Often, the amazement is that even in this day and age that we are STILL struggling to find equality. I recently went through a realization at AdColor that the choice is ours to make on how we choose to play this game. Will we continue asking for parity, or will we build our own partnerships and create successful, profitable examples for the industry to follow.
The reality is, it will probably take years before the multiculturalizing of the general-market ad agency world happens. As I've been asked before, when I suggested diversity hiring goals, "What am I supposed to do, fire all these other people?" Clearly, change is not coming overnight and it won't be handed out.
To me, the biggest beauty about AdColor is the feeling of sincerity in the room and the people I met there who are committed to creating a truly multicultural industry. Every movement starts with people who know things must change and are committed to doing so. Tiffany Warren and Lisa Unsworth from Arnold and the incredible leadership team from across the industry have put a major stake in the ground for others to follow.
I was lucky enough to win an award and more than anything else, it was humbling to be there and realize how much people before us had to sacrifice and still are sacrificing to make it. Like McGhee Williams Osse, some helped build agencies that have employed thousands of multicultural professionals throughout the years (including me), or like R. Vann Graves, Marcio Moreira, Orlando Reese, Melissa Brown, Rudy Duthil or Dawn Williams-Thompson, others have gone into general-market agencies or corporations and worked so they can mentor others and pave the way inside. Others like Heide Gardner are taking the task on by creating diversity as their professional mandate.
For each, the path has been different. But the destination is the same: a place where we can thrive, without sacrificing that which must never be given up -- our soul, our uniqueness, our voice, our passion, our love for creation and for our people.
So for those of us who are out here working to build a better reality for ourselves and those that are coming up behind us, we owe a debt to the pioneers that paid more than we will ever know to give us this current world we live in.
Another thing that hit me, is that the power for change is really in the hands of those who have been recognized as well. Our example speaks not only to those who have made it, but those who look up to us. How we walk our talk is everything. Committing to make a personal investment in the next generation is the least we can do. If you have the capacity and a great possible young person to mentor and take under your wing, do it.
It's the least we can do. Time will tell if AdColor is just another awards show, or a turning point in our industry, based upon the actions of those in that room, a room full of heavy hitters, young guns and legends. A personal commitment to change what they can at their level or a level above can do more than posturing by political committees or agency heads with no intention of changing a thing.
The beauty is that the day is in our hands. If you're not getting what you like or where you are, start your own shop or move to a place that will recognize and appreciate you for who you are. If you feel like you've made it and aren't truly happy, try to give someone else a shot. The duty to give back is why we're giving anything in the first place.
So, instead of asking if AdColor just another ad industry back-patting festival, make a commitment to change something, to impact someone. Walk your talk. The true impact of this first round of AdColor has yet to be felt, to be fully realized. But time will tell, just as it always does. As Tiff explained to me, the award is based upon rising up and reaching back. The day is in our hands and I give thanks.