Up Close and Personal with Mara Brock Akil

Chanel J Cathey 1 by Chanel Cathey, Viacom

Cori Murray and Mara Brock Akil at Viacom

As part of a series of events celebrating Black History Month last week, Viacom’s The Beat and HERE partnered to present “A Conversation with Mara Brock Akil.” After an early screening of this week’s episode of BET’s Being Mary Jane, Essence’s Entertainment Director Cori Murray sat down with Mara Brock Akil, the creator and executive producer of hit TV shows “Girlfriends,” “The Game” and “Being Mary Jane” for an hour of what felt like honest girl talk with Viacom and Essence employees. Brock Akil shared her personal take on navigating the entertainment business, her creative process and deep passion to bring beautifully flawed characters to television.

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An ‘Inspired’ Black History Month

Chanel J Cathey 1 by Chanel Cathey, Viacom
Vicky Free and Charalene Robinson lead the “Conversation Between Marketers” panel

Vicky Free and Caralene Robinson lead the “Conversation Between Marketers” panel (Photo: Sterling Batson)

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.

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Diversity Chiefs Confer at NAMIC, Look Forward to 2043

Chanel J Cathey 1 by Chanel Cathey, Viacom
 Marva Smalls EVP, Global Inclusion Strategy, Viacom & EVP, Public Affairs and Chief of Staff, Nickelodeon Group with Dr. Addie Perkins Williamson, President and CEO, Perkins Williamson Associates, Inc.

Marva Smalls EVP, Global Inclusion Strategy, Viacom & EVP, Public Affairs and Chief of Staff, Nickelodeon Group with Dr. Addie Perkins Williamson, President and CEO, Perkins Williamson Associates, Inc.

Cable led a successful diversity week in New York City this month, from the Walter Kaitz Foundation Dinner co-chaired by Viacom’s Philippe Dauman to the 27th Annual NAMIC (National Association for Multi-ethnicity in Communications) conference in Times Square.  NAMIC’s theme this year was Vision 2043: Inclusion. Inspiration. Imagination.  I caught up with NAMIC Board Chair, Michael Armstrong, SVP and GM of BET International & Paramount Channel VIMN, to learn more about the theme’s significance and the highlights from the two-day conference.

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SEE YA, DOMA! Reactions From Across Viacom

Sawyer by Mark Jafar, Viacom

The Supreme Court’s decision today to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act was met with cheers and tears, hugs and high fives across Viacom.

When the ruling came down, several members of Emerge, Viacom’s LGBT employee affinity group, were in a breakfast meeting with Philippe Dauman, Viacom’s President and CEO.  Dauman regularly holds breakfast meetings with employee groups to discuss the company issues of the day, particularly in regards to diversity and inclusion.

We also caught up with several of those members of Emerge afterward for their reactions to today’s historic decision:

BrandonWhen we all heard the news this morning, the whole conference room cheered.  I know that we have a long way to go toward full marriage equality, but this was a very important milestone, and I am so proud of the community and those who have fought so hard.

– Brandon Grabowski, Senior Manager, Shopper Insights, Nickelodeon Research and co-chair of Emerge




Today is a fantastic day for the LGBT community.  So very happy for all my friends whose marriages will now be recognized on the federal level. This is a huge step in the right direction. I am also very proud that I am able to share this moment at work and have the ability to be so open about it since Viacom is such an inclusive work environment. Amazing day. 

– Michael Armstrong, Associate Producer, Ad Sales Production, Viacom Music Group, and co-chair of Emerge, pictured at left with Edie Windsor, the plaintiff who challenged the federal law





SHANNON_TRAVISThis is a truly exciting time for the LGBT community because now our marriages will be recognized nationally pushing us closer to equal rights!

– Shannon Travis, Manager, Content Distribution and Marketing





RickandMattYesterday my husband and I celebrated our third wedding anniversary.  On our first anniversary, the NY state legislature voted to pass marriage equality.  This year, although a day after our anniversary, the Supreme Court ruled that DOMA is unconstitutional.  I couldn’t be prouder to be a part of this time in history, and the dates of these significant landmarks in gay history will always share a special meaning to me and my husband.


-Matthew Vidal, Senior Counsel, Business and Legal Affairs, Nickelodeon Digital Media, pictured above (left) with his husband Rick

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Analysis on SCOTUS DOMA Ruling from Viacom Legal

Daniel Mandil by Daniel Mandil, Viacom Legal

Today’s Supreme Court ruling in United States v. Windsor striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) as an unconstitutional deprivation of the equal liberty of all persons guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment is welcome and gratifying for our company – it’s the result we hoped for and worked to achieve. We’re very pleased that Viacom could play a role in ensuring that all Americans who marry have equal rights under the law.  Our core values embrace a deep respect for diversity and inclusion, which includes the position we took in Windsor: if state law permits same-sex marriages, the federal government has no business impeding the rights and entitlements of such couples.  As Viacom and 277 other employers said in the amicus brief submitted to the Supreme Court:

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Viacom Walks in World’s Largest AIDS Fundraising Event

388736_1837133763245_2104730954_n by Breanna Farquharson, Viacom


Viacom’s AIDS Walk Team joined approximately 30,000 committed participants for the 28th annual AIDS Walk in New York City’s Central Park this past May.  Braving the rain showers – walkers completed the 10-kilometer walk to benefit the leading AIDS organization, GMHC and more than 40 other dynamic AIDS service organizations throughout the tri-state area.  Recently wrapping up an extended fundraising push the team raised over $19,000.   Read More

Parents Speak About Autism, ‘Colored My Mind’ Film

Chanel J Cathey 1 by Chanel Cathey, Viacom

Holly Robinson Peete and Sakeena Irish, Leader of The ParentHood, Viacom’s Working Parents Affinity Group.

Viacom’s Office of Global Inclusion, The Parenthood, SOMOS, and The BEAT partnered to host an inspiring film screening and panel that successfully moved the silence around autism and encouraged the difficult dialogue about what it’s like to parent a special needs child. The audience was treated to a screening of the short film, Colored My Mind, which stars Blair Underwood and Nicole Ari Parker as parents coping with their son’s autism diagnosis. The screening was followed by a panel with the film’s director and BET Sunday Best producer Nia Hill and the film’s cast LaDonna Hughley, Donna Hunter, Tammy McCrary and Shannon Nash. The panel was moderated by actress, author and autism advocate Holly Robinson Peete.

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Viacom Gives Back, Gets Down for Hurricane Relief

Valerie Wire by Valerie Wire, Viacom

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‘Tis the season of giving, and Viacom’s Office of Global Inclusion kicked the season off right this year with its third annual Give Back & Get Down celebration, an organized company-wide collection drive culminating in a huge party. Leading up to the event, which was a collaborative effort of Viacom’s six Employee Affinity Groups, collection boxes to benefit Hurricane Sandy relief efforts were set up across all Viacom locations in NYC.

A week and a half later — the day of the party — there was plenty of reason to celebrate: the groups surpassed their goal of 22,000 pounds of items by then, and made plans to send out another truckload of items. Read More

Office of Global Inclusion Heads to the UK

Kate Larkin Laverge 2 09 by Kate Laverge, Viacom International Media Networks

Viacom UK marked its ongoing support for diversity and inclusion last week as a delegation from Viacom’s Office of Global Inclusion traveled to London to introduce Employee Affinity Groups (EAGs) to our 900 employees based in the UK.  Employee Affinity Groups are groups of employees who come together voluntarily to establish more visibility for their identity group and/or constituency. Read More

Office of Global Inclusion Hosts Multiracial ‘Streetcar’ Cast

whit5a[1] by Whitney Anderson, Nickelodeon

The Office of Global Inclusion hosted a discussion with the cast of "A Streetcar Named Desire."

To cap off its multitude of Diversity Month events, Viacom’s Office of Global Inclusion hosted a discussion with the multicultural cast of the latest production of Tennessee Williams’ classic Pulitzer-winning play, A Streetcar Named Desire. The session gave us an inside look at their experience with the revival of the literary and theatrical masterpiece.

“It made sense to bring in the cast of Streetcar because they epitomize diversity at its core and are champions for inclusion,” said Juan Herrera, VP of the Office of Global Inclusion. “With BET as a producer for Streetcar we were also glad to support a business initiative.” Read More