Column: Dear Black Girl With A Job

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By: Brook Ellis

I’m Brook, and I’m a Black girl with a job just like you! I’ve worked at major corporations, and I’ve worked at places where my paycheck bounced. I’ve seen it all, and I’m here to give you the “best friend” advice you need to thrive in the modern minefield that is the workplace. If you have a career question drop me a line at info@colorvisioncreates.com (I promise to never tell you to lean in).

Hi Black Girl With A Job:

 

I work in a small office full of white people and they always want to potluck for team lunch. I don't eat just anybody's food, plus the few times I tried, that sh*t was nasty. How can I get out of eating Becky's dry pasta salad once a month?

 

- Pass the Seasoning, PLEASE

 

 

 

Dear Pass the Seasoning, PLEASE,

 

Come on now, don’t be like that. I think you might be making a mountain out of a mole hill of dry pasta salad.

 

Imagine how you would feel if you worked in a majority black office and your one white co-worker didn’t want to potluck because all of the food was “greasy.” What if your office was majority Indian and the complaint was that the food was too “spicy.”

 Is this really about the food or are you uncomfortable socializing with your team due to their overwhelming whiteness? It’s understandable if informal food based activities make you uneasy. They can be awkward and turn what should be fun into a stressful situation.

 I would encourage you to embrace the awkwardness. Look at it as an opportunity for personal growth over a plate of “differently” seasoned food. Jokes aside, you should make an effort to not exercise bias towards your co-workers. Not for them, but for you.

 One of the best and worst things about the modern workplace is it’s ability to force us all to learn about people different from ourselves. As in all things, we seem to get forced to learn and grow more than everyone else, but knowledge even when not pleasant, is still knowledge.

 I get (more than your co-workers likely will) not eating “just anybody’s food.” This is a cultural norm in the black community. However, if you get to know your co-workers they won’t be “just anybody.” In time you’ll be able to discern who carefully sanitizes their greens, who mixes salad with unwashed hands, and who consistently serves dry pasta salad. After all, being an unhygienic cook has nothing to do with being white, it afflicts trifling people of all races.

 

So now let’s remove race for a moment.

 

Your co-workers may just be terrible cooks. It happens and no shame in it. Even if you aren't interested in eating anything being served, try something.  At the next potluck, load up on your own food and do “a taste” (a tablespoon serving) of anything that looks edible. Talk to your co-workers about what they made, how and why. If you get less than savory information, control your face, and make a mental note to skip their dish next potluck.

 

Black Girl with a Job

 

Uber Makes Beyoncé Even Richer

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By: Amadi Taylor 

The ride-sharing service, Uber recently went public. Meaning it is available for anyone to buy stock on the New York Stock Exchange. For investors, who were able to buy early, they’re sure to reap the benefits.

One of those investors is Beyoncé. According to Inside Edition, Beyoncé once performed at an Uber private party and instead of earning her usual estimated $6 million fee, she was given a small percentage of the company, which today could be worth $ 300 million.

More Uber money is flowing into the Carter household, Jay-Z has also been an early investor in the company since 2011.

In recent years, both have used their music to stress the importance of investment.

Rihanna Makes Fashion History As The First Woman To Create A Line with LVMH

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By : Amadi Taylor  

Even with the constant progression of the fashion industry, there are still a lot of “firsts”. Rihanna has announced her official fashion brand under the luxe fashion house LVMH. This makes Rihanna the first woman to create a brand under the LVMH name. The new line is going to be launched on the runway during Paris fashion week on May 22.

According to Business of Fashion, the singer-turned-designer explained that she developed the line “with no artistic limits," so the Navy should be prepared for this line to be unforgettable. The Fenty brand will also be the first fashion house since 1987 that’s been built from the ground under the LVMH brand.

Women's Wear Daily (WWD) gave further details about the Fenty line, noting that the line is “centered on Rihanna, developed by her, and takes shape with her vision in terms of ready-to-wear, shoes and accessories, including commerciality and communication of the brand.”

The domain name Fenty.com with its accompanying logo and a verified Instagram account already exist. Plus, anyone who wants to be updated on what's to come from the Fenty brand can already sign up with their email to be notified.

Barack and Michelle Obama Reveal Their Netflix Shows

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By: Amadi Taylor

AP/Shutterstock

 

Barack and Michelle Obama’s Higher Ground Productions announced their slate of programming with Netflix. They will be producing a total of seven projects, which includes film and television, scripted and non-scripted.

 

The Obamas launched Higher Ground last spring to create content that embodies the core values of celebrating the human spirit through struggles and triumph; facing adversity through resilience, determination, and hope; lifting up new voices and stories to bring about change; and transcending divides to bring us together. The projects selected are a reflection of these values and a commitment to quality storytelling. Higher Ground expects to make additional project announcements in the coming months.

 

"We created Higher Ground to harness the power of storytelling. That’s why we couldn’t be more excited about these projects,” President Obama said. “Touching on issues of race and class, democracy and civil rights, and much more, we believe each of these productions won’t just entertain, but will educate, connect and inspire us all.”

 

“We love this slate because it spans so many different interests and experiences, yet it’s all woven together with stories that are relevant to our daily lives,” Mrs. Obama said. “We think there’s something here for everyone—moms and dads, curious kids, and anyone simply looking for an engaging, uplifting watch at the end of a busy day. We can’t wait to see these projects come to life — and the conversations they’ll generate.”

 

Here are the seven projects, currently in various stages of development, that are slated to be released over the next several years:

 

American Factory

The documentary was acquired by Netflix in association with Higher Ground Productions out of the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the directing award for U.S. documentary. From Participant Media, the film is directed by Academy Award-nominated and Emmy winners Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert (The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant, A Lion in the House, Seeing Red). The acclaimed film takes a deep dive into a post-industrial Ohio, where a Chinese billionaire opens a new factory in the husk of an abandoned General Motors plant and hires 2,000 blue-collar Americans. Early days of hope and optimism give way to setbacks as high-tech China clashes with working-class America. The producers are Bognar, Julia Reichert, Jeff Reichert and Julie Parker Benello.

 

Bloom

The drama is described an upstairs/downstairs series set in the world of fashion in post-WW II New York City that depicts barriers faced by women and by people of color in an era marked by hurdles but also tremendous progress. Bloom is written and executive produced by Academy Award-winner Callie Khouri (Nashville, Thelma and Louise, the upcoming Aretha Franklin movie at MGM), from an idea developed by Khouri, writer-director Clement Virgo (The Book of Negroes, The Wire, Empire) and novelist and producer Juliana Maio (City of the Sun). Higher Ground Productions, Khouri, Virgo and Maio will executive produce the series.

 

Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom

Higher Ground is producing a feature film adaptation of author David W. Blight's Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom, for which he won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize in History. The New York Times called the book “an ambitious and empathetic biography of a major American life.”

 

Overlooked

The scripted anthology TV series is adapted from The New York Times’ ongoing obituary column of the same name, telling the stories of remarkable people whose deaths were not reported by the newspaper, Higher Ground is developing it as a scripted anthology series with producers Liza Chasin of 3dot Productions and Joy Gorman Wettels of Anonymous Content.

 

Listen to Your Vegetables & Eat Your Parents

The preschool TV series will be a half-hour entry from creators Jeremy Konner (Drunk History) and Erika Thormahlen. The show will take young children and their families around the globe on an adventure that tells us the story of our food.

 

Fifth Risk

From Michael Lewis, the best-selling author of The Big Short and Moneyball, and based on his book The Fifth Risk: Undoing Democracy, the nonfiction series will aim to portray the importance of unheralded work done by everyday heroes guiding our government and safeguarding our nation.

 

Crip Camp

This feature-length documentary film in production is supported by the Sundance Institute and was acquired earlier this year by Higher Ground and Netflix. Just down the road from Woodstock, in the early 1970s, a parallel revolution blossomed in a ramshackle summer camp for disabled teenagers that would transform young lives, and America, forever by helping to set in motion the disability rights movement. The film is directed by former camper Jim LeBrecht and Nicole Newnham. Producers include Newnham, LeBrecht and Sara Bolder, with executive producer Howard Gertler.

 

“President Barack Obama, Michelle Obama and the Higher Ground team are building a company focused on storytelling that exemplifies their core values,” said Ted Sarandos, Chief Content Officer of Netflix. “The breadth of their initial slate across series, film, documentary and family programming shows their commitment to diverse creators and unique voices that will resonate with our members around the world.”

CBS Exec Blasts Toxic Culture at Network in Explosive Letter

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In an article on Variety, former CBS Director of Entertainment Diversity and Inclusion Whitney Davis recounts an investigation that leads her to eventually quit her job.

Whitney Davis starts off by talking about a sexual-misconduct investigation with allegations against then CEO Leslie Moonves. Davis spent many hours with lawyers from the two law firms that we conducting the investigation and told her experience in hopes of shedding light on the diversity in CBS’s workplace. In the heart-wrenching two-hour interview, she talked about a workplace fraught with systemic racism, discrimination, and sexual harassment. After waiting for a follow-up Davis called the investigation hotline and was told via a recorded message that the inquiry was closed.

Davis discusses that the company has a white problem across the board. CBS doesn’t have one black creative executive working at CBS Television Network or CBS Television Studios. Out of all the network’s 36 creative executives – all upper management roles that deal with content development, casting, current production, daytime, and alternative programming — there are only three women of color, none black. There is not one executive of color working in casting at CBS. The one Latinx executive hired in casting last year lasted eight months and now works at Netflix.

Davis first started working in an entry-level position at CBS after college with the “CBS Evening News”. Many times she was confused with the other Black woman working there, Deidra. “In every job I’ve had at CBS, co-workers have confused me with other black women in the office, as if we’re interchangeable.” A lot of harassment and sexual jokes made towards her by senior employees went unchecked because she didn’t want to lose her job.

In 2009, Whitney tells of when a white female colleague used the N-word in her presence. She was advised to talk to a senior executive in the news division. Her response was to have thicker skin.

In the summer of 2011, Whitney was one of three employees accepted to CBS’ newly launched Emerging Creative Leadership Experience — a two-year program that identifies and develops future creative executives at CBS Entertainment.

From December 2011 through December 2013, she was mentored by execs in casting, drama development, daytime, current programming, and marketing. In every meeting she attended in those departments, she was the only black person and often the only person of color. Nothing had prepared her for the lack of diversity she encountered in the entertainment division. In fact, there was not one black creative executive at the network. Today, the only black female executive at CBS Entertainment oversees diversity and inclusion.

At the completion of the program, she was promoted to manager of CBS Entertainment Diversity and Inclusion — an important department that creates opportunites for emerging talent in front of and behind the camera, but a non-creative role. During her time in Diversity and Inclusion, Whitney and her boss were the only black CBS Entertainment executives.

In 2016, CBS announced the CBS Drama Diversity Casting Initiative in response to the backlash received about its nearly all-white programming. Casting execs searched the nation for fresh talent, selecting 12 performers of color. The actors came to L.A. for a week of workshops, meetings, and studio-shot screen tests.

In late July, Davis took a medical leave and found the source of her anxiety and stress was from the toxic work environment she was in. She hired a lawyer and decided not to silence her voice and that her integrity, voice, and experience were worth more than the money CBS was offering.

Whitney hopes that her story is a cautionary tale for companies to value the talent and contributions of people of color and those from marginalized communities in the workplace. A diverse workforce is an asset to any company — we make you stronger and more profitable. Davis hopes to make create a lasting change in the industry.

A CBS spokesperson has responded to the claims made in Whitney Davis’ letter:

“During her time at CBS, Whitney was a valued team member of the News and Entertainment divisions. She was selected for a management-training program, promoted several times, and was given high-profile assignments. While we disagree with some statements in Whitney’s story, we take all employee concerns seriously and remain committed to improving the workplace experience for everyone.

“CBS leadership has made strengthening our culture a top priority. Over the past several months, we have announced plans to devote considerable resources to critical areas such as ethics, compliance, diversity and inclusion, and human resources, including creating a centralized employee relations function to respond to workplace issues. Employees are CBS’ most important resource, and providing them with a safe, fair, inclusive and positive work environment is paramount to our continued success.”

Two independent responses from Glenn Geller and Peter Golden.

From Glenn Geller:

“I have personally been a champion of diversity at CBS, both in front of and behind the camera. For well over a decade, I worked closely with both the writers program and the Directing Initiative. But I am most proud of my involvement with the Drama Diversity Casting Initiative. I conceived, spearheaded and shepherded the program, and was intimately involved every step of the way — from helping choose audition sides to set visits during the actors’ screen tests. For the record, I wanted to make deals with several actors. Ultimately, everyone has a boss who has the final word, and I was no exception.”

From Peter Golden:

“The claims and innuendos made about me by Ms. Davis are categorically untrue. Approximately eight years ago, Ms. Davis was a trainee in my department for the customary three- to -four-month period provided under CBS’ management training program. While it is certainly possible that I may have reviewed headshots in front of Ms. Davis, her claim that I systematically dismissed diverse actors is patently false. In addition, and contrary to her assertions, the Comedy Diversity Showcase has resulted in numerous guest and series regular roles on CBS shows for the participants. Throughout my career in casting, I have always been a vigorous advocate for all actors. Ms. Davis’ implications are completely contrary to who I am personally and professionally.”