Being Black in the Media Industry
Drop the code switch and advocate for more seats at the table.
That’s the advice given to University of Guelph-Humber students by a distinguished panel of professional Black women who spoke at a videconferenced event Feb. 24.
This 60-minute discussion, called “More Seats at the Table: A Panel on Being Black in the Media Industryfeatured journalist and media host Takara Small, media and diversity expert Charmain Emerson, communications strategist Sharlyn Carrington, and Danielle Murray, a compositor for visual effects and animation with Wildbrain Studios, who together tackled topics ranging from amplifying diverse voices, racial discrimination and thriving in a successful career.
Murray, a #GHalumni Class of 2015, recalled being excited about seeing someone that looked like her in the industry. She kicked off the event with this unequivocal statement: “There are many hidden industries that are hidden to Black people.”
Small, an award-winning journalist who was featured in WXN’s list of the 100 Most Powerful Women in Canada advised attendees to “never try to pigeon-hole yourself.” She never saw herself as a host and producer when she leaped at the opportunity to adapt and enhance her career by expanding her career options. She did not originally want to do this role but took a chance and now loves it.
Award-winning communications strategist Carrington addressed studies about the way Black people are perceived in the workplace based on unconscious bias which hinders their success. She admitted, “I did the code switch— ongoing and regularly. Now, my advice is to be authentically yourself.”
Emerson, co-founder and communications lead for the Black Opportunity Fund, is an advocate for inclusion and diversity in the workplace, serving on multiple boards including Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion and Soulpepper Theatre. She often found herself being the first Black person to accomplish things in the media industry and says, “I’m happy to be the first because I open the door and pull up all those who look like me.”
Media Studies Academic Program Rep Maya Marcus organized this event with Program Head Kathy Ullyott. Marcus said she was disheartened by the lack of Black representation within the media and communications industry, “Black women are one of the most underrepresented within the media industry,” Marcus told the audience of more than 40 people who gathered at the special videoconferenced event.
“These four women worked twice as hard to get where they are and now work to help other BIPOC have a fair chance at success,” Marcus said.