REBECCA COLON-MARTINS, HR GENERALIST AT HAVAS MEDIA, BANDED TOGETHER WITH COLLEAGUES TO CELEBRATE THE LATINX COMMUNITY ACROSS HAVAS NORTH AMERICA AND MARK HISPANIC HERITAGE MONTH WITH MEANING.
Here, Rebecca talks about the celebration and its programming which focused on the Latinx community at Havas and recognized the incredible contributions and influences of Hispanic Americans to the US.
Why did you feel passionate about marking Hispanic History Month?
I am Afro-Latina so I’m very passionate about the Latinx culture. Growing up, I always had to fight to let people know I’m not just black, I’m Hispanic too. I speak Spanish and I speak Portuguese because of my parents. My father is from Puerto Rico and my mom from Brazil. My family on both sides are black. All my life it has been very hard for people to believe I am Latina.
In Havas, I noticed we were celebrating certain months like Black History Month and Pride, which have so much meaning. But there are other communities within Havas that are equally as important to celebrate and bring awareness to. I work in HR and one day an employee approached me and asked me if we could celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. She read my mind!
The programming was all organized by a newly formed Latinx Group across Havas North America and your own group Somos Unidos (We Are United) in Havas Media Boston. How did you come together to work on this project?
After the idea was sparked, I connected with Ashley Boone (Talent Management Associate at Havas) in New York and she said that the community there were equally as passionate about having programming of events that represented the Latinx community in Havas.
We then connected with Havas Chicago who also had employees interested in highlighting the community. We ended up banding together and creating something meaningful. We were also lucky to have the support of Patrick Kelly (Senior Vice President at Havas Media Group in Boston) who was our executive sponsor and really helped guide us. Briana Comerford (Specialist, Marketing and Communication) also was so important in helping us communicate all the events across NA.
The main marking in the celebration was a panel discussion with Telemundo, Pandora and Havas about representation and meaningful media. What did you take away from this event?
The goal of the programming was to say that we are here. To say that we have representation within our agency. We wanted to teach people that this is what a Hispanic or Latinx person can experience in their day to day lives, both personally and professionally.
During the event with Telemundo and Pandora, we really dived into what meaningful media was to their organizations and how they represent the community on their platforms. It was very beautiful.
Afro Latinas like me aren’t really represented very well in social media or movies or anything of that nature. Nidia Serrano, the Audience Marketing Director at Pandora chatted about that a lot, as she too identifies as Afro Latina. It’s not often you see people of our skin tone saying that we are Latina as well. It’s breaking the stereotypes. Conversations like this and representation on television and music allow people who are Afro Latina to say I can do what she’s doing! It’s beautiful to see the different beauties of what a Latinx person can look like and I think it’s been stereotyped for so long so many people are not aware of it. We are out here and the more awareness there is, the more it will grow.
The programming also included a virtual salsa lesson with renowned dance instructor Thomas Sosa. Did you have a good time?
I just came from the salsa class so I’m a little out of breath! It was super fun. I grew up dancing salsa and it was nice to have people from across the NA offices come together and dance together, it is so significant to our identity. Everyone dances a little differently! For example, in Cuba they go a little lower when they’re dancing, and in Puerto Rico, they love dancing salsa a little more fast–paced. In Dominican Republic, they dance a more romantic kind of salsa. It was cool to be able to bring everyone together like that!
Was it cool to see people connecting through the program?
It’s been amazing! We were thrilled that more than 150 people attended our panel event, and it was so great seeing so many different representations of our community at events like the Agave Happy Hour and the salsa class.
The connection has been very special. Firstly, connecting with everyone across the offices to plan and execute this event was such a meaningful experience. At the panel event I told everyone I was Puerto Rican and Brazilian and after, someone pinged me from Republica Havas in Portuguese! Through this we’ve connected with the DE&I committee, Elena Grasman and Jorge Plasencia, it’s great to have an ally like that who understands you.
What are your hopes for the future of DE&I programming?
I would love to get to a point where we aren’t just celebrating months like Black History Month or Hispanic Heritage Month, but that awareness and representation are just built into the core of Havas.
We have big plans to extend this beyond just one month a year. Our goal is to continue these conversations, it is something that should be talked about all the time.
On a personal level, it means everything to me. Representation like this makes me feel less alone. It connects me with people I can reach out to who can relate to what I have to say. The fact that I can talk about going to family gatherings and dancing salsa with my dad and someone can relate, it’s very important.