Last year, when it became clear how devastating COVID-19 was in black and brown communities, Judy Jackson felt compelled to act.
The global head of culture at WPP reached out to friends in the industry, including Monique Nelson, president and CEO of multicultural agency UniWorld Group, and Deidre Smalls-Landau, chief marketing officer and executive vice president of global culture at UM. , to ask them: We do?
“I took a leap of faith and reached out to about 50 people and said, ‘let’s go on a Zoom call, identify what’s going on and explore what we can do together,’ Jackson said.
Little did they know this call would lead to the industry’s first interagency grassroots community for people of color, We All Rise Together, which officially launched on April 23, 2020.
“One of the things that excites us is finding ways to bridge the gaps between agencies and holding companies,” Jackson said. “We come together as people and leaders who are passionate about making a difference for our communities, and we are not beholden to the agencies of which we are a part. “
In June 2020, after the murder of George Floyd by police officer Derek Chauvin sparked racial calculation across the world, the momentum of We All Rise Together only grew. The group grew and began to explore ways in which marginalized communities within agencies could come together to heal and achieve inclusion and empowerment.
To achieve real results, We All Rise Together is organized around three pillars: health, led by Jackson; wealth, led by Nelson; and Mobility, led by Kai Deveraux Lawson, Senior Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Dentsu Creative. Smalls-Landau led the branding and communications work for the organization.
The group, which now has a distribution list of more than 150 people, holds monthly virtual meetings covering topics ranging from black music month to pride to mental health. Each meeting, open to all, is led by a different person and ends with a question-and-answer session and an update on the pillars of the group to ensure that people know how to tap into the resources and programs available. .
The pillars were chosen strategically to address the key areas where BIPOC communities have been most affected. The mobility pillar, for example, aims to help BIPOC employees to evolve in their organization. We All Rise Together has partnered with Circus Street to provide free training, and people also have the opportunity to be trained by long-term HR professionals.
“We try to be responsive to the community based on what we hear,” Smalls-Landau said.
The Mental Health Pillar uses therapists and other experts to lead sessions and create safe spaces for people to talk, with a particular focus on helping black women cope. disproportionate stressors of the pandemic. Past sessions have been held on the myth of the “strong black woman” and black love.
And the pillar of wealth concerns the economic empowerment of companies belonging to BIPOC. The group partnered with the nonprofit The Acceleration Project (TAP), which supports businesses in underserved communities, and this week celebrated its first cohort of graduates from 13 small businesses owned by BIPOC.
“The PPP went to a small number of Latino, black and brown businesses, which meant there was no bailout for our businesses,” Nelson said. “We want to level the playing field by giving people the support they need not only to survive, but also to thrive on the other side.”
Over the past year, We All Rise Together has grown through “old-fashioned word of mouth,” said Smalls-Landau, who has “always been the root of black and brown communities.” The agencies have mobilized to create a website so that more people can join the community and keep abreast of meetings, programming and other opportunities.
Because the network was started by three agency executives, senior executives have pledged their support to the group and often join the sessions. It got young people to “realize that we are all just people with different jobs,” Jackson said, and to tap into a place where they can make “connections. [with leadership] and work together to do good.
“There is no hierarchy,” she said.
Although We All Rise Together began in response to COVID-19, as the group maintains its momentum and grows, it seeks more formal partnerships with industry organizations to help accelerate opportunities for BIPOC employees. in the future.
“I was surprised at how much people needed a community,” Jackson said. “We’re going to be organic, let the community decide and meet their needs. It doesn’t stop.
Smalls-Landau added: “The [COVID-19] the virus will go away, but the virus that has been in this country for 400 years and continues to oppress will never go away in my lifetime. So we will always need a way for people to support their community outside of their turmoil. “