More Seats at the Table
A Panel on Being Black in the Media Industry
Date: Feb. 20, 2021.
To celebrate Black History Month at Guelph-Humber, Maya Marcus, the 2020-2021 Media Studies academic program representative, organized More Seats at the Table: A Panel on Being Black in the Media Industry, for Feb. 24.
Marcus and Media Studies Program Head Kathy Ullyott chose four media professionals to represent everyone in the Media Studies specializations.
I had an interview with Maya Marcus before the event, to talk about how she organized this panel to show students that they are represented and can make it in the media industry.
Christen Wong: What was your process for planning this panel?
Maya Marcus: I work alongside Kathy, the Media Program Head, all the time. The two of us were in conversation one day and we had dialogue about the fact that Guelph-Humber wasn’t really doing anything for Black History Month. I thought that maybe we should try to make a point and try to do something. I discussed with Kathy a while back about bringing in more guest speakers of colour in our classrooms, so that students feel represented and see themselves in these industries. Kathy and I decided that a panel would be our best bet and we chose four great panelists.
Christen Wong: What you’re doing is great, especially as a student. How are you
Maya Marcus: I’ve been helping Kathy plan it out and have been giving her a student’s perspective for this event as well. I’ve been connecting with people to try and make things happen. I’ve never moderated an event before, so it’s kind of nerve wracking, but I’m looking forward to it! Kathy understood that I have been busy with a lot on my plate right now, but she wanted me to take the reins on this because it’s an opportunity to try something new, and I love that she gave me the opportunity.
Christen Wong: Why did you plan a panel for Black History Month?
Maya Marcus: The event More Seats at the Table: A Panel on Being Black in the Media Industry came out of my own experience and speaking to Kathy. I felt very underrepresented in the media industry and I honestly couldn’t see myself working in it, because I didn’t see faces that looked like mine. It’s an opportunity for someone who is Black, they can see themselves; they are represented and they can make it – despite feeling like maybe they don’t belong. For anyone else who is a minority, they can also relate to many of the things that these women will probably speak about on this panel. And for anyone who is not BIPOC, they’ll definitely be able to understand a little bit more of what other people have to go through.
Christen Wong: How did you choose the panelists?
Maya Marcus: At first, we didn’t know exactly who to feature on the panel, but Kathy and I were dabbling with the idea of Guelph-Humber alumni. Kathy had sent me a list of media professionals that might work out for the event, and we ended up settling on four panelists. We wanted to use women for this panel because black women are probably one of the most underrepresented groups in the media industry, so we wanted to put a focus on them.
Christen Wong: I was reading the pdf for the event and I noticed that you picked women for every specialization in the Media Studies program.
Maya Marcus: We picked them because they have varying backgrounds in their field and wanted to have a range of people, so everyone has a chance to relate to something that they have to say. That’s the beautiful thing about Guelph-Humber Media Studies; it’s so diverse, there’s so many different fields, backgrounds and interests that people have and areas they want to work in. I think being able to provide four different perspectives for four different industries within media will be amazing and bring a lot to the table – no pun intended!
The panelists are: Danielle Murray, a compositor for visual effects and animation with Wildbrain Studios in Vancouver, Charmain Emerson, a strategic communications executive and consultant, as well as the co-founder and communications lead for the Black Opportunity Fund, Takara Small, a journalist, host, producer, technology columnist, contributor to CBC News, entrepreneur and speaker, and Sharlyn Carrington, an award-winning creative communications strategist, and the director and founder of Content Strong Communications.
You can read more about these panelists on the More Seats at the Table: A Panel on Being Black in the Media Industry event page.
Christen Wong: What do you want people to take away from More Seats at the Table: A Panel on Being Black in the Media Industry?
Maya Marcus: I want those who attend the panel to take-away that they are welcomed, learn how to be better allies and learn how to create spaces for people that maybe don’t look like them and care about situations that may not affect them, but still matter.
Christen Wong: How is Guelph-Humber Media Studies ensuring that there are more seats at the table?
Maya Marcus: I will admit, before, I personally didn’t feel like Guelph-Humber was doing enough, when I started at this school. When we started, it was back in 2017, but slowly, I saw that Guelph-Humber is trying to bring more inclusivity to the table and do events that are more inclusive for all different backgrounds and I love that. Yes, all of the students might not feel represented all of the time, but you have to make the effort. I think the fact that they are making the effort to do events like this, it’s so important. I feel as though all the professors and staff are trying to make an effort to make a diverse group on campus, whether it be clubs or jobs available. I think they have been making that effort, but it needs a little bit more of a push. Of course, there is always more work to be done, but this event contributes to Guelph-Humber’s start-off.