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Agency Life

#BlackCoffee

#BlackCoffee

Michael Carnevale

Michael Carnevale

March 19, 2019

Continuing the #BLACKATWORK conversation with culture, art, and appreciation.

"Black Coffee here is a metaphor for the experience that many black people face in corporate America and in the workplace in general."

Havas Chicago Talent Program Manager Pilar McQuirter and Senior Content Creator Tobi Shonibare share insights into #BlackCoffee, why they partnered with Black Girls CODE and how they’re including everyone in the conversation to make a difference.

 

So, what is Black Coffee?

Pilar McQuirter: This year #BLACKATWORK explores the tension of palatability in the black work experience through the universal reference of coffee.

Tobi Shonibare: Black Coffee here is a metaphor for the experience that many black people face in corporate America and in the workplace in general. The installation was an opportunity for us to explain this in a creative way that would provoke conversation around the subject, with cream being a metaphor for colorism (ie, how the media reinforces Eurocentric beauty standards) and sugar being a metaphor for code-switching (how black people transform to fit into predominantly white spaces).

How does Black Coffee add to the #BLACKATWORK campaign?

PM: As we celebrated Black History Month, it was imperative that we not only acknowledge the rich cultural influence and perspective of black people, but also work to further celebrate that expression in its most pure form: unfiltered and beautifully crafted.

What’s different about Black Coffee than previous installations?

TS: The strategic aim for this iteration of Black at Work (BAW) had an additional focus of ensuring that blackness was celebrated. As a result, we made sure to partner with black talent and resources to promote them to enhance the experience.

PM: We also hosted six different pieces of programming, from artists coming in and performing in the coffee shop to more discussion-driven initiatives through Havas Faces.

This activation was produced in partnership with black-owned businesses and artists. How did you choose who to partner with? Was it difficult to choose?

PM: We partnered with nine black artists from Chicago and sold their work with 100 percent of the proceeds going to them. Finding the artists was the easy partnarrowing down the selections was hard. We had too much work to fit on the walls! Finding a black-owned coffee shop was harder than we expected—there aren’t many! Fortunately, we locked in a partnership with L!ve Cafe and we’re continuing a coffee partnership throughout the year.

Through this project, Havas Chicago has partnered with Black Girls CODE a not-for-profit organization that focuses on providing technology education for black and brown girls. How did this collaboration come about? How does this add to the story of this campaign?

PM: #BLACKATWORK is a universal experience across industries. Whether perceived or imposed, the issue of aligning with corporate culture while holding true to your own authentic narrative is pervasive and becomes especially relevant for black people in corporate America. Partnering with Black Girls CODE as a way for us to ensure we’re influencing the next generation of talent and bringing representation to yet another underrepresented industry.

"The discussion about race is one that many find difficult, but it is one that needs to be had."

With each new installation, are you trying to touch on different cultural themes within the black community?

PM: Yes. #BLACKATWORK is always inspired by the current realities of the black experience. That way, we’re continuing a dialogue that’s happening in culture, but ensuring we’re elevating its exposure within our walls.

TS: The collaboration between the creative and the strategy teams provides a number of different approaches to each installation and it is heavily pressure tested before it gets to the public. It needs to be something different to push the work and spark new conversation, but it also needs to build on the legacy that BAW has established.

How can others within the agency get involved?

PM: This year we actually had the largest #BLACKATWORK team yet! We send out several internal emails inquiring about volunteers, that way people across departments can get involved.

TS: People also get involved by having the conversations with their colleagues about the issues highlighted in the installation. We encourage conversation because it allows the installation to live on through the discussions that are had.

Are there plans to bring Black Coffee to offices other than Havas Chicago?

PM: We’re working to scale the #BLACKATWORK platform across our network. This year, we collaborated with The Annex Bookstore in Atlanta and Arnold in Boston to bring #BLACKATWORK to life.

TS: I happened to be down in Atlanta for a pitch while they were hosting a Black Coffee installation and the bookstore was having an event surrounding the installation. It was nice to see how well it was received by the locals and panelists participating in the event.

This project invites everyone to participate in the dialogue. How is your team making sure that everyone feels comfortable contributing to the conversation?

TS: Absolutely, the discussion about race is one that many find difficult, but it is one that needs to be had. The vehicle of BAW affords us a platform and space to have the discussion. #BLACKATWORK is intended to be provocative, but there is often a fine line between provoking conversation and alienating your intended audience. A lot of time and consideration goes into making sure that the tone is right.

PM: We also made sure to create a space within the agency to have a proper dialogue. Havas Faces Unfiltered was our most popular event. We had a discussion on race and challenging racism, and invited a guest speaker to give a talk titled: “How to Be White and Work toward Racial Justice.”

Once this installation is finished, how do you plan to keep the conversation going?

PM: Havas Faces is a forum that allows us to host weekly discussions, so we’ll most definitely continue the dialogue there.

TS: We have a podcast booth in our lobby here in Chicago, so we have a great opportunity to have the topics that took place during Black Coffee return in the form of episodic content. We would love to invite some of our favorite individuals to come back and provide more in-depth views on some new and some familiar issues.

"Black Coffee here is a metaphor for the experience that many black people face in corporate America and in the workplace in general."

Havas Chicago Talent Program Manager Pilar McQuirter and Senior Content Creator Tobi Shonibare share insights into #BlackCoffee, why they partnered with Black Girls CODE and how they’re including everyone in the conversation to make a difference.

 

So, what is Black Coffee?

Pilar McQuirter: This year #BLACKATWORK explores the tension of palatability in the black work experience through the universal reference of coffee.

Tobi Shonibare: Black Coffee here is a metaphor for the experience that many black people face in corporate America and in the workplace in general. The installation was an opportunity for us to explain this in a creative way that would provoke conversation around the subject, with cream being a metaphor for colorism (ie, how the media reinforces Eurocentric beauty standards) and sugar being a metaphor for code-switching (how black people transform to fit into predominantly white spaces).

How does Black Coffee add to the #BLACKATWORK campaign?

PM: As we celebrated Black History Month, it was imperative that we not only acknowledge the rich cultural influence and perspective of black people, but also work to further celebrate that expression in its most pure form: unfiltered and beautifully crafted.

What’s different about Black Coffee than previous installations?

TS: The strategic aim for this iteration of Black at Work (BAW) had an additional focus of ensuring that blackness was celebrated. As a result, we made sure to partner with black talent and resources to promote them to enhance the experience.

PM: We also hosted six different pieces of programming, from artists coming in and performing in the coffee shop to more discussion-driven initiatives through Havas Faces.

This activation was produced in partnership with black-owned businesses and artists. How did you choose who to partner with? Was it difficult to choose?

PM: We partnered with nine black artists from Chicago and sold their work with 100 percent of the proceeds going to them. Finding the artists was the easy partnarrowing down the selections was hard. We had too much work to fit on the walls! Finding a black-owned coffee shop was harder than we expected—there aren’t many! Fortunately, we locked in a partnership with L!ve Cafe and we’re continuing a coffee partnership throughout the year.

Through this project, Havas Chicago has partnered with Black Girls CODE a not-for-profit organization that focuses on providing technology education for black and brown girls. How did this collaboration come about? How does this add to the story of this campaign?

PM: #BLACKATWORK is a universal experience across industries. Whether perceived or imposed, the issue of aligning with corporate culture while holding true to your own authentic narrative is pervasive and becomes especially relevant for black people in corporate America. Partnering with Black Girls CODE as a way for us to ensure we’re influencing the next generation of talent and bringing representation to yet another underrepresented industry.

"The discussion about race is one that many find difficult, but it is one that needs to be had."

With each new installation, are you trying to touch on different cultural themes within the black community?

PM: Yes. #BLACKATWORK is always inspired by the current realities of the black experience. That way, we’re continuing a dialogue that’s happening in culture, but ensuring we’re elevating its exposure within our walls.

TS: The collaboration between the creative and the strategy teams provides a number of different approaches to each installation and it is heavily pressure tested before it gets to the public. It needs to be something different to push the work and spark new conversation, but it also needs to build on the legacy that BAW has established.

How can others within the agency get involved?

PM: This year we actually had the largest #BLACKATWORK team yet! We send out several internal emails inquiring about volunteers, that way people across departments can get involved.

TS: People also get involved by having the conversations with their colleagues about the issues highlighted in the installation. We encourage conversation because it allows the installation to live on through the discussions that are had.

Are there plans to bring Black Coffee to offices other than Havas Chicago?

PM: We’re working to scale the #BLACKATWORK platform across our network. This year, we collaborated with The Annex Bookstore in Atlanta and Arnold in Boston to bring #BLACKATWORK to life.

TS: I happened to be down in Atlanta for a pitch while they were hosting a Black Coffee installation and the bookstore was having an event surrounding the installation. It was nice to see how well it was received by the locals and panelists participating in the event.

This project invites everyone to participate in the dialogue. How is your team making sure that everyone feels comfortable contributing to the conversation?

TS: Absolutely, the discussion about race is one that many find difficult, but it is one that needs to be had. The vehicle of BAW affords us a platform and space to have the discussion. #BLACKATWORK is intended to be provocative, but there is often a fine line between provoking conversation and alienating your intended audience. A lot of time and consideration goes into making sure that the tone is right.

PM: We also made sure to create a space within the agency to have a proper dialogue. Havas Faces Unfiltered was our most popular event. We had a discussion on race and challenging racism, and invited a guest speaker to give a talk titled: “How to Be White and Work toward Racial Justice.”

Once this installation is finished, how do you plan to keep the conversation going?

PM: Havas Faces is a forum that allows us to host weekly discussions, so we’ll most definitely continue the dialogue there.

TS: We have a podcast booth in our lobby here in Chicago, so we have a great opportunity to have the topics that took place during Black Coffee return in the form of episodic content. We would love to invite some of our favorite individuals to come back and provide more in-depth views on some new and some familiar issues.

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