The BLACK paPR Report

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PR from an African American Perspective

Color Vision

colorbars2My colleague, Jonnice Slaughter, principal of Chatterbox Publicity in Atlanta called me at 1 a.m. last Saturday morning. She took a big risk but a worthy one to wake me up more ways than one. Jonnice asked me if I’d seen the recent NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) report, OUT OF FOCUS-OUT OF SYNC TAKE 4 (December 2008). I hadn’t read it and within seconds I jumped out of bed to turn on my laptop and hunt the report down.

Jonnice knows a few things about me that prompted that telephone call. She knows I have an interest in mass-mediated images of African Americans, an interest that fuels my vision as a PR consultant and publicist. I taught the subject for a number of years and have synthesized information on stereotypes and the history of blacks in media in such a way that I have no choice but to pay attention to what we see and hear in American popular culture. She also knows that I have a favorite client, Hadjii, who recently had his sitcom, Somebodies, canceled on Black Entertainment Television (BET), which was hurtful to me because I believe in him and I believed in the images represented in that program. 

Now I am pretty smart, but Jonnice is smarter. She said, “This is your time to begin a movement.” At 1 a.m., I didn’t feel particularly revolutionary but I listened and one of the points she made is that this is not the first time in the 100 year history of the NAACP that it addressed what is still clearly a problem – images of African Americans. Wasn’t the movement essentially founded on our lack of representation? And the most compelling point she made was that it’s time to change our representation and images permanently.

That’s when I woke up.

The end result was the beginning of a movement: Color Vision. Jonnice is my co-creator of the Facebook group Color Vision and she is my co-conspirator in the movement. LOL So far, there are 40 members in the group and these members represent many facets of media from journalism to broadcast to publishing to music and acting. And these members are joined by media consumers, smart and savvy people, with a voice.

Color Vision will become a regular section in this blog. In the coming weeks guest contributors will share their thoughts on the many issues related to this topic and the report.

Watch these videos from 1981 that lend a historical perspective on the topic of mass-mediated images of African Americans and documents just how long this issue has been a problem.

Filed under: African Americans, Color Vision, Mass-Mediated Images, Stereotypes, Uncategorized, , , , , ,

That Bad Eartha

Sexy she was and sexy she will forever be known …

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On Christmas day, I was stunned to learn that the incomparable Eartha Kitt had passed away. Seconds before reading a status update on Facebook memorializing her, I’d just listened to Miss Kitt sing Santa Baby. Talk about ironies, not merely that I’d just heard the song she was probably most famous for, but that she’d die during a time when the song would be most played and heard. (Funny how we remember the people who die on Christmas like James Brown and Gerald Ford, as if we would ever forget them.)  

 Miss Kitt will never be forgotten. She not only represents the end of an era, where sexy was a good thing – part subtle and classy – but also for her image as an African American woman in the entertainment industry. Few people will not know her name; I think it’s safe to assume she was a “household” name, easily recognized across racial and socio-economic borders but also across national and international borders. Will Beyoncé ever achieve the same type of icon status of an Eartha Kitt?

 Would Beyoncé be willing to stand on a chair at a White House luncheon and loudly proclaim her dissatisfaction with presidential policy and the war in Iraq? Would she refuse to perform in places known to practice discrimination? Would she endure being blackballed and CIA-investigated for her views?

Probably not, but Beyoncé probably wouldn’t have need to or impetus. And she most likely wouldn’t have to fabricate a story of being born out of the rape of a black woman by a white man like Miss Kitt did.

Miss Eartha Kitt is the product of the Hollywood machine era, when lies and illusions helped build careers and make millions of dollars for entertainment moguls. Miss Kitt’s image was crafted by both illusion and lies and we bought that image. Eartha Kitt the sexy ingénue was every bit as sexy in her latter years. And every bit as memorable.

“I do not have an act. I just do Eartha Kitt.” ~ Eartha Kitt (1927- 2008)

 

Filed under: African Americans, Mass-Mediated Images, Uncategorized, , , , , ,

Contagious

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Patrice Hale's YouTube page

Social media PR is indeed hot, but it’s proving to be the wave of the future in PR and publicity practices. It’s as simple as connecting the dots between various computer technologies and social networking forums.

However, I won’t oversimplify it in this space, but I will share that I’m incredibly impressed with the way some celebrities and even businesses are using social media to build brand loyalty and followings.

One of the most impressive uses of social media use was during the presidential campaign process by Barack Obama’s campaign. Brilliantly, they engaged (a primary rule of social media) a legion of voters and supporters by sharing (a primary purpose of social media) information on social networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace. Moreover, they utilized their own Web site in a manner that included live streaming video (Ustream), events pages and blogging space for supporters. And the most talked about use of social media was the 3 a.m. cell phone text message announcing Barack Obama’s choice for vice-president.  

Barack Obama Campaign Twitter Page (note the followers/following)

Barack Obama Campaign Twitter Page (note the followers/following)

 

Celebrities such as CSI: NY’s Hill Harper utilized social media to promote voter literacy and rights, as well as to record video messages urging people to vote.

I had an opportunity to talk to Jason McCall, a special director for the Obama campaign, whose job it was to recruit celebrities to not only support the now president-elect but to also use social media to promote voter registration and voting. Here is a sample of his projects for Vote for Change

Lately, I’ve seen some really interesting projects on Facebook using the virality of social networking while engaging “friends” in a meaningful dialogue. 

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Terri Vaughn

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Royale Watkins

Actress, producer Terri Vaughn’s use of vlogging or video blogging is absolutely brilliant. Terri is transparent and she actually engages by talking directly to her viewers about life as a black actress in Hollywood, motherhood and about future projects. You can find my favorite vlog by Terri here.  Actor-comedian Royale Watkins produces a vlog, My Life Online, which is also smart and incredibly funny. What I love about Royale’s vlog is that while he’s funny he taps into serious subjects and gives us another side of a comedian’s life.  It’s rare to see a comedian in a multidimensional way, My Life Online is indeed a multidimensional view of Royale. I love smart anything and these vlogs are truly smart in terms of engaging fans/supporters, attracting fans/supporters, and my favorite thing of all – bringing the publicity. Of course, they are also useful for career transitioning and image change. According to the hundreds of comments Terri and Royale receive, their vlogs also help them appear “real” to people. In later editions of my report I will discuss what happens when a vlog goes wrong, really wrong.  

Patrice Hale, a Facebook friend is also attracting a lot of hits to her page as well as friends and supporters. Miss Hale, a screenwriter, who possesses the charisma of a Sherri Shepard and the wit and intelligence of a scholar. Yes, she’s that smart but she’s incredibly funny tackling a serious topic (again one of my favorites) – the lack of black images on broadcast/cable prime-time shows. Here’s Patrice’s infamous and viral vlog:

If there’s anything to learn from these projects it’s imperative that the relationship between the user and the producer of vlogs and other forms of social media is a two-way relationship. The hotness factor in the above was the openness of all to receive and acknowledge feedback, which in turn engages an exchange. It just doesn’t work when you talk at a user. 

Best, Robin

robin@thejstandard.com

 

 

 

Filed under: African Americans, Mass-Mediated Images, New Methods, Social Media, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

In the White House But Still Not On The Sidelines

Lack of African-American Coaches in College Football Still Shocking

Commentary/Blog Post on BlackPower.com, November 11, 2008

Reprint Permission by Terrance Harris


coach-largeThe United States of America just elected its first African-American president.
 
Now, if only college football could be as open-minded.
 
Last week the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports at the University of Central Florida released a report saying that black coaches in major college football are at the lowest numbers in 15 years. Let’s just hope a lot of money wasn’t put into this study because the numbers are obvious.
 
With the ouster of Tyrone Willingham at Washington and now Ron Prince at Kansas State, the number of African-American head coaches at the Division I-A or NCAA Bowl Subdivision level has dropped to four among 119 member schools. Talk about insulting.
 
It’s even worse when you take into account that 55 percent of all student athletes at these schools are minorities. Even with an African-American man in the Oval Office, the old saying that we’re good enough to play but not good enough to coach still rules in major college football.
 
Dr. Richard Lapchick, who co-authored the report, offered a couple of interesting solutions to solve the gap. In 1997, there was an all-time high of eight African-American coaches at college football’s highest level. Today, there are just four. The last time the numbers were worse was in 1993, when only three black men held Division I-A head coaching jobs.
 
Lapchick suggests that the NCAA adopt a rule similar to the Rooney Rule in the NFL, which mandates that a minority has to be interviewed for every head coaching vacancy. At the NCAA level, it would be known as the Eddie Robinson Rule as tribute to the late, ground-breaking Grambling coach.
 
Good idea, but very problematic to institute at the collegiate level. Rich white boosters often control the purse strings and haven’t seemed comfortable turning their beloved football programs over to people who look like the players. Then you can’t forget that the NCAA does not exert the same control over its member schools as the NFL does over its teams and players.
 
But this is a serious problem that might require radical measures to solve.
 
How about if the parents of perspective student athletes became a little more proactive and decided not to allow their children to consider those universities that aren’t inclusive in their hiring practices? The information is easy to obtain from the Black Coaches Association. Heck, why can’t the best athletes stock the football programs of our HBCU’s? Trust that the cameras and coverage along with NFL scouts would follow. Just ask Steve McNair and Jerry Rice.
 
My guess is that if white schools lost out on some of the top athletes, who ultimately elevate programs into lucrative BCS paydays, that would get their attention.

 

I remember several years back when Hall of Fame tight end Kellen Winslow and his son (Kellen Winslow, Jr., now a tight end with the Cleveland Browns) had it out on national television on football signing day. Pops wasn’t about to sign any letter of intent to a school that didn’t have an African-American in a position of leadership, either as a defensive or offensive coordinator.
 
Already this year, high-level jobs like Clemson, Tennessee, Washington, Purdue and Kansas State have opened up. Several names are being thrown about. But no African-American coaches seem to be in the mix.
 
Guys like Notre Dame offensive coordinator Mike Haywood and Texas Tech defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeil should be at the top of many lists. But sadly they aren’t.

~Terrance Harris

terrance.harris@chron.com

Terrance Harris is a sports columnist for the Houston Chronicle.

Filed under: African Americans, Ethics, Mass-Mediated Images, Sports PR, Stereotypes, The Black Pro Athlete, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , ,

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