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Top agencies share how they are celebrating Black History Month 2023

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By Kendra Barnett | Senior Reporter

February 1, 2023 | 13 min read

As we kick off Black History Month 2023, top agencies share how they’re celebrating Black culture and art, championing Black talent and investing in Black creatives this month and all year long.

Black History Month illustration

Agencies share how they’re celebrating Black History Month this year / Adobe Stock

TBWA\Chiat\Day New York

The theme for this year’s Black History Month is ‘Black Resistance’, and at TBWA\Chiat\Day New York we’ve chosen to explore Black Resistance as a means of celebrating Black culture. Historically, many contributions of Black people have been erased from the narrative, and we wanted to shine a light on the contributions they’ve made across culture in America within history, style, food, music and entertainment.

Our Black employee resource group, Black\, has resurrected an internal cultural publication known as ‘The Zine’ that features insight into Black people's contributions to culture across history, style, food, music and entertainment, etc. ‘The Zine’ will also feature quizzes and activities to create more of a gamified experience, as well as family recipes and restaurant guides across New York and Nashville, encouraging people to try different types of Black cuisine and support Black-owned businesses in the communities where we exist. The ERG is also working on a playlist exploring Black contributions throughout different generations. Furthermore, we're hoping to organize a ‘sip and paint’ with a Black artist and Black-owned wines for our people.

Lastly, we’re organizing a panel of Black employees at different levels across departments and of cultural backgrounds to relaunch our program ‘Diverse voices’. The panel will discuss Black culture through different generational lenses. ‘Diverse Voices’ is an internal conversation series aligned with various cultural moments and topics that are impactful, engaging and educational. The content focuses on creating space for historically marginalized stories to be shared.

Carlin Dixon, program manager and diversity, equity and inclusion lead, TBWA\Chiat\Day.

UM Worldwide

To celebrate Black History Month, UM will be hosting ‘Ginger & Soul’ as part of our ‘Real Talk’ panel series that delves into the hard truths about race and culture in America. This month’s discussion will highlight the intersection of R&B and Afrobeats – specifically the influence of Afrobeats, a community that has largely been overlooked for its contributions to music and culture.

This year’s Black History Month is also the first time UM is rolling out its latest diversity, equity and belonging initiative, ‘Together at the table’, a roundtable discussion and safe space for UMers to peel back layers on topics that go beyond the workplace – like family, finance and mental health – that impact not only how they show up professionally, but also in their communities.

Natalie Madera, partner, portfolio management and diversity, equity and belonging lead, UM Worldwide.

Droga5

Spearheaded by Droga5’s Black employee resource group Kinfolk, this year’s Black History Month at the agency will be focused on celebrating and amplifying the Black Experience through the lens of hip hop in honor of the 50th anniversary of hip hop. As a cultural catalyst that has transcended music by creating community while also championing individuality, hip hop above all is culturally rooted, and we are leaning into how it has been a pillar of our society.

Through various programming throughout the month including discussions, speaker series, visual art pieces, a Spotify playlist and social takeover, we plan on to Turn Up, School and Champion, the nuances of hip-hop culture. Check out Droga5’s Instagram throughout the month to see how we are honoring and celebrating Black History Month.

Kimi Switzer and Karen Tshimanga, planning leads of Kinfolk, Droga5.

R/GA

This year, the Black community at R/GA had a new vision for how we can celebrate Black History Month in a manner that is inspiring, uplifting and useful for R/GA’s global Black community. We agreed that Black history is world history and so Black History Month should not be [relegated] to just February. To be inclusive of celebrations in countries where R/GA has a presence – [considering we have] offices in the UK, Brasil, Australia, Canada and Buenos Aires – it felt right that we broaden our celebration to be more inclusive of all the moments in a year where Black history is celebrated across these nations. So this year, we will celebrate Black History Month in February in the US, Canada and Latam; Juneteenth in June in the US; Black History Month in July in Australia; Black History Month in October in the UK and on November 20, Black Consciousness Day in Brazil.

We also wanted to address the fact that employee resource groups and non-organized BIPOC people are often challenged with the added work of creating and executing cultural programming. We see this as an extension of our industry’s habit of promoting busyness, over-working, performative work and grind culture, as a direct output of white supremacy’s influence on modern corporate ways of working. So in honor of Black History Month, and the many, many Black people that blazed the trail of opportunity and access for us worldwide, we want to reframe Black history through a lens of rest – revolutionary rest. Rest that feeds us and celebrates our past. Rest that nourishes the collective Black culture of our present. And rest that speaks to where we are going as a more human, more diverse future at R/GA. We were inspired by the work of Siestas Negras and The Nap Ministry, and so we decided to dedicate our Black History Month programming and space to the prioritization, education and celebration of rest for and by the Black community at R/GA.

Julie Andrews, vice-president, managing director of production and operations US, R/GA.

Edelman

United under the theme, ‘Care: Cultivating a Richer Experience’, Edelman Griot, our Black employee network, has organized activities highlighting the need for Care in one's life and how it manifests – personally and professionally. This theme will guide programming throughout the year and showcase how employees can cultivate richer experiences for themselves, our colleagues, our clients and our communities.

Some activities planned for this month’s celebration of Black history include an annual poetry slam; a panel conversation elevating Black voices in media – including platforms such as Blavity, Diversity Inc, Essence and Mom.com; a mental wellness resource session and a game night. We’ll also host a fireside chat with the founders of Edelman’s Mighty Dream, a new creative advocacy agency founded in partnership with Pharrell Williams, as well as an employee spotlight showcasing rising Black talent at Edelman who are acting with Care within the organization and beyond.

Trisch Smith, global chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer, Edelman.

VaynerX

Following the employee-led sentiment of being forward-looking and celebratory of current Black culture – versus leaning solely into remembrance – Vaynermedia has a slate of programming organized by our community resource group, Vaynoire, aimed at highlighting the intersectionality of Blackness. It includes panels and events around leadership, financial literacy, mental health and wellness and [the experience of] being Black and queer. This will be the kickoff to our yearly programming goals, as Black culture lives beyond February.

Brittany King, senior vice-president of diversity, equity and inclusion, VaynerX.

Dentsu

Dentsu has been working towards a unified culture, one where we recognize and celebrate our uniqueness. Our business resource groups have grown significantly in this area over the past few years, providing us with an opportunity to better serve our entire organization, helping us to learn and most importantly, unlearn history, biases and stereotypes.

This Black History month, our Mosaic identity group – within our larger multicultural business resource group – developed monthlong programming centered around the ‘Power of Belief’. Our group put together a meaningful experience that celebrates the diversity within our organization and inspires our employees through our annual micro-action calendar. Featured on this calendar, we will host a series of events focused on bringing together our employees to learn more and do more by celebrating diversity, inspiring creativity and encouraging wellness and sustainability.

Our tentpole event will be hosted by Gia Peppers, award-winning on-air talent, entertainment journalist, content creator and podcaster. She will moderate a panel discussion with Black leaders across Dentsu to share their career journeys, insights and experiences of being Black at work. This session will be an opportunity for us to learn from their journeys, be inspired by their ambition, but also take a step back so we can ensure that the hurdles they had to jump through can be a little shorter for the next generations to come.

We understand that Black History Month isn't just one month, but a year-round celebration and our More than That podcast series with Gia Peppers is all about showcasing Black excellence beyond February. Going into its third year, we’re proud of this long-standing partnership with ADCOLOR, Group Black, The National Association of Black-Owned Broadcasters, General Motors, Procter & Gamble and Kroger, and our ongoing work to create representation across creative, equitable media, unbiased data via CXM.

Kai Weidie, senior vice-president of diversity, equity and inclusion, Dentsu Media US.

Ogilvy

Happy hours and good conversations [are on tap for this month]. In each city, we’ll be elevating local Black-owned businesses and creating space in our offices to connect, celebrate, learn and reflect on how we as an agency can further inclusion of Black creators, and authentically represent Black communities. As we celebrate the Black Diaspora across the US, we are keeping in mind our theme, ‘The Future is Now’.

Marlice Johnson, director of diversity, equity and inclusion North America, Ogilvy,

Publicis Groupe

Black History Month is one of many opportunities for talent across all identities to acknowledge the rich historical legacy of Black people, and at Publicis Groupe we are encouraging everyone to participate in the programming hosted by our US agencies, business resource groups and talent, engagement and inclusion team – this includes panel discussions, radio shows, mixers, book clubs, trivia and beyond. In this year’s events, we have prioritized voices that are committed to documenting Black history, including a presentation from Dr. Yohuru Williams, historian, scholar of African American history and civil rights and co-author of Teaching US History Beyond the Textbook.

Our focus on honoring and celebrating the Black community isn’t limited to February – our Viva Women of Color & Men of Color Alliance business resource groups develop intersectional programming that supports talent year-round. Our talent, engagement and inclusion practice continuously prioritizes our ‘Seven Actions’ commitments [to advancing diversity and inclusion] and related initiatives, including our Black Talent Summit & Black Talent Career Development program, which we developed to create more equitable experiences and support career development and growth.

Finally, we continue to take a workplace-to-marketplace approach to driving further equity and inclusion in the broader advertising ecosystem, through efforts such as our [equity initiative] ‘Once & For All Coalition’.

Geraldine White, chief diversity officer, Publicis Groupe US

Deutsch

Over the past year, Deutsch NY has been highlighting people from all backgrounds through our programs planned by our 24/7/365 team. For Black History Month, we want to focus on Black joy and celebration. We are working towards having speaker sessions from individuals of different industries to talk about the importance of Black joy from their perspective and experience.

Throughout the office, we will be showcasing quotes from Black employees at Deutsch NY about their experiences and aspirations for our society moving forward. Highlighting employee quotes has been an incredible way to learn more about our coworkers – it starts dialogues and creates connections. We also feature treats and food throughout the month from local, New York Black-owned restaurants and companies.

With our hybrid workplace, we will also be sharing information on current Black icons and educational resources with the agency via our Slack channels. Our 24/7/365 team is working hard to make sure everyone can be involved with our programs, both online and in-office. It’s been great to see how our programs can evolve and grow!

Elena Woznick, senior designer, Deutsch NY.

GroupM

Black History Month is a time of recognition, reflection, learning and appreciation of the history and contributions of Black Americans and Black culture throughout the nation. We are exploring the story behind Black resistance, bringing forth awareness, education and celebration of the historic and ongoing resistance of Black people with the help of our employee resource groups and giving our people opportunities to learn and connect in many ways.

We are hosting a food cultural immersion experience that tells the story of food across the Black Diaspora; educating on the discrimination of natural hair and the Crown Act; bringing back our annual ‘Black Wall Street’ shopping event highlighting Black businesses; and hosting our fifth annual ‘Art Noir’ event – a curated exhibit celebrating local artists that continue to tell the story of Black resistance.

Lukeisha Paul, head of diversity, equity and inclusion, GroupM US. For more, sign up for The Drum’s daily US newsletter here.

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