From Education to Action: Ketchum Leaders on Anti-Racism and the Road Ahead

Last week, Ketchum closed for Juneteenth. It was the first time many employees were made aware of the holiday’s significance, and it created an opportunity for them to reflect on what this day means not only to Black Americans, but to themselves. We asked our leaders to share some of their learnings from this important day through trainings, conversations with family or the actions they took. Here’s what they had to say.

Bill Zucker, Partner and Managing Director, Food
Part of Juneteenth for me was taking the time to dig deep into a LinkedIn learning session on “Communicating About Culturally Sensitive Issues,” part of a larger Learning Path called “Become an Inclusive Leader” that our executive and senior-most teams have made a commitment to complete by the end of July. Of the many great lessons, the one that stands out for me is advice from Dr. Daisy Lovelace, who encourages us to embrace the uncomfortable. As I talk with teams about social justice, I have no doubt there will be uncomfortable moments. Dr. Lovelace is telling us not to let that slow down or eliminate those discussions. Instead, she suggests we recognize the discomfort upfront, even letting colleagues know we feel it but don’t want it to get in the way of a productive conversation. I have told my teammates to expect me to use this technique and have urged them to do the same with me.

Courtney Nally, EVP, Entertainment
As a mother of three kids, I thought explaining a global pandemic to them was challenging—but what’s happening in our country now far surpasses that.  For Juneteenth, I participated in a Town Hall organized by our frequent partners at the talent agency CAA, who organized a two-hour “real” conversation on the subject of racism, with more than 6.000 virtual attendees.  One speaker I found especially interesting was Sherrilyn Ifill, the President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, who spent a considerable time talking to the audience about not only the importance of education but also of action—in essence, “put your money where your mouth is.”  She was clear that it will be the ONLY way to mobilize change. I am committed to reading, learning and listening and, in the words of Sherrilyn, “creating new ideals—we always have the possibility of improving, but the people have to have the will to do it.”

Hilary Hanson McKean, Partner and President, Global Marketing and Complementary Businesses
For Juneteenth, I decided to break my normal busy work cycle to pause and reflect.  I hiked with my daughter to the “M” in Bozeman—a steep hike with extraordinary vistas.  Later, I read a series of poems that my mother had sent to me, called “Poets Taking Action Against Racism.”  Grounding myself in nature and a spiritual,  poetic journey make it clear that we all need to be united to demand real change, every day going forward—not just on Juneteenth.  We can’t forget and think things are better until we see real change occur.  If we stay focused every day, by Juneteenth 2021 we will see results from our individual daily actions.

Jamey Peters, Partner and Managing Director, Retail
Listening to a video interview with Dr. Tony Allen, President of Delaware State University, I was inspired by his words around “moments that matter.” We are in one of those moments right now, a moment to listen and learn and make change. I must ask myself, what am I doing for the greater good, every day? I shared the video with my four children, and we all spoke about it in the context of what is happening in society at large—the call to listen and act by promoting change and equality. As James Baldwin stated, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

Mary Elizabeth Germaine, Partner and Managing Director, Ketchum Analytics
I chose a little quality time talking with my pre-teen son and educating him about the racial injustices present in our society today. Through my own education, I’ve discovered the need for my son not to be colorblind but rather respect the background and culture of each individual.  It is critical that he recognizes the challenges that some people face simply because of how they look.  We spoke openly, and I encouraged him to be a voice for anti-racism, sticking up for and doing what he can to protect his friends from injustices.

Marcello Fregulia, CFO, North America
I spent a good portion of the day talking with my girls (ages nine and seven) about the issue of racism and its history in our country. We watched Hidden Figures together and talked about how much the women in that movie had to overcome simply to be given an equal opportunity at work and in life. We talked about how important it is for them to not just treat everyone equally and with respect, but also to speak up when you see discrimination occur—to call it out, in an effort to stamp it out.

Tamara Norman, Partner and Managing Director, Financial & Professional Services
My Juneteenth activities were primarily centered on education for both me and my family. I kicked off the day with breakfast at a local Black-owned coffee shop that admittedly, I wasn’t even aware had recently opened until I did my research. Like many others at Ketchum, I spent time participating in a LinkedIn training on Inclusive Leadership.  I found it valuable to reflect on my own leadership practices and think about what I need to continue doing to practice inclusiveness at Ketchum.  I also wanted my daughter to more deeply understand the significance of the day, so together we watched some educational videos about Juneteenth that spurred meaningful conversation. It was an enlightening day in so many ways, and it’s important that the education, dialogue and support continue!

Jennifer Dew, SVP, Director of Talent Strategy, North America
I am very grateful for the opportunity to learn more about the history of Juneteenth and to have the space for dedicated learning and reflection.  I took the opportunity to finish reading White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo. The book was incredibly enlightening for me and helped deepen my understanding of systemic racism, white supremacy culture and the ways we all hold these systems in place. I reflected a lot about past experiences, my own reactions and the reactions of others.  Later in the day, I downloaded the audio version of So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo and listened while I took my son for a walk in Central Park.  We came upon a Black Lives Matter protest gathering at Columbus Circle and we joined in for several blocks.  I finished the day by watching the documentary Belonging about Michele Obama’s story.  My experience on Juneteenth strengthened my commitment to a lifelong journey of listening, learning and antiracist activities.

These are only the first steps, but they are important to building our awareness and moving Ketchum in an enlightened direction. We look forward to hearing the continued work our leaders and employees alike are doing to continue to build a culture of diversity, inclusion and belonging. 

(Photo by Victoria Kwan, Designer)

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