600 & Rising dissolves 'current structure' as Nathan Young steps down
Nathan Young announced on Twitter he will be stepping down from his role as president of 600 & Rising, the nonprofit he founded with Bennett D. Bennett which has made waves in urging agencies to take action on tackling systemic racism in the industry. Subsequently, the organization announced a plan to dissolve its "current structure."
"After a considerable period of reflection, I have decided to step down from my role as President of 600 & Rising," Young said in a tweet. "Though I still deeply believe in the mission and purpose of the movement, leading it demands more time, energy, and discipline than I am prepared to give."
He continued, "Splitting time between my day job and this movement in the middle of a pandemic has placed enormous stress on both me and my family. It has caused me to make critical errors in judgement, and candidly, feel more irritable and unhappy than I have ever felt in my entire life."
Young declined further comment. Bennett referred Ad Age to a letter the nonprofit sent out on Friday, which details how the nonprofit plans to move forward.
"Yesterday, in a special meeting of the Board of Directors and officers, Nathan Young resigned from his position as president of 600 & Rising, after careful consideration and deliberation with the Board members," 600 & Rising said in a statement.
The nonprofit said it would be "taking the next 30 days to reassess, with the intent that 600 & Rising becomes an advocacy community led by the signatories—Black talent and non-Black allies—that works for the interests and with the input of all involved, moving forward."
"This mission is too important to structure an organization around it in an inadequate and inappropriate way," 600 & Rising wrote.
As part of the restructuring, the organization said Hold The PRess "will continue forth as a separate initiative." Hold The PRess is a group that recently launched in order to improve diversity in the PR and communications industry. 600 & Rising had announced it would be merging with the group last month.
"Ultimately, the initial goal of this movement was to leverage the collective power of the more than 3,500 signatories to spur the advertising industry to take decisive action in beginning to break down the systemic barriers for Black talent," the organization wrote. "In that, 600 & Rising was successful."
Voices of Black women
600 & Rising continued: "However, in the haste to keep the industry focused on diversity issues, the signatories were not provided a chance to give input and support for actions of the movement that reflect them. The Board members understand that this has not centered their voices in the movement, particularly those of Black women, who are the most marginalized among us."
600 & Rising said board members "will reach out to signatories, committed agencies, advisors and like-minded initiatives over the next 30 days, to truly collaborate on creating a better future." The nonprofit said it will be focused on "Leveraging the perspectives of Black talent and non-Black allies on how this advocacy group can better operate" that it will work on "collaborating with diversity, equity and inclusion leaders and organizations who can advance the efforts of the advocacy group" and that it will be "conversing with agencies regarding their questions and perceived hurdles in continuing to enact the 12-step action plan."
In the few months since its founding, 600 & Rising's #CommitToChange campaign has prompted a number of agencies and holding companies to share their diversity data—not just for overall staff, but also for leadership positions. Such information is crucial to holding the industry accountable on its promises to increase equity for people of color.
But late last month, the nonprofit stumbled for the first time when Young tweeted a criticism about the ADCOLOR awards, the advertising fete that has long celebrated the achievements of diverse industry professionals as well as work that has promoted diversity and inclusion.
“@ADCOLOR is an awards ceremony completely divorced from reality that sells the story that progress is being made on diversity in advertising and buys cover for holding companies,” Young wrote.
The tweet sparked blowback from the industry, including from ad professionals who credited their thriving careers to ADCOLOR. Young eventually apologized in a series of tweets: "I didn't make my critique of @ADCOLOR in the right way. It felt like an attack, and of all orgs, @ADCOLOR doesn't deserve that."
In his tweets announcing his departure from 600 & Rising, Young wrote that his role as president has "caused me to lash out at folks who didn't deserve it and transform into a person I did not recognize. My goal has always been to effect positive change in this industry and I cannot do that with a negative mindset."
He commented on the dissolving of the organization's current structure, writing: "This is what the movement always should have been and I am excited to see it grow."