Today, thousands of employees across Viacom and its brands pause from their work week and join together to make a difference in our communities around the world. Viacommunity Day 2018, now in its 22nd year, puts the full weight of the company behind social causes through volunteerism led in partnership with non-profit and civic advocates.
With employees in 25 countries participating, it’s a truly global tradition, underscored by this year’s theme of All Good All Around.
To celebrate Viacommunity Day, employees will take part in a wide variety of charitable activities, from educating young people and providing professional legal guidance to beautifying public spaces and assisting those in need, among other acts of giving. Viacom and its partners have organized more than 125 projects worldwide.
“Viacommunity Day brings out the very best of our organization to help better the communities where we live and work, and to make a positive impact for the many audiences we serve,” said Viacom President and CEO, Bob Bakish. “It’s one of my favorite Viacom traditions – one that I look forward to every year – and it embodies the values that define our culture in a truly meaningful way.”
To get updates about Viacommunity Day 2018, follow #ViacommunityDay on Twitter and Instagram.
Here are some examples of Viacommunity Day projects occurring across the company this year:
BET is in tune with what African-American viewers want: high-end drama and comedy, along with more refined reality and hard-hitting investigative documentary series.
On Wednesday, April 17, BET announced its upcoming slate of programming for 2018-2019, which will include all-star talent and a dramatic increase in original content.
“Creating powerful, engaging and provocative content has been BET Networks’ legacy for decades,” said Connie Orlando, Head of Programming, BET Networks. “With the increase in our original programming slate for 2019, we’re committed more than ever to telling the most compelling and authentic stories about the Black experience.”
Paramount Pictures’ Boomerang has boomeranged back from Viacom’s deep library
Eddie Murphy’s 1992 film Boomerang is being modernized into a 30-minute comedy series, which BET will partner with Paramount TV to produce. The show mines evergreen themes from the OG film like office politics, shown through the lens of today’s culture. Expect to see plotlines develop around gender roles and the relationship between Gen-X and millennials in the workplace.
When Time: The Kalief Browder Story debuted last March on Viacom’s Spike (now Paramount Network in the U.S.), it recounted the youth’s tragic incarceration and helped mobilize the movement to shut down New York City’s notorious Rikers Island prison. Now, the Peabody Awards, which salute compelling and crucial forms of digital storytelling, have nominated the six-part miniseries in its Documentary category.
Browder was 22 when he committed suicide after spending over three torturous years incarcerated on Rikers Island for allegedly stealing a backpack at age 16. His trial was repeatedly delayed until charges were dropped. He left prison with crippling PTSD—which ultimately led to his death by suicide.
Viacom celebrated Women’s History Month with events and activations throughout the company, including a global cross-brand collaboration for International Women’s Day on March 8, and employee events (including an employee Art Exhibit) sponsored by HERE, Viacom’s resource group for women.
Women’s History Month is especially fascinating at a creative company like Viacom, as different brands and divisions offer bespoke contributions to honor women’s achievement.
Take, for example, Nickelodeon’s Culture & Digital Community team in Burbank, which collaborated with their in-house archives team to curate and create a selection of digital content for the Nick Animation social media pages to honor women in Nickelodeon cartoons throughout March. Selections of their work are highlighted below.
Charlotte Pickles by Alison Loccrichio | Nick Animation
This one, created by intern Alison Loccrichio, sketches a magnificent portrait of her “favorite boss” Charlotte Pickles (who was indeed a boss; I can’t recall a single episode of The Rugrats where she was not dressed in a power suit with a ‘90s-era cell phone permanently attached to her ear), as part of a Women’s History Month series, “featuring pioneering Nickelodeon animated characters”:
Yes, Charlotte Pickles was truly a pioneer.
Grey Griffin Voices Lola, Lana and Lily from the Loud House | Nick Animation
Here’s another, featuring Grey Griffin, the actor who gives voice to Lola, Lana and Lily on The Loud House. “There’s always room for talented people,” said Griffin. “Don’t let anyone discourage you by telling you what a ‘small world’ it is. I mean, it is a tight circle, but if you’re good enough, the circle will widen!”
This is a fairly acceptable way to address teammates, regardless of gender. Right?
Well, it’s complicated.
In March, Viacom’s Talent Acquisition team invited employees to an event called Building Empathy and Awareness: Lessons from the Transgender Community. The session, which was held at both Viacom’s Times Square and Los Angeles offices, was a poignant exercise in reflection and understanding helmed by diversity consultants Marnie Florin and Kevin Perry. The event, which was aimed toward recruiters and hiring managers, broke down some of the issues and terms that are vital to understanding the transgender community: intersectionality, gender dysphoria, pronouns and advocacy, among others.
Viacom is a safe space, but how can it improve?
Florin and Perry explained further: Viacom scores 100 on the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) index for workplace protections, including having trans-inclusive health benefits and diversity training (such as Lessons from the Transgender Community). However, the company is always seeking to improve its diversity and inclusion efforts.
“This is a victory for equality, for the LGBT community, for businesses at large, and for common sense.” – Rick Baker, Senior Vice President of Business and Legal Affairs, on the successful ruling to protect LGBT workers under the Civil Rights Act. https://t.co/Zee03sDOFkpic.twitter.com/XRV3mYKCRy
Viacom is a longtime supporter of LGBT rights in the workplace.
At the New York session, Florin and Perry solicited questions from the audience about Viacom policies and overall TA best practices when it comes to hiring trans employees. Some situations, they explained, can still be difficult, even at progressive companies like Viacom.
As a cisgender woman, the following situations are not difficult: showing my ID at the desk when welcoming a guest; enjoying perks like the Wellness Studio workout classes; taking advantage of on-site massages or hairstyling; flying for business travel; using the restroom.
But for trans employees, these are situations that can cause anxiety, depression or downright terror.
Florin and Perry didn’t take too much time pointing out blind spots like this. Throughout the lecture they offered myriad facts and lists, but let the audience know that they could find more information online. The goal was to re-orient us to see our work lives through the eyes of a trans employee, and help us align ourselves to be an ally.
Viacom’s latest consumer insights include confronting discrimination in the US, what makes global kids flourish, American teens driving change, kids and sports in Australia, and who global teens trust. As always, on our blog you can find these and all our stories in English, Latin American Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese.
“How can the country that elected Donald Trump president be the same country that rates hip-hop as the number one mainstream genre?”
This is the question that opened Viacom’s Hype & Influence panel, moderated by Marketing Strategy’s Brooke Ozaydinli and featuring MTV’s Wanda Coriano, BET Music & Talent’s Bianca Edwards, and rapper Maliibu Miitch. The exploration of the state of Hip-Hop in today’s culture was a Black History Month event organized at the company’s Times Square headquarters by The BEAT (Viacom’s employee resource group devoted to the African-American experience), the Marketing Strategy team, and the BET Music Meeting.
“It’s not surprising,” Edwards said to Ozaydinli’s opening question, “because hip-hop thrives in environments with oppression and adversity.”
The Hype & Influence panel built on a video series of the same name, created by Viacom’s V By Viacom platform to explore cultural trends. The first edition, featuring BET’s Connie Orlando, 300 Entertainment co-founder Kevin Liles, and Miitch explored the same themes as the panel, which opened with a viewing:
Here are a few other highlights from the afternoon, from thoughts on the authenticity of Cardi B to the power and potential perils of hip-hop:
“People are used to everything being cookie-cutter”
Miitch addressed why she thought people connected with Cardi B, whose Bodak Yellow video has been viewed nearly a half billion times on YouTube. “People are used to everything being cookie-cutter,” she said, “but with an artist like Cardi, who doesn’t filter herself, people connect with her because she says out loud the things that people are thinking.”
Sparking a love of music
Coriano grew up in The Bronx hearing hip-hop on the streets, forming the foundation of her love for music across genres. “Living in the Bronx, hip-hop was my music and it was the music of that time.”
Maliibu Miitch and members of her Atlantic Records management team at the Hype & Influence panel, held at Viacom’s Times Square headquarters in honor of Black History Month. Photo by Pound & Grain.
Should children listen to hip-hop?
During the event’s question-and-answer portion, I sparked an extended debate when I asked about the relationship between kids and hip-hop. Miitch argued that parents do a lot of things in front of their kids that could be deemed worse than what artists rap about. “People rap about their truth and it’s not something to hide from children,” she said.
Coriano made the point that kids don’t always understand what is being said, and sometimes just like a song because they can dance to it or it has a nice beat. You can keep kids away from that sort of music, or give them a censored version, since many elements of hip-hop can be educational – she pointed to Logic’s 1-800-273-8255 or Kendrick Lamar’s songs about Injustice.
Much of artist Karen Margolis’s work embodies duality. Her series on cartography involves layering stacks of old maps, then using a soldering iron to burn holes into the textual landscape: in her words, “generating something new from what was lost.”
Margolis mined her college journal entries to source inspiration for a series called Emotion Flow Charts, repurposing words from what she describes as “rants and dreams…interspersed with deeply poignant moments.” She matched words such as “angst,” “sorrow” and “self-doubt” with a bold color swatch arranged according to numerical Pantone (aka those cards you pick up at the hardware store when you’re trying to choose a paint color).
Margolis described them as “Encrypted self-portraits.”
“They’re revealing and concealing at the same time.”
I left the Forum about two hours ago (7 p.m. PST) and it’s finally setting in that the KCAs are over. And to be honest, I was a bit relieved — not that the event was over, but that I had successfully made it from New York to Los Angeles, to pre-parties, to the press tent (I got lost twice), to the Orange Carpet and finally to my seat.
John Cena gets slimed. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)
As I was live blogging, my goal was to try and keep my “live” coverage to a minimum — a paradox, I know. But as any child of the internet age knows, you can’t truly experience anything if you’re trying to document it in real-time. I’ve made this mistake many times in life — professional and personal — and the lesson is, you retain much more about whatever’s happening in front of you if you focus your attention on what is in front of you, not at your phone or notepad.
On Friday, March 16, RuPaul Charles werked his way down Hollywood’s Walk of Fame in one of his dashing tartan suits and trademark glasses. The entertainment icon and LGBT advocate was finally cementing his status as a Hollywood legend, with a gleaming bronze star.
RuPaul is not only the newest member of the Hollywood Walk of Fame, he’s the only drag star to be inducted.
“This is absolutely the most important moment in my professional career,” said RuPaul in a speech at the ceremony.
Actress Jane Fonda introduced RuPaul, telling the crowd that he deserves a star at least three times the size of anyone else’s, to match the colossal contributions he’s made to entertainment and society at large.
“Behind the glamour, behind the drag queen is a man of great depth, incredible intelligence and compassion,” said Fonda.