As we celebrate Black History Month, let us remember the trailblazers who have come before us, the ones who fought for Black Freedom of thought. And let us also recognize the ongoing struggle for power and liberation as we continue the push for change.

There is a fine balance when it comes to writing a Black History Month article on behalf of your company, and it’s something I can say a lot of us can relate to, even just in the day to day of our work.  

You’re either going to say too little, making you feel as if your article is THE one that says ‘everything is all good’ because it’s easier to not create too many ripples. Or you can bring reality to the forefront, and make people (who’ve hired you, worked with, or want to work with) potentially uncomfortable in the process. And while there was a three to six month period where many people opened themselves up to being vulnerable and uncomfortable talking about race, it feels that time has passed… yet we remain.

A lot has happened in the last three years and yet, it really feels like nothing has really happened at all. At best, we seem to still be having the same conversations about the same things, just with a few new fancy words to talk about it with. At worst, we as a collective seem to have accepted the status-quo with this idea that it’s never going to change and have adjusted our expectations about what can be. 

Post-summer of 2020, there were many calls to get ‘The Right People in the Room’. While that was a good start, the push needs to be about giving people the space and support to have their voices heard and shared… because what does it matter if you’re in the room, if no one passes you the mic. 

Brands have captured a special place in our society, positioned as symbols that both reflect the norms and expectations of people, but also provide glimpses into what our society could be. Brands and organizations can provide the pressure and direction to what we consider acceptable and expected. And sometimes we forget that it’s not the brands that‌ do this, but the people who are empowered within those brands to help move and push us to where we want to be. 

I have been in meetings with clients who have missed out on potential opportunities and valuable insights because they have not been willing to get out of their own way and listen to the Black people on their team. Not just vague ‘opportunities’… but millions of dollars ignored because of ego and the unwillingness to listen and learn. 

Yes, companies (and brands) have made a ‘commitment to diversity’… but you’ve been in these meetings, how different does it look at your company? How different does it look at your client’s company? Or the agencies you partner with? And when the budgets get tight, we see which priorities are the first to fall to the wayside. 

The Marketing and Market Research and Strategy industry lacks diversity, but over the past few years I have been blessed to meet and work with some spectacular individuals: 

  • Cynthia Harris
  • Dwane Morgan
  • Porché Nance 
  • Malc Miller
  • Patricia Raspberry
  • Whitney Dunlap-Fowler

I have worked at many places, and one thing that makes The Sound feel special, and special in a way that makes our work better, is the openness in which the people who work here approach life’s questions. It was the openness to challenge who was being represented in the research that helped me establish myself as a researcher here, and it is that same openness to feedback about the lack of diversity that has kept the door open for Black market researchers who are up next. 

  • Nynena (check out their experience here, or below!)
  • Jolai
  • Wendell (check out their experience here, or below!)
  • Jeremy

As I reflect and grow in my own career, I think about the ways that I am continuing to hold the door open for those who come behind me. To think about how I could have been better supported and apply those learnings to those around me.

Here’s to growth.

Written By:
Issa Braithwaite

Issa has over three years of consumer insights and product management experience. He has spent years understanding consumer behavior, as well as the relationship between individuals and brands. For him, it's about exploring the infinite space in between the unseen that excites him. Understanding the behavior, attitudes, and motivations that draw people to products and brands is why he loves The Sound. Issa has degrees in Finance and Behavioral Economics from Ohio University, as well as an MBA from the University of British Columbia.

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