What 15% Can Do

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(By Deborah Parenti) I’ve never met Aurora James. In fact,  I had not heard of her until she was  introduced to me recently in the way so many people and things are these days: featured on a news program to which I was only half-listening that broke through  whatever I was doing and made me sit up  and pay attention. And I was glad I did.

Aurora James is the Canadian-born,  New York based-founder and creative  director of Brother Vellies, producing luxury fashion accessories made  by African artisans. With an impressive  background in fashion, journalism, art,  music, photography, and horticulture, she  started her company in 2013, driven by a  desire to save indigenous crafts. Within  two years she had won a $300,000 CFDA/ Vogue Fashion Award and in 2019 she was  named one of Crain’s New York Business  “40 Under 40.”

But far beyond providing an example of  business success, it’s in her most recent  undertaking that the energy and creative  vision of this young Black woman positively shine.

Following the death of George Floyd last  summer and the protests, James decided  to seize the moment and channel it into  positive action. The starting premise was  simple. If Black people represent 15% of  the population, why not ask retailers to  commit that percentage at minimum of  their shelves to Black-owned businesses?  It offered a tangible idea to companies that were committed to putting words  into action aimed at combating racial  injustices and bigotry. And so the “15 Percent Pledge” was launched. To date,  companies including Macy’s, Sephora,  GAP, Bloomingdales, Old Navy, and Crate  & Barrel have taken the pledge. It really  is a remarkable achievement and a testament to how one idea can inspire action  by others.

And it is that same kind of spirited dedication and determination that is on display throughout the current issue of Radio Ink (March 9, 2021), which proudly  spotlights African American Future  Leaders. Within those print pages lies a gold  mine of opportunities for the radio industry to develop, encourage, and most of all  listen to in shaping its future. That takes  more than desire, it takes concentrated effort. Going the extra mile to uncover talent many times means getting out of  the comfort zone. Understanding that what drops at your door is only the tip of  the iceberg and limits the pool is key. You have to cast a wider net and give it an  added 15 percent effort.

But it works both ways, and smart  recruits know that. Aspiring candidates  have to make themselves visible in a world that has too often become face less, first due to technology that can  have resumes landing in a cyber-hole of  anonymity and, today, battling pandemic complications. And both sides need to  be open and objective in establishing the kind of rapport that leads to a strong and  mutually beneficial working relationship.  Just like generational differences, cultural nuances need to be recognized, respected,  and celebrated.

It also goes beyond hiring. As broadcasters charged with serving the public  interest, there is an inherent responsibility to effect and impact listeners and communities. Fifteen percent can encompass  a broad and profoundly dynamic array of visceral attitudes and concrete initiatives.  It can be the starting point in finding ways  to creatively help minority businesses gain  access to other businesses in cooperative ventures or promotional partnerships,  all fostered by local radio stations. From job fairs to public service and positive  community support, radio has the plat forms that can put shoppers in stores, get  listeners engaging in contests, and bring  out the masses for a blood drive. That’s  because radio drives people and inspires enthusiasm. Much like Aurora James.

Inspired to make a change. Not afraid  to dream big. We need more Auroras who  can light a fire and envision not only what  we need to do to make a better world but who offer creative ideas — and follow up  with the execution — that turn those ideas into reality.

Deborah Parenti is Publisher of Radio Ink. She can be reached at [email protected]

 

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