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The Question Remainz

“Where are all the Black people?”

It began at a Goodby Silverstein & Partners party in the 1990s, where it landed with the piercing impact of a Richard Pryor joke. It was followed by a seemingly innocent yet woefully ignorant question at a diversity summit earlier in the new millennium. With these two moments in time, it was becoming increasingly apparent that the advertising industry — already saddled with an old boys club reputation beneath its veneer of unbridled creativity — had a diversity problem, especially as it related to Black employees and leaders.

To address and combat the problem, we at The One Club for Creativity presented a panel discussion in 2011, named after that very same question: “Where Are All The Black People?” Why, despite being a driving force in our nation’s creativity and culture, were Black people few and far between in an industry that taps into that very culture? Later that year, that panel became a conference that grew in popularity in scope. Where were all the Black people? They were at our annual gathering, demanding to be seen, to be respected, to have their seat at the table. In fact, in 2013 we dropped the W and renamed the conference a declarative “Here Are All The Black People.” From inspirational keynotes to portfolio reviews to recruiting booths, Here Are All The Black People brought agencies and brands together with rising stars, industry veterans, and aspiring dreamers, and all was right in the world.

Wrong.

Here we are in 2020, ready to put on the tenth year of this series in the middle of a pandemic, and what has really changed? The murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and too many others have forced us to look into our institutions and find them lacking. Companies who had long been trumpeting their inclusiveness now scramble to add Black staff that they should’ve had all along — trust us, some of those agencies even contacted us for hiring help in the weeks following the initial protests.

If we were to pull a Netflix’s Luke Cage, who named its first season episodes after old Gang Starr joints, you could call this one “The ? Remainz

The question does indeed remain. Where are all the Black people in creative? Where are all the Black people in strategy? Where are all the Black people in accounts, in media, in production, in leadership roles beyond the diversity departments? Unfortunately, they’re not much more visible than they were in 2011 when we started this, and that leaves us incomplete as an industry.

This is why, for our milestone tenth edition of this important event, we are returning to our original name, Where Are All The Black People? The initial question still has not been addressed. This is no time to sit on the sidelines, or to hide behind hollow platitudes. This is a time for us at The One Club for Creativity to look introspectively, correcting our own imperfections as quickly and decisively as possible as we ask the same of the industry we love and support. This is the time for action and equality, both in the advertising industry and in the world it occupies. Only then can the question “where are all the black people” become a statement again.