Youth-Obsessed Industry Seems to Ignore Young Voices

In Diversity Argument, It Seems We're Best Seen and Not Heard

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Julius Dunn Julius Dunn
As America prepared for the inauguration of its first African-American President, Radio One felt there was no better time for corporate America to ask what it knows -- or thinks it knows -- about Black America.

On Jan. 13, The One Club hosted a panel discussion titled "Urban Legends: What Corporate America Still Misunderstands About Black People." This conversation was meant to serve as an important and provocative discussion about the realities of marketing to African-Americans today.

Panelists included Alfred Liggins, president-CEO of Radio One; Steve Stoute, founder and CEO of Translation Consultation & Brand Imaging; Najoh Tita-Reid, former director of multicultural and African-American marketing at Procter & Gamble; and myself.

The panel was moderated by Pepper Miller, president of the Hunter-Miller Group, who wrote previously in this space about the Radio One study used as the basis for the discussion.

One thing that struck me was that this study was considered groundbreaking because researchers sought out teenagers when compiling data about cultural trends. As someone who belongs to the generation they considered when gathering this information, I am happy to know they finally realized the youth have a voice, too. But wouldn't you agree that seeking the opinion of everyone in the community should simply be a best practice rather than something considered groundbreaking?

For all the fascination with youth in our industry, the fact is our opinions have been and still are noticeably disregarded when compared to people who are presumably more important. When will our elders see past finding immediate solutions to their personal problems and collaborate with all who are affected, to find a sustainable solution that benefit all involved? I'm tired of our voice being overlooked and disrespected by people who pretend to value our opinion as we attempt to present new ideas that solve old problems.

Take the diversity issue. I've been to the meetings you've read about here. And usually when I dare to open my mouth, I'm shouted down by the older men in the room, who all seem to labor under the belief that anyone under 35 is best seen and not heard (especially if they still work in the industry). At what point will the Sanford Moores (scroll down for interview) of our world see past their own bitterness and listen to the feedback and opinions of others as it relates to diversifying our industry?

Maybe if people like Mr. Moore focused less on diversity of race and valued diversity of ideas, they would see that this is a perpetual cycle, because one too many people forgot to reach back while climbing the corporate ladder. Instead, they have traditionally turned a deaf ear toward social responsibility -- that is until their own ladder breaks and they're yelling, kicking and screaming all the way down.

How can former ad men like Mr. Moore continue referring to this industry as "youth driven," but not recognize opinions of our youth when we express concerns about this business? Need I remind him that Martin Luther King was only 25 when he led a movement that has granted Mr. Moore many of the freedoms he revels in today. Even if I shared that fact I doubt it would get a positive response; he would probably just look at me like I should be grateful for being allowed to speak. It's interesting that Mr. Moore's generation has no problem asking us to bow humbly in the presence of their wisdom.

Considering that our new Leader of the Free World was once a community organizer like Dr. King, it's obvious that "passing the torch" is an idea that can yield positive results. As if there wasn't enough adversity to go around the table ten times, do we (youth) who belong in that pool conveniently added when collecting data about discrimination cases have to deal with the discrimination from our elders too?

I don't know, maybe I should settle down so I'm not labeled a "trouble maker." Maybe I should just shut up about inheriting his negative energy and respect my elders, scorned or not.

Or maybe we should follow the example of every progressive social movement that revolutionized the world, those that were spearheaded by the youth of the time.

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Julius Dunn is a founding member of Adversity, as well as Manager of One Club Education and Director of the One Club-Adversity program.

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