Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Essay 1782

The American Advertising Federation closes out Black History Month with this full-page ad running in USA Today. Hyping the Most Promising Minority Students Class of 2007, the AAF seeks to persuade recruiters to hire the graduates.

There’s a lot to question about this effort.

First, is USA Today really the best vehicle to reach the intended audience? Hell, the ad didn’t even appear in the Money-Business section.

People in the know realize better tactics would include direct word-of-mouth and professional networking. In the Life section of a national newspaper, the message will probably generate more head scratches than job connections.

The ad also features some (hopefully) unintentional copy quirks:

Collect the whole set! (Sadly, there are only about 50 figures available nationwide.)

Be the first on your block. (An admission that, especially if you’re on Madison Avenue, you’ll be the first to hire a minority?)

They’re the best in their class… If you’re a recruiter, you won’t find a better place to shop. (Potentially hurting the many minorities who weren’t lucky enough to be selected to join the MPMS program.)

Overall, not sure it’s right to position minority students as products to be purchased.

This execution, while a well-intentioned endeavor, is trying too hard. It’s another example of adpeople hoping to win an award via cleverness versus creating a solution that will be relevant, meaningful and effective.

[Thanks to makethelogobigger and copyranter for spotting the piece.]

Essay 1781

Royal silliness in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…

• Prince Charles became a royal pain in the ass for Mickey D’s when he declared the fast feeder should be banned. While visiting the Imperial College London Diabetes Center in Abu Dhabi to hype a public health campaign, he said, “Have you got anywhere with McDonald’s? Have you tried getting it banned? That’s the key.” A McDonald’s spokesman responded, “This appears to be an off-the-cuff remark, in our opinion. … It does not reflect our menu or where we are as a business.” The spokesman then probably snickered, “Besides, have you seen the guy’s wife — that says a lot about his tastes.” No word yet from the King at Burger King.

• Eddie Murphy may have stormed out of the Academy Awards show, but P. Diddy allegedly showed greater emotion. The artist allegedly punched some dude in the face at an after-party. According to the punchee, Diddy was hitting on the man’s girlfriend. When the guy stepped in, Diddy hit on him with a punch to the jaw. The man claims to have been severely injured — which means he’ll be putting on an Oscar-worthy performance for financial damages.

• The biracial daughter of the late Sen. Strom Thurmond believes Rev. Al Sharpton overreacted upon learning his ancestors were slaves owned by Strom’s relatives. The woman said, “In spite of the fact [Thurmond] was a segregationist, he did many wonderful things for Black people. … I’m not sure that Rev. Sharpton is aware of all the things he did.” Hey, maybe Sharpton’s eligible for inheritance loot.

• New studies by California researchers counter the beliefs that immigrants increase crime and job competition. The figures showed immigrants are jailed far less than native-born folks; plus, immigrants actually help to boost citizens’ wages. “The big message is that there is no big loss from immigration,” said one researcher. “There are gains, and these are enjoyed by a much bigger share of the population than is commonly believed.” Another researcher remarked, “There are grossly distorted perceptions between what people think about immigrants and the reality. … The old bromide that education is the way to reduce prejudice comes into play here.”

Essay 1780

Essay 1779

BHM2007: This ad seems to communicate that Black History Month is for Blacks only.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Essay 1778

Looks like Procter & Gamble is feeling generous during Black History Month. The following comes from the Associated Press…


P&G increases spending on ads targeted to black consumers

CINCINNATI (AP) — Procter & Gamble Co. is building on its decades-long tradition of targeting products and advertising to black consumers, hoping to tap into their growing spending power.

The consumer products giant spends at least six times more on ads in magazines and broadcasts aimed at a black audience compared with five years ago, and is expanding its roster of black celebrities who pitch moisturizers and razors.

Industry watchers say the company has been a model for advertising that features black faces and black families without stereotypes.

“Without question, P&G has to be seen as one of the companies that other companies pattern their behavior after,” said Ken Smikle, president of Target Market News, a Chicago firm that tracks trends in advertising for black consumers.

Cincinnati-based P&G featured a young Bill Cosby in a 1969 ad for Crest toothpaste and in the 1970s created a separate unit to develop marketing for an ethnic audience.

“It was the (population) numbers, combined with the cultural differences, that made it such an opportunity, and frankly such a necessity,” said Buddy Tucker, former head of the unit who left the company last year.

“I am proud to say that when we received some racist backlash from a small number of consumers over the 800 (phone) lines (for customer complaints), management stood behind us and remained committed to reaching out to ethnic consumers.”

Today, black spending power is approaching $800 billion yearly, according to the University of Georgia’s Selig Center for Economic Growth. P&G sees that as a promising source for its goal to increase overall sales by 5 percent.

The company recently hired Tiger Woods for an upcoming campaign to promote Gillette razors, adding to celebrities such as actresses Angela Bassett for Olay lotions and Queen Latifah for Cover Girl makeup.

The company also tweaks the ad message, and products themselves, based on research into black customers’ preferences.

It added flavors to Crest Whitening Expressions toothpaste and scents to Gain detergent because research showed blacks and Hispanics want more scents and flavors. It touts the ability of Olay Definity cream to smooth skin tones for black women, while it’s marketed as an anti-aging cream for white women.

“It’s imperative that I see African-American faces in those spots, but it needs to be more than that,” said Sallie Elliott of North College Hill in suburban Cincinnati, a promoter for a leadership program honoring local black youth. “If it gets talked about in the beauty shop, then it’s on target.”

Essay 1777

BHM RETRO EXTRA: Two classic Ebony print ads.

Essay 1776

What Can Brown Do For A MultiCultClassics Monologue…

• Foxy Brown charges she was dragged off the toilet by a Florida beauty shop owner and picked on by police in her latest legal drama (see Essay 1720). “I was exposed from the waist down on the toilet. … I had to get dressed in front of a total stranger,” said Brown. “The only crime I’m guilty of is being a young black woman.” Um, Foxy is on probation for past offenses.

• Bobby Brown was ordered to stay in jail until he coughs up $19,000 in delinquent child support and court fees. “Although this agreement was put in place when he was Bobby Brown the star, this agreement is being enforced when he is not always able to find work,” said Brown’s lawyer, seeking to explain why the star has been unable to meet his financial obligations. “He hasn’t made an album in quite some years.” It’s tough being Bobby Brown.

• The New York City Council, seeking to draft a measure to discourage the use of the N-word, wound up using the slur about 50 times in the session. “If I had been the chair, I would have asked them not to use the word,” said the measure’s chief sponsor. “I was not pleased.” Before this is all over, Michael Richards may run for councilman.

• The New York Times reported that the demand for English tutoring far outweighs the supply. In large cities like New York, folks can wait for months — and even years — to get into government-backed classes. Maybe they should attend New York City Council sessions for practice. Click on the essay title above to read the NY Times story.

Essay 1775

The creative department of TBWA\Chiat\Day, NY staged a retro group portrait for the February issue of Creativity magazine — and wound up revealing a lack of diversity reminiscent of the Golden Age of Advertising.

Essay 1774

Not sure if it’s related to Black History Month, but Adweek invited Spike/DDB creative director Desmond Hall to serve as Best Spots guest critic.

Essay 1773

Essay 1772

BHM RETRO EXTRA: The King of Beers has been hyping the Great Kings of Africa since the mid 1970s. Maybe Bud could contemporize things by integrating Don King.

[Click on the essay title above for a Black advertising history lesson.]

Essay 1771

Phat news in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…

• A miffed Eddie Murphy allegedly exited Sunday’s Oscar show shortly after Alan Arkin was named Best Supporting Actor. Maybe Murphy hoped to catch an early evening showing of Norbit.

• A new dog store targeting female pet owners opened in Seattle and is igniting controversy with its name: High Maintenance Bitch. The store’s founder wants to reclaim the word’s original meaning — a female dog. She said, “Our store is a dog store, but the concept and philosophy is directed specifically toward women.” Actually, High Maintenance Bitch sounds like Alan Arkin’s new nickname for Eddie Murphy.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Essay 1770

Not sure this is the best way to promote new Lay’s Spicy Curry chips.

Essay 1769

Essay 1768

Essay 1767

BHM2007: Here’s another Red Lobster BHM message. This one takes a much more positive perspective. Wonder if the figures are still impressive when viewed as percentages.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Essay 1766

In good hands with a MultiCultClassics Monologue…

• A Texas Federal Court approved a nationwide class action settlement between Allstate Insurance and its minority customers. A lawsuit filed in 2001 charged the insurer discriminated against Blacks and Hispanics, charging them higher premiums based on the company’s credit scoring. “This is a great day for Allstate’s minority customers,” said lead attorney Christa Collins. “This is a groundbreaking settlement, because Allstate has agreed to change the way it uses credit information to price insurance. We believe this change significantly benefits Allstate’s minority customers. … The bottom line is many of Allstate’s minority customers stand to save significant dollars in their premium payments as a result of the credit scoring changes.” Wonder if Allstate used its twisted credit scoring to determine how much to pay spokesman Dennis Haysbert.

• The Virginia General Assembly unanimously voted to express “profound regret” for the state’s role in slavery — as well as “the exploitation of Native Americans.” The measure states government-sanctioned slavery “ranks as the most horrendous of all depredations of human rights and violations of our founding ideals in our nation’s history, and the abolition of slavery was followed by systematic discrimination, enforced segregation, and other insidious institutions and practices toward Americans of African descent that were rooted in racism, racial bias, and racial misunderstanding.” Delegate Frank D. Hargrove is probably hoping Blacks will now get over it already.

• A Virginia Beach Catholic high school principal is ordering sensitivity training for students who chanted “We love Jesus!” during a basketball game. The Catholic school was competing against a school with Jewish students. The principal said, “It was obviously in reference to the Jewish population of [rival] Norfolk Academy; that’s the only way you can take that. … It is important that we work harder at having students leaving here who are tolerant and understand how serious these kinds of things are.” What would Jesus chant?

• Indiana’s DePauw University is facing charges of bias in reference to sororities. Last November, the sisters of Delta Zeta interviewed members about their commitment to recruitment and ultimately ejected 23 members. But every member of the ejected group was overweight; plus, the group included the only Black, Korean and Vietnamese members. The members permitted to stay were all slender and conventionally pretty. “Virtually everyone who didn’t fit a certain sorority member archetype was told to leave,” said one member who opted to leave on her own. Perhaps the banned women can start a Dove Real Beauty sorority.

• The FDNY announced a significant increase in minority applicants, jumping from 3,730 in 2002 to 8,297 this year. “All the hard work we put into this [multimillion-dollar recruitment] campaign has paid off,” said Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta. “We hope once we begin hiring from this list next year, we’ll have the most diverse group of candidates joining the world’s greatest fire department.” There’s still a long way to go, as the FDNY is currently 91 percent White.

• The Rev. Al Sharpton learned and announced that his ancestors were slaves owned by relatives of the late South Carolina Sen. Strom Thurmond. “I have always wondered what was the background of my family,” said Sharpton. “But nothing — nothing — could prepare me for this.” Thurmond’s gotta be rolling in his grave as well.

Essay 1765

BHM RETRO EXTRA: Seems like the military is always eager to recognize the achievements of minorities — for recruiting purposes.

Essay 1764

From The Chicago Sun-Times…


A movie record that leaves you reeling


Odds are that when this weekend’s 79th Annual Academy Awards show fades to black, Jennifer Hudson will be hugging an Oscar. The Chicago South Sider’s meteoric rise from an “American Idol” wannabe to a “Dreamgirl” to a Golden Globe Award winner is the stuff of “A Star is Born” script. And Hudson won’t be the only African American going home with the gold. Chances are the names of Forest Whitaker and Eddie Murphy will be spoken after “and the winner is” gets read. Let’s celebrate the moment, but not forget the past.

From “The Birth of a Nation” to “Gone With the Wind” to “The Color Purple,” Hollywood movies have played a leading role in the stereotyping of African Americans for audiences at home and abroad. So, on Oscar weekend, I thought it might be useful to compose of a list of Tinseltown’s Top Ten Racist Movies. I called my friend, Sergio Mims, for some professional advice. Sergio knows movies. He co-founded the Black Harvest Film Festival. He taught film at the School of the Art Institute and Columbia College. He hosts a radio program about movies and he reviews movies for print.

Right off the bat, we both agree on America’s first feature film, “The Birth of a Nation.” The 1915 silent movie started out as “The Clansman” but went through a name change when it traveled to movie theaters above the Mason-Dixon line. Set during Reconstruction, white men in blackface play Negro characters who take over Southern state legislatures. Once in power, they are portrayed as mainly interested in shooting craps, eating chicken, boozing and landing white women. The first law they want to pass is for “equal rights, equal marriage.” Just in a nick of time, the noble, heroic Ku Klux Klan comes to the rescue after a white woman is almost raped by Gus, the renegade Negro. After a quick lynching, the KKK valiantly resubjugates the blacks and restores the good white citizens to their rightful place. “If you compare it with today’s box office,” Sergio said, “it’s one of the most successful movies in American cinema.”

It was also one of the most influential. By romanticizing America’s homegrown terrorist organization, “The Birth of a Nation” ignited a second surge of lynchings. Thousands of African Americans, Mexican Americans and Jews were publicly tortured and murdered to the maddening cheers of Southern white mobs, sometimes during a family outing. D.W. Griffith’s film worked so well as a propaganda vehicle for white supremacy that it’s used to this day as a recruitment tool for the Klan. It also set the standard for stereotyping blacks for generations to follow.

One down and nine to go. But before I could add “Gone With the Wind,” with its scene featuring Butterfly McQueen’s character Prissy proclaiming, “I don’t know nuthin’ about birthin’ no baby,” Sergio argued that my Top Ten plan was both too ambitious and too limited.

Like “The Birth of a Nation,” “GWTW” also glorifies the KKK, but like scores of other Hollywood productions, it deserves to be vilified as part of the sum. And in “The Color Purple,” Danny Glover’s character, Albert, is no renegade Negro, but he’s cut from the same violent, sex-crazed cloth as “The Birth of a Nation’s” Gus. And none of “Purple’s” nine other major male characters would be likely candidates for Man of the Year.

“It’s the collective, constant stream of images in one movie after the other,” Sergio said. Those images portray black men as lazy, lying, head-scratching, raping, violent coons and buffoons. Black women are mammies, maids and whores. And Tarzan is the king of the jungle. In the 1940 movie, “The Ghost Breakers,” Willie Best plays the eye-bulging, knee-knocking butt of Bob Hope’s corny jokes. That same year, in the “Santa Fe Trail,” John Brown was the villain because he tried to free the slaves. “In one scene, a fire breaks out in a barn and the slaves are terrified,” Sergio said. “‘If this is freedom, I want no part of it,’ one slave says. He wants to go back home to the master’s plantation and rock til Kingdom come.”

So when Jennifer Hudson accepts her statuette, I will remember: We’ve come a long way, but we’ve still got a long way to go.

Essay 1763

From The Chicago Sun-Times…


New Urban League focus is aimed in right direction

The decision by the Chicago Urban League’s new president and CEO, Cheryle Jackson, to get out of the social service business may ruffle a few feathers. But it is a giant -- and necessary -- step toward returning the nation’s oldest civil rights organization to its original mission: equipping African Americans with the tools needed to succeed in today’s America.

Dubbed “projectNEXT,” the successful execution of the plan would put the league at the forefront of the urban economic development movement.

During that first wave of migration and for decades afterward, African Americans knew they could depend on the Chicago Urban League to help them find jobs, as well as to develop the social networks that would lead them to better housing and better schools.

Today, in neighborhoods on the South and West sides -- still the hardest hit by under- and unemployment -- the need is different, but just as great.

Nearly 60 years after the dawning of the civil rights movement, many African-American workers in Chicago are still shut out of trade unions that provide the lucrative jobs needed to improve their communities.

And while mom-and-pop stores serve these areas, too often those stores are not owned by African Americans, nor do they provide the employment opportunities critical to boosting another generation of black workers.

That’s why plans recently unveiled by Jackson to refocus the Chicago Urban League by concentrating on economic development are as exciting as any urban redevelopment plans we’ve heard.

Those plans include tackling the exclusion of African Americans in trade unions, partnering with the Chicago Manufacturing Renaissance Council to help African Americans land high-paying jobs in the manufacturing industry, and using the City Colleges of Chicago to train unemployed workers in the trades.

The group’s goals are to raise black employment and income levels, to expand the number of black-owned businesses and to promote real estate development.

To meet those goals, the Chicago Urban League will create a small-business incubation center and will work with the Kellogg School of Management to help owners of African-American businesses help themselves.

BP America has pledged $6.2 million over three years for the initiative, and the Illinois Finance Authority has committed $1 million to help create an entrepreneurship center.

Jackson’s vision for the Chicago Urban League is grand -- but focused enough to lead this organization into the next frontier of the civil rights movement.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Essay 1762

[From Target Market News. It’s somewhat odd for Burrell Communications Group to present a study on Black History Month advertising, as the company is responsible for much of the corny and contrived BHM messaging that appears every February.]


Burrell study sheds light on consumers’ attitudes toward Black History Month

Burrell Communications Group, a leading multicultural marketing communications agency released findings from a recent Black History Month study that reveals current perceptions, connections and the impact of Black History Month within the African-American community. The study was conducted in response to the limited market research available about the February observance, and it benchmarks African-American consumer attitudes across generational age segments.

“It was important to understand how African-American consumers view the importance of Black History Month and the opportunity it presents to connect with these consumers on a deeper, more profound level during the month long observance and beyond,” explains Burrell Communications Co-CEO McGhee Williams-Osse. Research concluded that acknowledging and celebrating Black History Month is vital to both younger and older generations.

At least 79% of each group agreed that it was very important for future generations to understand the historical struggles of African-Americans. Additionally, the majority of African-American’s interest in Black History Month have either remained the same or increased over decades, specifically, within the 18-24 age groups.

Most importantly, the study reveals new insights into the younger African-American consumer market. Considering that much of the Black History Month marketing centers on the legacy, story and the historical struggles of African-Americans, there is an emotional disconnect with younger age demographics. Although the message of honoring and acknowledging the past remains significant to younger audiences, it does not resound as strongly as with their parents’ and grandparents’ generations.

Younger generations have a different perspective on their challenges as compared with those experienced during The Civil Rights Movement. In dealing with racism and oppression, they believe issues are now more covert and subtle. As a result, they have a stronger focus on financial empowerment, battling crime and educational advancement. They want Black History Month to represent and highlight the accomplishments of modern day African-Americans and current issues facing this new generation.

Up to 63% of respondents agree that companies’ participation in Black History Month enhances their image, 65% are more likely to buy products from companies that salute African-American achievements, and up to 57% would recommend the company’s services or products to someone they know, a good source of not traditional or word of mouth promotion.

Consumers are also looking for companies to sponsor more events and activities celebrating Black History Month. In addition to the extending of Black History recognitions beyond February, respondents are also looking for a year-round commitment to showcasing African-American achievement.

Burrell campaigns such as McDonald’s 365Black and Verizon’s History in The Making featuring New Age spoken word poet J. Ivey reflects the responsiveness to current consumer perspectives. In a saturation of Black History messaging, McDonald’s advertising was the most recalled by study participants.

“For decades Burrell has advocated that Black History is a major part of U.S. history and that its observance should not be just compacted into one month. The study validates our stance and provides a better perspective on how African Americans of all ages would like to see their history celebrated,” explains Williams-Osse.

The study underscores that Black History Month initiatives are an effective way for brands to connect and build loyalty with African-American consumers.

Essay 1761

From The New York Times…


In Bid to Ban Racial Slur, Blacks Are on Both Sides


Days after Michael Richards’s racist tirade at a Los Angeles comedy club, Leroy G. Comrie Jr., a New York City councilman, seethed as he listened to some black teenagers on a Queens street spewing out the same word Mr. Richards had been using.

“They were saying ‘nigga’ or ‘niggas’ every other word,” said Mr. Comrie, who is black. “I could tell they didn’t get it. They don’t realize how their self-image is debilitated when they use this awful word in public.”

So Mr. Comrie sponsored a resolution for a moratorium on the use of the n-word in New York City, prompting a spate of similar proposals in half a dozen local governments across four states in recent weeks. The New York City Council is scheduled to discuss Mr. Comrie’s proposal tomorrow and vote on it on Wednesday; the City Council in Paterson, N.J., and the Westchester County Legislature both unanimously approved such bans recently.

(Mr. Richards, who played Kramer on “Seinfeld,” has been invited to the New York City hearings; a Richards spokesman said that he would respectfully decline to attend.)

The measures, which describe the forbidden word as an “ignorant and derogatory” insult toward blacks, try to sidestep First Amendment questions by calling for “symbolic” bans only, meaning they do not have the force of law. Because they are largely aimed at blacks who use the word among themselves, the proposals have revived a debate over whether minority groups can co-opt epithets and make them empowering.

“There is a swelling population of black youth that use this word as if it is a term of endearment,” said Andrea C. McElroy, a black councilwoman who sponsored a ban on the racial epithet in Irvington, N.J., that was passed this month (pictured above, left). “And I think it is basically incumbent upon us to remind them of the story of what that word meant to so many of our ancestors. This is something we probably should have done years ago.”

[Click on the essay title above to read the full story.]

Essay 1760

BHM2007: The art director and copywriter responsible for this message do not have a GREAT FUTURE in advertising.

Essay 1759

Ratting out the news in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…

• Forget trans fats — the problem is rats. TV cameras showed rodents scurrying around in a KFC and Taco Bell in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village (pictured above), putting parent company Yum Brands in a bad position. “Nothing is more important to us than the health and safety of our customers. This is completely unacceptable and is an absolute violation of our high standards,” said Yum Brands in a statement. KFC recently asked Pope Benedict XVI to lend his personal seal of approval for its fish sandwiches during the Lenten season. Guess they should also ask him to pray for protection from pestilence.

• Wendy’s will close the restaurant that launched the business in 1969. The historic location has failed to generate suitable profits. “This is a very difficult decision, but the truth is we kept it open for sentimental reasons much longer than we should have,” said a company spokesman. Hey, Yum Brands keeps rat-infested restaurants open, so there’s nothing wrong with doing likewise for sentimental motivations.

• Another promotional campaign has exploded in Boston. This time, the culprit is Dr. Pepper. The soft drink manufacturer created a contest for consumers to seek a coin valued at $1 million that may have been buried in the Granary Burying Ground — the final resting place of John Hancock, Paul Revere, Samuel Adams and others. When crowds showed up at the location, city officials closed down the area, fearing contestants would damage stuff in search of the prize. “It absolutely is disrespectful,” said Boston Parks Commissioner Toni Pollak. “It’s an affront to the people who are buried there, our nation’s ancestors.” A Dr. Pepper spokesman said, “We agree with the Park Department’s decision to lock the gates. We wouldn’t do anything to desecrate this cemetery.” It might have been better — and more clever — to create a promotional tie-in between Dr. Pepper and Dr. Kervorkian.

Essay 1758

From The Chicago Sun-Times…


Oscars reflect greater cultural diversity in movies today


Jamestown’s 400th anniversary is also a multicultural milestone year for movie minorities. Reflecting our increasingly internationalized society and world, the current bumper crop of films made and released in America is arguably the most culturally diverse in motion picture history. Today’s silver screen features Latinos, blacks, Native Americans, Asians, Arabs and Polynesians shattering celluloid stereotypes.

Civil rights icon Jesse Jackson, who long struggled to integrate the film/TV industry, is “delighted” by this development. Edward James Olmos, a 1988 best actor Oscar nominee for “Stand and Deliver,” declares: “It’s the most prolific time we’ve ever had as Latinos in Hollywood.”

Many of these films earn accolades. This year, the Directors Guild nominated Olmos for directing HBO’s “Walkout,” about L.A.’s 1968 Chicano protests -- which inspired 2006 student strikes against immigration policies. “All of the Oscar-nominated pictures put together give lots of hope to diversity in general, and world cinema in particular,” Olmos said.

In this record-setting year, Latinos received 16 nominations in categories including best picture, directing, acting, cinematography, screenwriting and music. There were nominations for Spanish-born Penelope Cruz for “Volver” and her fellow Mexicans Adriana Barraza (best supporting actress for “Babel”) and directors Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu, Guillermo del Toro and Alfonso Cuaron.

Innaritu is nominated for directing best picture nominee “Babel.” In best foreign film contender “Pan’s Labyrinth,” the terrors of Franco’s fascist Spain become a child’s fantasy, earning del Toro a screenwriting nomination. Cuaron is co-nominated for editing and screenwriting Oscars for “Children of Men.”

Blacks’ screen image is also rising; Oscar may make history during Black History Month. Will Smith is up for “The Pursuit of Happyness,” which reveals U.S. poverty while challenging caricatures of African Americans as absentee fathers. Jamie Foxx stars in “Dreamgirls,” nominated for eight Academy Awards, including best supporting acting for Eddie Murphy and Jennifer Hudson.

African-born Djimon Hounsou is likewise nominated for best supporting Oscar for the Sierra Leone-set “Blood Diamond.” Best actor Oscar contender Forest Whitaker plays Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in “The Last King of Scotland.”

Other ethnic groups are likewise ascendant. Once-faceless World War II Asian enemies have human faces in “Letters from Iwo Jima” via actors Ken Watanabe and Kazunari Ninomiya. The anti-war film is Oscar-nominated, as are director Clint Eastwood and its screenwriters. As a troubled deaf teenager, Japanese actress Rinko Kikuchi vies for best supporting actress for “Babel.”

Although overlooked, 2006 was a banner year for the Western Hemisphere’s indigenous people. Four films took the Americas’ natives beyond the cowboys and Indians paradigm. Mel Gibson’s “Apocalypto” and Darren Aronofsky’s “The Fountain” depict ancient Mayans. In Eastwood’s “Flags of Our Fathers,” aboriginal actor Adam Beach depicts real-life World War II Marine Ira Hayes.

What accounts for today’s movie minority cornucopia? Films mirror globalization and demographic shifts, such as the emergence of Hispanics as America's largest nonwhite group. The Colts’ Tony Dungy became the first African-American head coach to win a Super Bowl, while blacks wield greater congressional power than at any time since Reconstruction.

Hollywood depictions of nationalities certainly remain imperfect. But one can only ponder what natives such as Pocahontas, Africans here before the Mayflower and groups who came later would make of cinema's brave new multicultural world. From 1607 to 2007, Jamestown’s settlers and indigenous people, plus other ethnic ancestors who've composed the melting pot now called America, have come a long way, baby.

Luis I. Reyes and Ed Rampell co-authored Made In Paradise, Hollywood’s Films of Hawaii and the South Seas and Pearl Harbor In the Movies.

Essay 1757

BHM RETRO EXTRA: Big Tastin’ Biscuits, but no Big Idea.

Essay 1756

From The Chicago Sun-Times…


Black history is a shared legacy of tragedy and triumph


As Black History Month comes to a close, ask yourself if you celebrated it. Isn't Black History Month really “White History Month,” too?

While the aim of Black History Month is to acquire and share knowledge about the innumerable contributions of black civilizations and peoples from ancient history to the present, doing so is virtually impossible without also examining the role of other nations and peoples in the making of black history. From the great civilizations of Egypt, Kush and Nubia to the trans-Atlantic slave trade, slavery, emancipation, segregation and integration, Caucasians, Latinos, Indians, Arabs, Asians and so forth have played a critical role in the history of persons of African descent, as both oppressors and liberators.

In the United States, white Americans have shaped the course of black history and the lives of African Americans more than any other group. In fact, the creation of Black History Month was a reaction to the widely held belief among white Americans in the early 20th century that blacks made no significant or viable contribution to human civilization -- let alone America.

The formal celebration of black history in the United States began in 1926 as “Negro History Week.” Carter G. Woodson, the grandfather of modern black history, selected the second week in February for Negro History Week because it marked the birthdays of two of the most influential figures in American politics: Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.

Other significant events that took place in February make it an ideal time to celebrate black history, including the birth of W.E.B. DuBois, the famed intellectual, civil rights and pan-Africanist leader and co-founder of the NAACP (Feb. 23, 1868); the passage in Congress of the 15th Amendment giving blacks the right to vote (Feb. 3, 1870); the taking of the oath of office of the first black U.S. senator, Hiram R. Revels, a Republican from Mississippi (Feb. 25, 1870); founding of the NAACP (Feb. 12, 1909); the historical civil rights lunch counter sit-in at the segregated Woolworth's store in Greensboro, N.C. (Feb. 1, 1960), and the murder of Malcolm X (Feb. 21, 1965). I might add that it is also the month that Tony Dungy, coach of the Indianapolis Colts, became the first African American to win a Super Bowl and Barack Obama the first mulatto to declare his candidacy for the American presidency.

Black History Month is not a monthlong affirmative holiday for African Americans, but rather a time for all Americans to learn about and celebrate the rich culture, heritage and achievements of blacks from Chicago to Cairo and Los Angeles to Lagos. It’s a time to remember the sacrifices of the unknown millions of enslaved blacks who were murdered in the Middle Passage and millions more whose blood and labor in bondage provided the economic impetus for America to become the most powerful country in the world. It’s a time to honor the legacy of those unnamed blacks who served as the backbone of the black power and civil rights movements. The black struggle for freedom in America has come at a very high cost to African-Americans -- yet all Americans have enormously benefitted from black liberation. What would America be without the innumerable sacrifices and contributions of African Americans?

All Americans should study black history. For better or for worse, white Americans and other nonblacks have been and are makers of black history. From the white supremacist Democrats and white Republican abolitionists of the 19th century to the white citizens’ councils and non-black civil rights activists of the 20th century, black history is incontestably white, Latino, Arab and Asian history, too. In fact, black history is world history!

No one group owns, controls or is entitled to celebrate Black History Month more than any other. It is the product of a shared legacy of tragedy and triumph that all Americansave a civic responsibility and duty to learn about, reflect upon, debate and share. We should never allow political correctness, guilt or perceived racial ownership interfere with our quest for knowledge and cross-cultural exchange, because to know black history is to know your history.

Jeremy Levitt is a professor of international law at Florida International University and distinguished research scholar at Northern Illinois University College of Law.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Essay 1755

From nationwide news sources…


Oscars Spark Renewed Questions of Race

By Bob Tourtellotte

LOS ANGELES — Is racial bias still keeping black artists from being recognized when Hollywood hands out its annual Academy Awards?

On the one hand, the musical “Dreamgirls,” which features an ensemble of black actors in the story of an African-American singing group, failed to earn an expected best film Oscar nomination this year, and some Hollywood watchers wondered if racism played a role.

But on the other, black actors received a record five of the 20 nominations in acting categories for 2006. And three — Forest Whitaker, Eddie Murphy and Jennifer Hudson — are favored to win when the Oscars are handed out on February 25.

If they do not, the question of racism among the nearly 6,000 Academy Award voters almost certainly will be raised again. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has been notoriously stingy to black artists at Oscar time, with blacks having won only 10 acting Oscars since the first awards in 1929, excluding honorary awards.

No black person has ever been named best director.

Race bias will affect Oscar politics as long as it plays a role in U.S. culture, Oscar watchers said. “Race will go away from the Academy when race goes away from America,” said David Poland of

Poland is one of many observers who said he did not believe race played a part in “Dreamgirls” failing to land in the best film category despite gaining eight nominations overall, more than any other movie.

Since the January 23 nominations, several theories have outweighed racial bias when it came to the “Dreamgirls” snub, according to Oscar pundits, film historians and critics.

Musicals are a hard sell to Oscar voters, they noted. “Dreamgirls” was also touted early on as the best-film frontrunner, and Academy Award voters did not want to be told which film was best before casting votes, some said.


But the simplest explanation is the movie was not among 2006’s five best. “Having seen all the other films … they are better films, pure and simple,” said Gil Robertson, syndicated columnist and president of the African American Film Critics Association.

The five best picture nominees are: road comedy “Little Miss Sunshine,” crime thriller “The Departed,” cultural drama “Babel,” Japanese war saga “Letters from Iwo Jima,” and “The Queen,” about Britain’s royal family in a period of crisis.

Hattie McDaniel was the first black to win an acting Oscar — for supporting actress in 1939’s “Gone with the Wind.” The second was not until Sidney Poitier received the best actor nod for 1963’s “Lilies of the Field,” and the third took almost another two decades — Louis Gossett Jr.’s supporting actor nod for 1982’s “An Officer and a Gentleman.”

Just a handful of supporting actor and actress nods followed, until 2002, when Hollywood thought that the Academy had put the race issue behind it. That year, Denzel Washington won best actor for “Training Day” and Halle Berry was named best actress for “Monster’s Ball.”

It was the first time black Americans won the top two acting awards in the same year. Three years after Washington’s and Berry’s dual wins, Jamie Foxx scored a best actor victory for his role as soul singer Ray Charles in 2004’s “Ray,” and last year the drama “Crash,” which explores race in America, was named best film.

“I think the color barrier is coming down, but it takes a generation or two to die off. It’s a slow process,” said Robert Osborne, Oscar historian and author of a series of books subtitled “The Official History of the Academy Awards.”

What many Hollywood watchers are wondering now is whether younger voters will cast enough votes for Whitaker as the brutal dictator Idi Amin in “The Last King of Scotland,” and Murphy and Hudson playing soulful singers in “Dreamgirls.”

Essay 1754

Posing as news with a MultiCultClassics Monologue…

• A 10-year-old boy in Pennsylvania filed a lawsuit because he was prohibited from dressing up as Jesus for his school’s Halloween activities. The school claimed the costume violated a policy against promoting religion, but the kid argues costumes for witches and devils were allowed. What would Jesus do? He’d probably deny having any involvement with this kid.

• Busta Rhymes was busted again, this time for driving without a license. The rapper, claiming he thought the arresting officers were robbers posing as cops, allegedly told them, “You hide behind the shield. This is bullshit.” You’d think at this point, Rhymes could tell the real cops from the fakes.

Essay 1753

From The New York Daily News…


How easily he forgets racism

By Juan Gonzalez

Wesley Chan, a freshman at New York University, did his part to further the new college fad of defending America from yet another “invasion.”

With fellow members of NYU’s Republican club, Chan, who hails from New Jersey, joined yesterday in a bizarre exercise called Find the Illegal Immigrant.

“My parents came to this country from China the legal way: They waited their turn in line,” Chan said, offering a patriot’s pose to the throng of reporters and cameramen camped near Washington Square Park.

Chan stood out as one of the few nonwhites among a few dozen young Republicans who had turned out for what was more of a public relations stunt than a game.

Across the street, a far larger crowd of several hundred angry NYU students found nothing to laugh at.

“It’s degrading and racist,” said Dalia Yedidia, a freshman from San Francisco. “These people are trivializing a serious problem. They’re showing pictures of Mexicans and their children running across the border, so it’s clear who they’re trying to target.”

Chan roundly rejected such charges.

“We have a serious immigration problem we’re trying to highlight,” he said. “A lot of crimes are being committed by illegal immigrants.”

“What about the Chinese Exclusion Act?” he was asked. “That was the law here once.”

The glib words stopped. The smart, young Republican started groping for answers.

His sudden discomfort showed once again how little most of us know about this nation’s history of immigration battles.

Who legally gets to enter this country? Under what conditions can they become citizens? These questions have provoked repeated political battles among each new generation of Americans.

And no story is more buried, none more shameful, none more important to understand than how our nation treated the Chinese — a group so often referred to these days as a model minority.

As early as 1850, when there were only 600 Chinese in California, that state began to adopt discriminatory laws aimed at taxing the newcomers more than other foreigners in order to drive them from the gold fields.

As the Chinese population grew, white labor leaders and politicians began to target them as a new immigrant menace.

On Sept. 29, 1854, in the powerful New York Tribune, Horace Greeley, the paper’s legendary publisher and staunch abolitionist, called the new Chinese “uncivilized, unclean and filthy beyond all conception.” The men, Greeley wrote, “were lustful and sensual,” while every Chinese female was a “prostitute of the basest order.”

Two months after Greeley’s article, the California Supreme Court overturned the conviction of George Hall, a white man who had murdered a Chinese miner named Ling Sing.

The higher court ruled that the testimony of three Chinese witnesses to the murder was not admissible because Chinese, like blacks and Native Americans, could not testify against a white person.

In the court’s opinion, Chief Justice Hugh Murray called the Chinese “a race of people whom nature has marked as inferior, and who are incapable of progress or intellectual development beyond a certain point … between whom and ourselves nature has placed an impassable difference.”

There followed decades of nationwide anti-immigrant hysteria aimed at the Chinese, with Congress finally bowing to the pressure and passing the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.

It was the beginning of America’s use of immigration policies to promote racial prejudice.

For the next 60 years, until the outbreak of World War II, virtually all Chinese were banned from entering the United States.

“I don’t support the racist part,” young Chan said after a long pause. “But our leaders were trying to protect our economy at the time.”

Whatever that means.

With the rest of his young Republican friends, young patriot Chan then went off to “Find an Illegal Immigrant” in Washington Square Park.

Essay 1752

Essay 1751

BHM RETRO EXTRA: Miss Clairol colored colored folks too.

Essay 1750

Equal Play in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…

• This year, Wimbledon will award equal prize awards to the men and women competitors for the first time. “I just feel that in the modern world with the modern thoughts, we all understand that everyone’s equal,” said Venus Williams. “So if someone else doesn’t choose to live in the modern world and do the right thing, then thank God that the majority of people in the All England Club do.” Does this mean NBC will pay the same amount of loot to John McEnroe and Mary Carillo? You cannot be serious!

• Republican students at NYU drew criticism for playing a game dubbed “Catch the Illegal Immigrant.” The game calls for participants to hunt down a student wearing a name tag labeled “illegal immigrant.” A protesting student remarked, “The idea of hunting down an illegal immigrant in a game was disgusting. … If they want to have an honest conversation about a very difficult topic, let’s do it. Instead, they decided to host what many of us felt was an insensitive and offensive event.” Wait until the students learn about the “South Of The Border Party” held at Santa Clara University.

• A North Carolina high school teacher sparked controversy after allegedly permitting an anti-Muslim group to address a ninth-grade class and distribute questionable literature, including a pamphlet titled “Do Not Marry A Muslim Man.” Imagine the parties this moron might chaperone.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Essay 1749

BHM2007: Toyota publishes The Forward Thinker for Black History Month. Please wrap some fish in this one.

Essay 1748

Advertising Age presents a special section commemorating the 10-year anniversary of the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies. The contents include reports, interviews and creative work. Plus, there’s the obligatory collection of congratulatory ads — but no fornicating lions ala the DraftFCB Cannes fiasco. Grab a copy of the latest issue or click on the essay title above to view it online.

Essay 1747

BHM RETRO EXTRA: He’d never smoke a boring cigarette. But he’s got no problem wearing a plaid suit.

Essay 1746

Uncommonly sorry news in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…

• Rapper Common is scheduled to perform at Duke University in April. Problem is, he dissed the school’s lacrosse team during a concert at Emory University last year. “F— them damn n—s from Duke lacrosse,” Common allegedly freestyled. “I really believe in my heart that those boys in Duke lacrosse did it — that they raped a black princess.” Duke officials don’t plan to cancel the upcoming concert, as a contract is already signed. A Duke spokeswoman said, “We’re not actively seeking an apology. It’s free speech. But we would like a statement from [Common’s management] just so we know they recognize that to us it is a very grave situation.” The Duke lacrosse team is probably just hoping for free tickets.

• Producers for “Dreamgirls” apologized to Motown legend Barry Gordy via a full-page ad in Variety. The ad from Paramount and DreamWorks read, “‘Dreamgirls’ is a work of fiction. It is also an homage to Motown. We used many wonderful accomplishments that belong to the rich Motown history. For any confusion that has resulted from our fictional work, we apologize to Mr. Gordy and all of the incredible people who were a part of that great legacy. It is vital that the public understand that the real Motown story has yet to be told.” Gordy released a statement that read, “For the past 50 years, I have been protecting the integrity, the love and the talent that is and has become Motown’s legacy. … I applaud DreamWorks and Paramount Pictures for doing their part, to clearly differentiate the fictional movie ‘Dreamgirls’ from the real Motown.” No word yet from the Duke lacrosse team.

Essay 1745

Essay 1744

BHM2007: Isn’t it time to take the Month out of Black History Month? Um, isn’t it time to take the patronizing messages out of Black History Month?

Essay 1743

Random, semi-coherent thoughts regarding the Advertising Age story presented in Essay 1741 and the responding letters in Essay 1742…

Gee, Wallace S. Snyder seems a tad oversensitive. A closer read of the Advertising Age article shows a pretty fair analysis of the situation. Snyder’s been in the business long enough to understand how headlines and copy work to draw attention. Chill out, dawg.

All minority internship programs deserve respect and appreciation just for trying. At the same time, an honest inspection of the efforts seems reasonable — and even imperative.

If the AAF initiative is truly successful, Snyder should have stepped forward to display the amazing results when things got really hot during Advertising Week 2006. Or perhaps the survey revealed bugs that have always existed in the 10-year-old MPMS program.

The 4A’s runs its Multicultural Advertising Internship Program (MAIP). Senior Vice President Don Richards — who leads of the organization’s Agency Diversity Programs — once bragged, “We have the premier diversity internship program in the industry.” Um, didn’t realize it was a competition.

Yet while both of these esteemed groups claim to cultivate and operate so successfully, there’s still a ridiculous dearth of diversity on Madison Avenue. Whassup wit dat?

Could it be that minority internship programs — while vital and invaluable — only address a small, segregated piece of the puzzle?

You can recruit the able bodies, but if there’s an inadequate and invisible support system, well, MPMS and MAIP spell MESS.

Maybe it’s not the minority students who lack the qualifications and potential to make things happen — rather, it’s the majority adpeople. The culturally clueless are probably incapable of professionally mentoring and creating inclusive environments. However, for true integration to occur, these folks must evolve and progress too. It’s unreasonable, unmanageable and unfair to expect MPMS and MAIP alumni to shoulder all the responsibilities. Remember, there aren’t enough of them to begin with. Just ask the New York City Commission on Human Rights.

It’s time to supplement minority training programs with majority training programs.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Essay 1742

Letters From The Latest Issue Of Advertising Age…

Accentuate positive in minority issue

The headline in the Feb. 12, 2007 edition of Advertising Age, “Nearly One-Third of AAF Minority Candidates Vacate Ad Industry,” is a deliberate distortion of the research upon which the story is based. As noted in the article, 69.3% of Most Promising Minority Students are employed in advertising, marketing and communications. How many industries can prove those numbers?

Not only have we come a tremendous way since starting the program in 1997, but the American Advertising Federation will continue to refine and improve the workplace environment for minorities through new business practices relating to mentoring, integrating and promoting talent. We will do so despite Advertising Age’s reporting.

Wallace S. Snyder
American Advertising Federation
New York

As a proud alumna of the AAF Most Promising Minority Students program, I was saddened that the focus was on the one-third who left and not the two-thirds who stayed. The success rate of the AAF MPMS program is unparalleled. As the premier industry trade publication and a valued supporter of the AAF MPMS program, I would think you would support the incredible success of the program and not join the tired choir that continue to champion the negative point of view of diversity in advertising.

Tiffany R. Warren
VP-director of multicultural programs and community outreach
New York

One group left out of the diversity fray

RE: “NYC Shops Scramble to Hit Diversity Targets” (AA, Jan. 15). There is a minority within the diversity pool that seems to be left out of almost every mention of the subject: service-disabled-veteran-owned businesses. Attending the 4A’s/AAF diversity fair in New York in November, I was able to identify a grand total of two of us out of 400-plus attendees. All federal government contracts require 3% participation by service-disabled-veteran-owned businesses. Yet, every attempt by this service-disabled-veteran-owned business with HUB (historically underused business) Zone certification to partner with the holding-company agencies with large government contracts has been met with a slamming door.

With the number of service-disabled veterans joining the work force after serving our country in the “global war on terror,” there needs to be a big wake-up call for integration of this federally designated minority into the advertising business.

David Esrati
Chief creative officer
The Next Wave
Dayton, Ohio

Essay 1741

From the February 12 issue of Advertising Age (followed by online responses)…


Nearly One-Third of AAF Minority Candidates Vacate Ad Industry
Lack of Mentors Biggest Stumbling Block; Being Pigeonholed Also an Issue

By Brooke Capps

NEW YORK ( -- One month after the New York City Commission on Human Rights released its minority-hiring goals for agencies, 50 of the most talented minority students in advertising came to New York for lunch -- and were virtually devoured by 40 recruiters there to meet them.

The perception about or the reality of low starting salaries, along with difficulty breaking into the business, may be part of the reason MPMS alumni have left the ad business.

MPMS program
The American Advertising Federation has for a decade run its Most Promising Minority Student program to help connect candidates with ad agencies, media agencies and marketers. But finding them and keeping them aren’t the same thing, as evident by the group’s first career-path survey.

Nearly one-third of MPMS program’s alumni have since left the business. Advertising professors Alice Kendrick and Jami Fullerton, who conducted the survey and analyzed the results, speculate that perception about or the reality of low starting salaries, along with difficulty breaking into the business, may be part of the cause. Another issue that emerged as a stumbling block for almost all the participants was the lack of mentors.

The upside is that three-quarters of survey participants said they would be willing to serve as mentors themselves. “They know how important it is and what it meant to them,” said Ms. Fullerton, a professor at Oklahoma State University.

Other concerns
Another concern among minority candidates was that they would be “forever relegated to working on minority accounts,” said Ms. Kendrick, a professor at Temerlin Advertising Institute of Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

Several respondents remarked that it was a double-edged sword: They felt pigeonholed and found it difficult to work on minority business with people who didn’t understand the culture.


Take this in the larger perspective – I’m an industry veteran who has seen minority and “non-minority” people leave this business at an alarming clip. It’s not about ethnicity – it’s about (many) other things. — NY, NY

Great point on looking at the 66% vs. anything else. By comparison, AD AGE would look at other educational institutions and the % of dropouts and success for example. Number for is the same percentage at any learning institution or field anywhere. EX. dropout rates for Hispanics in just US High School is 35%. Freshman graduation rates at major colleges can also be found to be the same percentage. — Brandon, FL

The facts mentioned in this article do not surprise me at all. Matter of fact, I am one of the one-third who left the Advertising industry because of lack of recognition and promotion due to not having a mentor. When I started at my first agency, the environment was extremely challenging to find someone who would take me under his or her arms to show me how to handle clients and how to make an account profitable, which leads to recognition and promotions. These ideal mentors either do not necessarily have time to mentor people or are lousy mentors themselves. I resorted to learning the business through the school of hard-knocks and quit after 6 years. Being an African American, I would advise minority students who are looking to get into Advertising to find a small but talented agency with good people to learn the business of Advertising. Advertising is a tough and competitive business that can deter hopes of making it big in the business. However, I would like to see or hear more insights from the other two-third who are doing well and how they managed to survive. — San Francisco, CA

As a proud alumnus of the AAF Most Promising Minority Students programs I was saddened that the focus was on the 1/3 that left and not the 2/3 who stayed. The success rate of the AAF MPMS program is unparalleled. As the premier industry trade publication I would think you would support the obvious success of the program and not join the tired choir of voices who champion the negative POV of diversity in advertising. — New York, NY

Essay 1740

Critters Gone Wild in a MultiCultClassics Monologue…

• The University of Illinois’ Chief Illiniwek mascot will perform for the final time today. However, the school is still wondering what to do with the trademarked logo (pictured above). The NCAA mandates prohibit associating the imagery with athletic programs, but there are no rules against having the school own the trademark. Look for the Chief and his logo to start showing up at student parties.

• A judge ordered O.J. Simpson to turn over income from past TV projects, movies and commercials to Ron Goldman’s family in order to pay off the wrongful death lawsuit conviction. However, the judge rejected the family’s attempt to also collect future earnings. So O.J.’s free to pursue new gigs — like serving as the University of Illinois’ new mascot.

• Busta Rhymes was offered a plea deal to stay out of jail for allegedly beating up two people. The deal would call for three years’ probation, six months of anger management therapy and three weeks of community service. The rapper and his lawyer, who both vehemently deny the charges, are considering the offer. The deal should include protection for the anger management therapist.

• Checkers Drive-In Restaurants is taking heat for a promotion persuading customers to dress their cats in a special take-out bag. The “Rapcat” bags are designed to look like the jersey and gold chain worn by a hip-hop puppet featured in commercials (pictured below). “We have no ill will toward Checkers or Rapcat as a character,” said an animal services spokeswoman. “Our message is that it is not a good idea to try to stuff a cat in a bag. It’s a matter of common sense.” Checkers’ senior vice president of marketing responded by saying, “When our Rapcat commercials began airing last fall, they were an overnight success. … We received dozens of letters from our guests requesting Rapcat merchandise. Our new Rapcat website, cups and carry out bags are all in response to Rapcat’s popularity and are intended only as a creative extension of our television campaign.” This VP cat sounds like a moron.

[Click on the essay title above to view a Rapcat commercial.]

Essay 1739