The 11th annual ADCOLOR Conference opened in Los Angeles on Monday morning with two major themes: the historic, diverse Emmy wins from the previous night, and the challenge of marching forward as a nation under President Trump.
During the opening remarks, Tia Beauchamp, founder and curator of Tia Life Media, set the tone for the conference. "Now we have to be woke with intent. We have to be woke with a desire to activate," she said. "Because it’s not enough to be woke and talk. We have to be woke and do."
Alencia Johnson, director of constituency communications for Planned Parenthood celebrated last night’s historic Emmy wins for Donald Glover and Lena Waithe, in the annual "Moments that Changed America" panel discussion. But she and others on the panel weren’t so quick to conclude that the Emmys has fully progressed from #OscarsSoWhite. Sean Spicer’s appearance and "joke" about viewership ratings was a case in point.
"You can boast about diversity," Johnson said, "you can boast about inclusion, but you can’t do it at the same time as you’re giving a platform to people who are literally terrorizing our communities."
Panel moderator Don Lemon, news anchor and journalist for CNN, asked panelists what the current president can do to better his own platform. "[He needs] to stop playing into the ‘basket of deplorables,’" said Brian Ellner, general manager of corporate and public affairs for Edelman. "I think that there are a lot of working class Americans who voted for Trump because they were really hurting in good faith, and they blinded themselves to the racial things he was saying."
Eboni K. Williams, co-host of "The Fox News Specialists" and host of WABC Radio followed up on the point saying, "Maybe not all Trump supporters are racist, but all racists are Trump supporters."
Bing Chen, vice chairman for the Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment and founder of Bingdom, touched on the challenge the resistance to President Trump’s agenda has ahead of it. "The emotional [factor] is ‘bad is stronger than good.’ The aversion to good things and evil are unfortunately more powerful than optimism and positivity. And the number is actually a 3-to-1 ratio. You literally need a 3-to-1 ratio of positive to negative affectation to neutralize the negative affectation."
The topic returned to the Emmys, and the television and film industry as a whole, with panelists touching on the recent increase in representation. "How else would middle America see this room? It’s through television and film," Johnson said. "The reason ‘Insecure’ is doing so well is because middle class millennial black women haven’t really seen themselves on TV. This is how we’re normalizing conversations in these rooms. There are people in America who may never interact with people who look like us."
"The majority race in Hawaii looks like me. It’s Asian," added Chen. "So if you’re not going to pay lead actors of the dominant race in the place you are filming, of the place you are filming, equal pay for equal work, you’re not going to get away with that," she said, referencing issues of pay that led to the resignation of two Asian-American actors from "Hawaii Five-0."
"YouTube will set you right. Facebook will set you right." Ellner agreed, pointing to Jeffrey Tambor in "Transparent." "I think he plays it well, but I think you could have found a transgender American to play the role."
Looking forward, panelists had advice for ad agencies as well as those in the spotlight. "I want to encourage more and more brands and CEOs to speak out on the issues of our time," said Ellner, "because we have no leadership in the White House."
Johnson referenced Colin Kaepernick’s recent activism. "He inquired to a veteran, ‘How do I respectfully show my protest?’ And a marine told him to take that knee. So he’s doing it right."