Leaders Share Ways to Advocate for Black Colleagues, Beyond This Moment

Headshot of Heide Palermo

Frustrated, perplexed, scared, hopeful, determined and humbled. These are just some of the feelings voiced by the attendees of this week’s Monday Night Mentorship zoom call, started by Jabari Hearn, VP of Marketing at Lyft and an Adweek Executive Mentor. The Monday Night Mentorship Collective was started by Jabari as a way to offer up advice and a listening ear to his network but quickly grew to hundreds of marketers reaching out to be part of the discussions.  As we all know, most of the best things in life happen organically—and nothing rings more true for these weekly peer-to-peer conversations.

This week, the conversation focused on navigating today’s work environment as a Black person and the group dove into some great solutions and advice for all that we wanted to share with the broader community. Here are some great tips and advice from just some the brand leaders who joined that discussion:

Use Your Voice

Julian Duncan, CMO of Jacksonville Jaguars (also an Adweek Executive Mentor) urged the group to use their voice. “Our biggest opportunity is to speak up. You have to make your voice heard—no more standing hopeful and pining and wishing and wanting somebody to just come in and pay attention. You have an opportunity; you have a voice.”

And that voice can (and should) come from all levels and in different forms, according to Julian. “[Speaking up] can come in a radical voice. It can come in a calm voice…. you have to do what you feel will be most effective given the culture that you are part of. But the only way that you can guarantee that nothing gets done is if you don’t say anything at all.”

Look at Your Own House, First

“It’s not enough to just make a statement. It’s not enough to just say that you stand in solidarity. It’s not enough to even just give a donation.” 18-year Nike marketing veteran Pamela Neferkara added that it’s important for brands to look at their own house first. The consultancy founder who now advises start-ups and non-profits went on to suggest a more important area of focus: “I would use this opportunity to talk about how you could change systems within a company. How do you change the annual performance review system to make sure that’s fair? How do you change the salary review system to make sure that there’s fairness? I would really use this as an opportunity to get at the heart of what could change within the company.”

Focus on Long-term Change

Look beyond this moment. That’s another piece of advice shared on the call with an emphasis on focusing more on long-term change versus just reacting to what’s happening right now. One of the marketers who joined shared, “I think that it’s really important is to help your company create principles so that they’re actually moving forward—not just in this scramble to get a post out or scramble to kind of prove that they’re on the right side of history.”

Be a Brand Steward, Not Just a Brand Marketer

One impactful reminder during the call came from Jabari Hearn who said “brands are run by people…” He went on to say, “You have influence in this and I believe this is an inflection point in company culture. … They’re going to ask you how can I help? And I hope that then you have an answer. And I hope many of you are working right now to put yourselves in a position where you don’t have to ask—where you are the ones directing those marketing dollars to causes that matter.”

@heidefaith heide.palermo@adweek.com Heide is the senior director of brand community at Adweek and Editor of the Inside the Brand series, including the CMO Moves and Gen ZEOs podcasts, Innovators, Challengers, and Women Trailblazers. She also leads Adweek's Innovators Council.