Nine Quotes From Viacom’s Code B.L.A.C.K. Executive Panel On Building A Successful Career

 

My parents were born in an era where there were no African-American astronauts or African-American women CEOs, but as a millennial, I am blessed to live in era where representation is constantly part of conversations.

When The Beat, Viacom’s employee resource group devoted to the African-American experience, hosted Code B.L.A.C.K.: A Panel of Black Executives as part of its wide-ranging Black History Month celebration, I was grateful to be able to sit in this room of insightful leaders:

Trudi Patrick, Moderator – Executive Assistant –Advanced Advertising

Kodi Foster Senior Vice President of Data Strategy

Nadja Webb – Senior Vice President and Deputy General Counsel of Business & Legal Affairs

Michael Armstrong – General Manager of BET Networks

Ericka Wright Tomlinson Vice President of Human Resources for BET Networks and Viacom’s Finance, Core Services, Marketing & Communications teams

While we discussed the challenges of corporate politics, we also joked about things like reading The Shade Room for news. Representation matters and being in a room with other people who care about seeing and hearing from black executives was just what I needed this Black History Month.

Overall, I learned a lot from these executives. Here are my 10 favorite quotes from the event:

Viacom employees at the Code B.L.A.C.K. executive panel. From L to R: Gerald Yarborough, Essence Dashtaray, Georgette Pierre, Trudi Patrick, Nadja Webb, Destiney Bishop, Michael D. Armstrong, Kodi Foster, Ericka Wright Tomlinson and Ezinne Kwubiri.

“In 2007, I had a boss who was a control freak and was very territorial over her work and typically gave me work to do and she would present it in meetings. An opportunity came to launch a huge project and present it to [former head of MTV] Judy McGrath. At the time of this meeting she was traveling. Despite the fact that I did all the work, she told me to postpone the meeting. I spoke to my mentor who encouraged me to present the project I had been working on. So, after going back and forth, I made the executive decision to present it. After presenting it in front of so many senior people, they complimented me and told me I’d lead the project. I thought I was going to get fired, but that was the pivotal moment that I decided that I would present it and ask for forgiveness later and it ended up working out. I could have been the quiet little black girl in the back or decided to step up and do it and I decided to just do it and after that project, I presented it, and ended up getting promoted, which led me to the position I am in now.” – Wright Tomlinson

“Working on Wall Street, I was working late one day. I happened to answer the phone in the area known as the pit, even though I usually don’t answer calls, but I ended up having to explain to a couple in Iowa why their life savings was gone. It was kind of heavy. I was a kid, looking at numbers on spreadsheets and not putting human beings behind the numbers. That was when it hit me, that I wasn’t doing something constructive to better the world, which I feel like we do here by delighting people with entertainment and I decided to change careers.” – Foster

“It took me a long time to understand that you have to have agency over your career. No one else is going to do it for you. I made a classic mistake of trying to always work hard and expect people to notice and lift me up and give me opportunities but it’s on you. You have to identify what you want. If you’re stuck, you have to first identify what you want or think you might like to do and second is to communicate that to the stakeholders involved.” – Webb

“I think being ‘stuck’ in your career is relative. There’s a difference between you’re stuck versus it’s just not your time. Some of us are ready for the next step almost immediately while others are in the same position for over 20 years. There has to be a level of self-examination. Appreciate where you are, are you achieving your goals, and if you’re ready for the next step and not because you think you deserve it. Determine what your ultimate goals are.” – Wright Tomlinson

“I think managing corporate politics is simple. While it can be difficult and political, the easy part is if you show up as your true and authentic self, you don’t have to remember when you’re faking it and when you’re being real. That doesn’t mean you don’t have to calibrate. Knowing the environment, you’re operating in, if you need to adjust your authentic self, the people around you will let you know.” – Armstrong

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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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Drink, Dance, Donate: How Viacom Gave Back and Got Down for the 8th Year in a Row

“Everyone on the left side of the room say, ‘Give back,’” shouted Viacom President and CEO Bob Bakish, addressing a constellation of nearly 200 Viacom employees and nonprofit partners, all gathered in the White Box at Viacom’s Times Square Headquarters one evening in early December.

Viacom President and CEO Bob Bakish rallies the crowd at Give Back & Get Down VIII during his opening statements. Photo by Emil Cohen.

“Give back,” the crowd roared.

“Now everybody on the right side of the room say, “Get down!’”

“Get down!’”

After this rhapsodic rallying cry, Bakish began his opening remarks for our eighth annual gala of goodwill: Give Back & Get Down.

“Every year, Give Back and Get Down reminds us to celebrate the qualities that embody the Viacom spirit: empathy and engagement for the communities in which we serve,” said Bakish, applauding our Office of Global Inclusion (OGI), Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) and Corporate Social Responsibility (Viacommunity) department for their concerted efforts in organizing such a festive and fruitful event.

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Viacom and One Africa Music Fest Host Employee Meet and Greet With Afrobeat Stars

Afrobeat exploded out of a combination of West African musical styles in the 1970s. From its original sounds exemplified by Nigerian multi-instrumentalist and bandleader Fela Kuti to the Nigerian, Ghanaian and South African artists blowing up the hottest radio stations and nightclubs across the U.S., Europe and Africa today, the Afrobeat movement is alive, well, and on fire!

The BEAT, Viacom’s black employee resource group, wanted to share the Afrobeat movement with its members and the rest of the Viacom family. On the eve of the second One Africa Music Fest in New York City, the BEAT hosted an Afrobeat listening session and meet and greet with two of Nigeria’s biggest Afrobeat artists.

(L to R) Praiz, Ezinne Kwubiri, Flavour Photo by: Oluwaseye

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My Mic Sounds Nice: Viacom and The BEAT Recognize Hip-Hop’s Innovative Women

My Mic Sounds Nice, a panel organized by the BEAT (Viacom’s employee resource group devoted to the African American experience) gave a shout out to the women fundamental to hip-hop’s success. Trell Thomas, VH1 Save the Music Foundation’s director of communication and talent relations, moderated the event at Viacom’s Times Square Headquarters.

The panel featured women who contribute to hip-hop in major ways: Jana Fleishman, EVP of Communication at Roc Nation; LaTrice Burnette, SVP of Marketing at Epic Records; Nadeska Alexis, Senior Editorial Producer at Complex; and hip-hop artist Roxanne Shante.

View the slideshow:

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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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