AS HAVAS UK MARKS BLACK HISTORY MONTH, DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION MANAGER BUKOLA GARRY CHATS ABOUT WHAT IT MEANS TO BE BLACK IN 2020 AND THE PLANNING OF THIS OCTOBER’S THOUGHTFUL PROGRAMMING.
The celebration and recognition marks the incredible contributions of people of African and Caribbean descent in the UK and within Havas. Partnering with Blanguage (a creative agency currently housed at HKX), Bukola says this year’s Black History Month strived to identify what “to be Black is” to people across our network and beyond. The meaningful programming includes an exploration of what it means to be Black though a unique short film “Black Is,” a five-part Black British History lesson, and an informative Public Service Announcement (October 26) to guide engagement and allyship with our Black community at Havas. Here, Bukola chats about the planning process behind this year’s events and her hopes for the future of DE&I programming.
This year’s programming features a short film curated by Havas London, focusing on what it means to be Black in 2020 – what was it like to be involved in this project?
It’s incredible to be part of a project that is written, produced, directed and features black talent. This is not something that occurs very often within the mainstream creative industry, so it allowed for us to really explore the nuances of black culture and present an honest, unfiltered story.
Can you tell us about the process of planning this year’s programming and what were your main goals?
Following the events around the murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter protests, there was a lot of tension. While the opportunity was presented to have open and honest conversations about our different lived experiences, there was also a sense of discomfort and separation. The reality of racism, the consequences it presents in 2020, and the heaviness of it all made it important to me to use Black History Month to tell a complete story. To focus on the good, not just the bad. To inform about the past, present and future and invite everyone to be part of that journey as I think Black History Month is something that people who are not Black, find hard to connect with. I wanted to present content that allows everyone to connect and celebrate the contributions of Black people in Britain.
The programming includes a video series which explores Black British History. Why was this a good fit?
History is key to telling a complete story. Black British history is history. It should be told. History gives us a depth of perspective and understanding as well as context for the present and inspiration for the future. History grounds us and adds to our sense of belonging – something that is often missing for Black people in Britain.
This year your team collaborated with Blanguage on Black PSA, how will this part of the programming elevate this year’s Black History Month?
The idea behind the Black PSA (public service announcement) was to invite everyone to engage with the Black community, Black culture and to be a Black ally. It aims to evoke a response, encouraging those watching to be curious. It will be shared with the network on October 26.
How important is it that DE&I programming moves beyond months of celebration and recognition and what are your hopes for the future within Havas?
I think it is really important that we evolve past monthly celebrations/recognition, and instead be more conscious, considered and compassionate about the lived experiences of people different to ourselves. We should not see representation as a switch to be turned on and off. It should be a constant. DE&I is about humanity therefore we should celebrate, recognize and validate the voices, talent and contributions of everyone. Marginalized and minoritized experiences, should not be limited to a month. In fact, we need to redefine what is considered mainstream and be open to exploring the ways in which we all can contribute to the work we do. Most importantly we need to stay engaged with the journey of learning and remain invested in education.
What does it mean to you to be Black in 2020?
For me it means living out loud, not reducing my experience for the comfortability of others. To not apologize for my voice, my presence, my talent! Being Black, is to be part of a community that continues to shape and influence culture. It is also about using our collective voice to challenge injustice and to continue to call out racism. To not settle for less and be celebrated in all the different spaces we occupy.
Taking inspiration from the ‘Black is’ film, Havas UK is encouraging the black community within our network to share your perspectives on what ‘Black is’ to you. Please share a short video or written piece to @GB-HVS-HKX-Allin and at the end of the month, an exhibition of all your stories will be curated.