Today marks one year since the police murder of George Floyd. Ahead of that somber anniversary, McCann chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer Singleton Beato sent an agency-wide email yesterday outlining plans for an extended observance of Juneteenth across McCann.
In the memo, Beato recalled already struggling with the impact of the pandemic on work-life balance and how the disproportionate impact of then health crisis on Black communities revealed and exacerbated existing inequities on May 24, 2020. With the country already struggling to grapple with these issues, Floyd’s murder the next day followed “hundreds of unjust race related incidences of harassment, or killing of countless others like him, at the hands of officers supposedly hired to ‘serve and protect’ all people,” Beato said.
“They say that often progress is birthed out of pain and suffering,” she continued, adding that people’s limited mobility due to pandemic-related restrictions “gave us all time to not just witness this abomination, but to experience a painful, traumatic event that triggered a visceral reaction against America’s built-to-last cycle of racism,” fueling a social movement demanding reforms to the social justice system to combat systemic racism.
Floyd’s murder also sparked the advertising industry to confront its own deeply-rooted issues with systemic racism, with a variety of responses and promises from each holding company leader. In at least one case, employees felt initial statements failed to adequately address the issue of systemic racism. McCann faced its own controversy when artist Shantell Martin criticized McCann’s M:United for an offensive email last June asking to partner with her on a Black Lives Matter mural for Microsoft “while the protests are still relevant.”
In the memo, Beato recalled McCann holding its inaugural observance of Juneteenth last year and observed that for many at the agency it was their first time learning of the day’s significance.
“Hopefully, we have all become more aware of how the events surrounding Juneteenth are a very real part of the story of America with reverberating effects for all of us – still today. And while the loss of George Floyd – father, son, grandson, brother, nephew, cousin, friend – we honor his legacy which will forever serve as an illustration of why Black and Brown people in this country often feel that they will ever truly be valued, safe and whole,” she concluded, before outlining a series of events comprising McCann’s extended Juneteenth observance, beginning with a discussion of policing and the prison system this Thursday.
The initial session will be followed by a series of segments from a “As a Matter of Fact: Systemic Racism Does Exist” PSA created by a team at Commonwealth//McCann leading up to June 19, with subject matter experts joining the agency for each discussion.
Here’s the memo in full:
Dear McCann Fam,
On May 24, 2020, I was struggling with the complexity of balancing my sense of equilibrium, having spent many weeks navigating the intensity of my work-life and home-life overlapping. And, like everyone else, I was still trying to wrap my head around the convergence of crisis, when the social discourse around the disproportionate impact COVID was having on people that look like me reminded me – yet again – about the systems and structures of racial bias and discrimination that were set long before I was born. No one, including me, could have ever imagined what we would all experience the very next day.
Tomorrow, May 25th we will remember George Floyd, whose wrongful death one year ago followed hundreds of unjust race related incidences of harassment, or killing of countless others like him, at the hands of officers supposedly hired to “serve and protect” all people – equally. They say that often progress is birthed out of pain and suffering. The limits on our mobility due to lock-down gave us all time to not just witness this abomination, but to experience a deeply painful, traumatic event that triggered a visceral reaction against America’s built-to-last cycle of racism. Our collective outrage became a catalyst for the 2020 social uprising that led to an amplified demand for a recalibration and reform of the social justice system in our country – and around the world.
In the month that followed, we held our inaugural Juneteenth observance. For many, it was the first time ever learning about this important commemoration of the final abolishment of slavery in Texas on June 19, 1865 – three years after the Emancipation Proclamation was actually declared. Hopefully, we have all become more aware of how the events surrounding Juneteenth are a very real part of the story of America with reverberating effects for all of us – still today. And while the loss of George Floyd – father, son, grandson, brother, nephew, cousin, friend – we honor his legacy which will forever serve as an illustration of why Black and Brown people in this country often feel that they will ever truly be valued, safe and whole.
This year, we are taking an extended approach to our observance of Juneteenth through a series of expertly curated sessions that provide a look into the systemic and structural dimensions of racial discrimination that are perpetuated in the U.S. Over the next few weeks, we will hold a series of live sessions to strengthen our collective understanding of the societal issues that inform the Black Experience in America – and how the impact of these issues influence our decisions and lived experiences in ways of which we may not be aware.
This first session on Thursday May 27th will focus on Policing and the Prison System, where we will examine the common misconceptions and statistics that will provide deep insights about law enforcement and incarceration. The discussion will illuminate how the long-term consequences of slavery are at the center of every social construct, how they formed, and continue to inform the very fabric of society – and why our system perpetuates this cycle. Details on how to join are below.
The segments that follow each week leading up to Juneteenth will present specific elements of the PSA created by the Commonwealth//McCann team of LaShonda Allen, Associate Creative Director, CW, and Nicky Paradela, Associate Creative Director, CW, titled, As a Matter of Fact: Systemic Racism Does Exist. Subject matter experts will also join in to enlighten us further by examining everything from core problems our country is facing that are rooted in systemic bias, oppression and bias, as well as what each of us can do to help disrupt them.
Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer, MW