment an added challenge for black employees. Located in the lobby of Havas Chicago’s building, the obstacle course is meant to make it clear how subtle forms of racism can make the job more difficult while also addressing the lack of diversity in the advertising industry (and the connection between the latter and the prevalence of the former). The obstacle course will remain up for the remainder of the month.black-at-work-sound-450-2017

Phrases showing the kind of passive and not-so-passive racism black employees might face like “That’s so ghetto,” “Can you teach me to Dougie?” and “You don’t sound black” force visitors to dodge out of their path in one exhibit. (Side note: remember this?)

A “Beam of Perception,” meanwhile, challenges participants to walk a fine line on a balance beam between “Angry” and “Lazy” without falling over.

Now imagine doing that every day.

“If you’re too nonchalant about your job, you’re automatically seen as lazy,” LaFlore told Adweek. “If you’re too passionate about your job, you might be seen as the angry black man or the angry black woman.”black-at-work-havas-PAGE-2017