Have Asian Americans Done Enough for the Black Community?

Absolutely Not. Here's How to Make a Difference

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Bill Imada Bill Imada
Have Asian Americans done enough for the black community? Absolutely not. And I firmly believe this is true. It's a subject that most Asian-American advertising and marketing professionals and community leaders need to think about as we observe Black History Month.

In my last blog, I talked about brand ambassadors and brand advocates. In the Asian-American community and in the advertising world, these brand ambassadors needn't always be of Asian descent. And as my fellow blogger Alberto Ferrer aptly said in one of his blogs: You don't have to be Hispanic to do Hispanic marketing. This can easily apply to our market (and community) as well. Brand advocates and ambassadors in the Asian-American community may be of any race, ethnicity or nationality. And a broad range of African-American corporate and agency leaders have embraced the Asian-American community by being visibly involved in our causes and by being ambassadors to and for our institutions. These black leaders serve as our mentors; fight for more ad and media dollars for our market; support our nonprofit groups through active, decisive participation; push for greater minority business participation with mass-market ad agencies and major corporations; and won't abandon us when we are confronted with challenges revolving around immigrant and language rights, retention and promotions, racial profiling or hate crimes.

These black leaders embrace the Asian-American community without fanfare and recognition, and often work behind the scenes to ensure that Asians and Asian-American marketers and community leaders are given credit for their work.

It's time that Asian-Americans -- and all Americans for that matter -- recognize black Americans for all that they have achieved on our behalf.

But how?

Speak up knowing that your comments can and will make a difference. Mentor someone who'd love to follow in your footsteps. Agree to support African-American community and professional groups by being involved in key leadership roles. Teach others what we have learned from the black-owned agencies and from African-American professionals working in corporate America and within mass-market agencies. And embrace the black experience in America as our experience.

Carol Sagers and Shannelle Armstrong, director of U.S. Marketing and manager of U.S. Communications, respectively, at McDonald's, have both reminded me that the black experience in America shouldn't be celebrated in one short month, but throughout the year. African-American contributions to our country aren't solely for the benefit of the black community, but for all Americans, regardless of color, race, ethnicity, cultural heritage, physical ability, sexual orientation or gender. But clearly all of us could be doing more to ensure that we embrace all that has been shared with us by African Americans.

We should never forget that Asians and Asian Americans have advanced in this country largely because others have helped to pave the way for us. And the continuing struggle of black America in striving for greater inclusion, visibility, diversity and participation should be our cause, too. But not just for a moment. Or a day. Or even a short month. Our commitment must be real. Genuine. Transparent. Long-term. And fully engaged.

Now let me highlight a few of the unsung heroes in our community. Americans of African heritage that have crossed the ethnic divide to help people in our community advance, grow and prosper.

To these special people, I'd like to say thank you for sharing your experiences with us. And thanks for being there for all of us.

(L-R) Wayne Winborne, VP-business diversity outreach, Prudential Financial, and Julia Huang, president, Asian American Advertising Federation, at the Asian American Justice Center gala, Washington, D.C. Wayne Winborne serves on the AAJC Board of Directors.

(L-R) LaVerne Davis, former exec VP-external affairs, Verizon (ret.) with Tim McCallion, president-West Region, Verizon, at the Asian Pacific American Legal Center gala in Los Angeles. Ms. Davis is a former APALC Board Member and remains on the Executive Advisory Council.

(L-R) Nita Song, president and chief operating officer, IW Group; Wai-Ling Eng, chairman, Asian & Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund; Jon Iwata, senior VP-corporate communications, IBM; Marilyn Johnson, VP-market development, IBM; Sachi Koto, principal, Sachi Koto Communications at APIASF gala, New York. Ms. Johnson serves on the APIASF Board of Directors.

(L-R) Alvenia Rhea Albright, principal of Alvenia Rhea Albright & Associates and former global VP-diverse business partnerships and marketing, American Express, with J. D. Hokoyama, president and executive director of Leadership Education for Asian Pacifics, and Patricia Andrews-Keenan, VP-communications and community affairs, the Nielsen Co. Ms. Albright serves as a board member and board chair for LEAP. Ms. Andrews-Keenan served as host for the LEAP Board Meeting, Chicago.

(L-R) Randi Payton, publisher and president-CEO of On Wheels; Ted Fang, editor and publisher of AsianWeek; Marjorie Staten, executive director, General Motors Minority Dealers Association; Kenard Gibbs, group publisher, Ebony/Jet and president of Ebony/Jet Entertainment. Ms. Staten serves as a strong advocate for more minority-owned dealerships and has actively pushed for more Asian Pacific American-owned automotive dealerships.

(Center) Carol Jackson, VP-external affairs of Macy's West with community leaders at the APIASF scholarship reception, Seattle, Wash. Ms. Jackson serves on the APIASF Board of Directors and actively supports Asian and Pacific Islander Americans throughout her territory.

(Second from right) Kim L. Hunter, president-CEO, Lagrant Communications and the Lagrant Foundation, Interpublic Chairman Michael Roth (center) and Lagrant Foundation scholars at last year's gala in New York. Mr. Hunter founded a national scholarship program for minority students interested in pursuing careers in advertising, marketing or public relations/communications. The Foundation will celebrate its 10th Anniversary this year.

(R-L) Gloria Pualani, director-socio-economic business programs and government relations, Northrop Grumman, with Gordon K. Eng, Asian Business Association Board Member at the ABA gala, Los Angeles. Northrop Grumman and Ms. Pualani have supported the Asian-American community since 1976.

(R-L) Monetta Stephens, manager-supplier diversity, Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., with Linda Young, Asian Business Association Board Member at the ABA gala, Los Angeles. Ms. Stephens has been a strong advocate for Asian entrepreneurs and business owners.
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