Reflecting on Black History Month at Viacom, it’s hard to ignore all the fascinating content and talked-about moments both on-air and at our headquarters in Times Square. From historical past to present, our networks paid tribute to the black experience, celebrating the contributions of African-Americans to American history with engaging programming and employee-led discussions about diversity in the entertainment industry.
BET showcased a range of rich programming from the network premiere of Free Angela and All Political Prisoners, a documentary about the life of activist and intellectual Angela Davis, to the annual BET HONORS event celebrating the achievements of Aretha Franklin, Berry Gordy, Ken Chenault, Carrie Mae Weems and Ice Cube. Viewers also tuned in to watch the premiere of the four-part VH1 docu-series “The Tanning of America: One Nation Under Hip Hop” based on Steve Stoute’s best-selling book examining how hip-hop became a dominant force in mainstream American culture.
Viacom’s Office of Global Inclusion and The Beat, the company’s employee resource group for black employees, coined the theme “Be Inspired,” organizing employee panels, networking events and screenings. For its “Future of Black TVE (TV Everywhere)” discussion, employees talked about creating content for the the growing number of platforms from television, to mobile to film and more. Writer, Director and Producer Malcom D. Lee, the force behind the popular “Best Man” films, filmmaker Stacey Muhammad and entertainment attorney/author Nathan H. Williams shared their thoughts with BET’s EVP of Corporate Market Research, Matthew Barnhill.
The Beat also brought Vicky Free (EVP & CMO, BET Networks) and Caralene Robinson (SVP Creative and Consumer Marketing, VH1) together to lead “A Conversation Between Marketers.” These two industry titans are creative forces and personal friends, and they led a conversation and Q&A about their careers, leadership and essential tips for effective mentorship.
Vicky Free emphasized the importance of capitalizing on those brief mentorship moments with executives, surrounding yourself with a strong team and learning from those around you.
“Leadership isn’t about having the right answers,” Free said. “It’s about knowing the right questions to ask. Leadership starts with listening.”
Listening is a key component for mentor/mentee relationships but in response to a question about the difference between a mentor and a sponsor, Robinson added, “A mentor is someone who isn’t afraid to hurt your feelings.” The audience leaned in and listened intently not only to their candid career perspectives but also their vast experiences marketing to different audiences, building campaigns and making emotional connections to market ideas.
Bridging the appreciation of history, the contributions of significant African-American leaders and the forum created for relevant industry discussion made this Black History Month a memorable one for our viewers and employees behind the content.