Viacom’s Corporate Amusement Park Offers a Thrilling Ride for Interns

Interning at Viacom feels like visiting an amusement park, only better… and with pay.

At an amusement park, there’s something for everybody: steep, butterfly-inducing rollercoasters; games with prizes; fireworks illuminating the night sky – hundreds of smiling faces enjoying every second, constantly exploring and soaking in the moments. When you finally head home, you reflect on your adventures and how rewarding they have been. Later that night, struggling to fall asleep, all you can think about is going back.

Working within the walls of the skyscraping Viacom headquarters at 1515 Broadway in New York City left me with these same sensations. I spent 10 weeks of my summer in Viacom’s Campus to Career program, interning more than 500 miles away from my home in North Carolina, and my only wish is that I could stay longer. From the first day on the job, top talent, thought leaders and Viacom employees continually fueled my inspiration to succeed.

The view from the cafeteria deck, overlooking Times Square from the seventh floor of 1515 Broadway. Photo courtesy of Ariana Wiggins.

The first thing that stood out: the building’s amazing interior design. Each floor has its own personality, city views and unique decorations. My cubicle was down the hall from a set of lockers seen on Victorious and the Bottle Bot featured on iCarly, two of my favorite Nickelodeon shows growing up.

Sitting at that cubicle, I had the time of my life. As an Office of Global Inclusion intern, I helped coordinate Employee Resource Group events, exposing me to the experiences of different communities represented throughout the diverse Viacom family.

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Exploring the Trump/Hip-Hop Conundrum at Viacom HQ

“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.

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A Viacom Employee Panel: Staying Healthy and Positive in the Social Media Age

With the emergence of social media as a source for news, it is little surprise that it has also become a social activism platform. But how do you know which movements are credible? Do you fact check news before believing it? Where exactly is social media taking us?

These were only a few of the many questions discussed at the Activism in Media Panel in honor of Black History Month, organized by The BEAT – Viacom’s employee resource group dedicated to the African-American experience – at the company’s Times Square headquarters.

Kimberly Renee Selden, content producer, educator, and founder of The Global Media Project, moderated this conversation among four influential media voices, each of whom shared a background in media and a common drive to pave the way for others.

The panelists:

Charles Coleman Jr. is a civil rights attorney who established E.D.G.E, a movement focused on inspiring the next generation of leaders and creating more positive examples of manhood for young men.

 

 

 

Eunique Gibson Jones is a content creator, director, and speaker who develops campaigns that ignite conversations and introspection. She also founded Because of Them We Can, a movement that empowers the next generation to honor the legacy of their ancestors.

 

 

Nantasha Williams is a well-respected political strategist, social architect and community engager, who successfully played a role in organizing the enormous 2017 Women’s March.

 

 

 

Steven Roberts is a director of video for MTV News, who helped re-establish the brand’s voice with a new generation of engaged young people.

 

 

 

 


Social Media Activism: The Pros and Cons

Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or Snapchat have obvious upsides – giving voice to the voiceless, quickly disseminating information, providing optimal platforms for engagement – but the panel also uncovered some of the downsides, including the spread of disinformation, the cultivation of short attention spans, and a lack of true depth from so-called “engagements.”

Gibson Jones elaborated on a real-life consequence of short attention spans: “Last February, I ran a campaign for Because of Them We Can. On February 1 we like to kick it off for Black History Month, but at the same time our video went up, Beyonce announced that she was having twins!”

The lesson: do not underestimate the importance of strategic timing to the success of social media activism.

Viacom employees with the panelists after the Activism in Media panel at 1515 Broadway in New York City in honor of Black History Month. Photo by Natasha Nieves.

The Power of Positive Storytelling on Media

When creating a movement, it is important to stay positive and consistent, to maintain the mission, values, purpose, and story of that movement and keep people engaged and motivated.

“The stories that we tell and how we tell them have a direct impact in terms of our own self- image as well as our images around others,” said Coleman Jr. “Those in the creative process have a tremendous power to shape narratives. My personal goal and what I am currently working on is creating a platform to reconstruct the narrative of young men of color, so that they can see themselves in higher power, and know that their goals are attainable. Positive stories are visualization, and visualizations become reality.”

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Viacommunity Hosts a Screening of Selma in Honor of Black History Month

On Feb. 21, 40 high school students from New York City and neighboring public schools made their way to Viacom’s Times Square headquarters to celebrate Black History Month with a screening of Paramount’s critically acclaimed Selma, a crucial film about the African-American experience.

Viacommunity hosted the event, which featured members of The BEAT, Viacom’s employee resource group focused on the African-American experience, on a post-screening panel. To coordinate this celebration in honor of Black History Month, Viacom worked with nonprofit organizations The Opportunity Network and Sports and Arts in Schools Foundation (SASF), which provide academic support to students from underserved communities.

Selma depicts Martin Luther King, Jr.’s fight for equal voting rights during the Civil Rights Movement, a momentous part of American history. Paramount’s re-telling of this visceral moment encapsulates the spirit of Black History Month.

Students and Viacom employees at a screening of Paramount Pictures’ Selma in honor of Black History Month – Photo by Esthefania Rodriguez

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Viacom Explores August Wilson’s Pittsburgh with Broadway Cast of Jitney

In January 2017, the late August Wilson’s play Jitney made its Broadway debut. A period piece set in the late 1970s, the play is about gypsy cab drivers in an African-American Pittsburgh neighborhood. Despite the city’s economic slump, these drivers are thriving and making an honest living—all because regular cabs at the time did not want to service black neighborhoods.

Like Fences—Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize- and Tony-winning play that evolved into Paramount’s Oscar-winning smashJitney provides an authentic portrayal of the African-American experience in a particular time and place. The characters are flawed, embroiled in racial tensions and poverty, yet their humanity shines through.

Jitney is part of Wilson’s Century Cycle, a collection of 10 plays set in historically African-American neighborhoods in Pittsburgh and Chicago throughout each decade of the 20th century.

To celebrate Black History Month, The BEAT (Viacom’s employee resource group focused on the African-American experience) hosted a panel discussion at Viacom’s Times Square headquarters with five Jitney cast members.

View the slideshow:

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Viacom Employees Unite in Global Show of Diversity and Inclusion

by Karla Melara, Viacom

When more than 60 Viacom employees from London, Los Angeles, Miami, Nashville and New York convened for two days recently at the company’s global headquarters in Times Square, they had more than just their employer in common. In addition to their day jobs, they are all dedicated leaders in the company’s Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), which work through our Office of Global Inclusion (OGI), to continually build an environment of inclusiveness. They had assembled in Viacom’s cavernous White Box event space for OGI’s first-ever ERG Leadership Summit.

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Give Back & Get Down Benefits Literacy & Education

by Chanel Cathey, Viacom
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(L to R): Marva Smalls, EVP of Global Inclusion Strategy at Viacom, MTV2’s Desus Nice (Guy Code), Pop star Alessia Cara (“Here”), Viacom’s President and CEO Philippe Dauman, MTV2’s The Kid Mero (Guy Code), and BET Networks CEO Debra Lee. (Photo: JenniferLGonzeles.com)

With the season of giving in full swing, Viacom’s Office of Global Inclusion and its Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) joined forces for the 6th annual Give Back & Get Down event at our Times Square headquarters. This gift giving initiative focused on education and improving literacy – encouraging employees from all corners of our New York offices to volunteer and donate books. Viacom employees and Nickelodeon in partnership with Random House collected 15,000 books for literacy organizations including: The Pajama Program, Books Through Bars, The Chris Canty Foundation, Literacy Inc. (LINC) and Jumpstart. Viacom President and CEO Philippe Dauman thanked the hundreds in attendance for their collaborative support and ushered in a celebratory, acoustic performance by pop star Alessia Cara singing her hit song “Here”.

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Action! Viacom Brands Unite Behind Spectrum Director Development Program

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Anna Mastro had managed to build a pretty impressive directing portfolio. Her reel included Walter, a full-length independent feature film starring Andrew J. West and Justin Kirk, as well as the short film Bench Seat, a film festival hit. Her credits also included spots for Cover Girl, MasterCard and NASCAR; award-winning music videos for Train, DJ Havana Brown and Victoria Justice; and a Royal Crush series of branded content for Royal Caribbean that earned tens of millions of views.

For all that experience and success, Mastro couldn’t break into the one genre that was especially appealing to her: episodic television. “Episodic directing, to get into, is extremely challenging,” Mastro said. “Even if you do one. I had done an episode of Gossip Girl, and then I did a movie, and it still took this program for people to give me more shows.”

Mastro finally got her chance when she discovered the recently launched Viacom Spectrum Director Development Program, which offers on-set job-shadowing of working Directors Guild of America (DGA) directors to a hand-selected coterie of women and minorities, who are vastly under-represented in the directorial ranks.

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Up Close and Personal with Mara Brock Akil

by Chanel Cathey, Viacom
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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

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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