Janelle Monáe stands in a bay in Virginia, the waves lapping at her feet. She is not there as a star on the red carpet – instead she is an advocate for social justice.
The commercial for The New York Times’ ‘The 1619 Project’ finds Monae at the water’s edge off the coast of Hampton, Virginia at Point Comfort, the site where the first enslaved Africans were recorded being brought to Britain’s North American colonies; this same location inspired the cover photo for ‘The 1619 Project’ magazine issue.
In her short monologue, she states “No aspect of the country we know today has been untouched by the slavery that followed.” The viewer is left to ponder that thought as they stare at the gray bay. It then types in “Words from ‘The 1619 Project: How Slavery Shaped America’.”
‘The 1619 Project’ and its impact is the centerpiece of the next wave of ads from The New York Times’s ‘The Truth Is Worth It’ brand campaign. The commercial will premiere during the Oscars on 9 February and feature singer, actor and producer Monáe.
“Our role as an independent news organization is to unearth the facts and surface important voices that increase understanding of the world we live in. ‘The 1619 Project’ is an example of the power and importance of telling these stories,” said Dean Baquet, executive editor, The New York Times.
The campaign’s central message, “The truth can change how we see the world,” highlights how deeply reported journalism, like ‘The 1619 Project,’ has sparked thoughtful conversations about the foundational role slavery has played in our nation by examining the forces shaping our past, present and future.
The campaign, which includes national television, digital, social media and print advertising, was developed in collaboration with creative agency Droga5.
Nikole Hannah-Jones, Times journalist and architect of “The 1619 Project,” said: “Every American child learns about the Mayflower. Yet, a ship called the White Lion that arrived in 1619 and the people it carried is just as important to the story of America. Our reporting excavated this moment in our history and in doing ignited a fierce debate among historians, academics and readers of all kinds and all ages. But that’s the power of The New York Times — to spark an important dialogue that allows us to reexamine our assumptions.”