Why are Black people usually excluded from creative jobs and speaking at conferences?

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Damn that’s a terrible thing to say, reading my own bubble thought because:

a) They’re not. They’re not! You’re nodding sagely.

b) Isn’t it a travesty that you say black people as if they’re a unified mass? I mean Diana who went to Harvard has very little in common with Dwayne who dropped tech to pursue other things.

The idea for this post came from watching Ta-Nehisi Paul Coates responding to an audience member reflecting on white people’s use of the N-word. It’s an illuminating reply and well worth a listen.

It’s a topic I too addressed when Russell Simmons, Jay-Z and Reverend Run visited our University as part of the Prince’s Youth Trust in support of young people’s ambitions. That was a memorable day.

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Prince Charles meeting Jay-Z, captured by one of our students and a packed auditorium in which the art of rap and the artists’ rights were posited to students as a way of defending realism.

This is the piece below that I would later write for the Humanist. The N-word in a micro-dish.

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So let’s rule out Dwayne for a moment as part of my piece, and yes we could have flipped it around, so it was Dwayne at Harvard. But I digress.

Moving on. Stats/perceptions tell the story. Today in my feed there’s a media conference in Oxford, where the Secretary of State for Culture Matt Hancock MP is making the case for diversity as good business sense. I replied.

You didn’t need Black Panther to show that, but we’re here now having transitioned from altruism as a reason in the 1980s, to fairness in the 1990s, and now broadly it’s a good business deal. But then this…

Ayear ago, I attended a conference put on by the BBC. The organisation was showing of its wares e.g. interactive progs etc and mightily handsome or pretty they were. One problem, if you dropped out from planet zogg, you’d have screamed with shock when leaving the auditorium and immediately realise there are people of colour. Oh there’s security!

I got so perplexed by it, I wrote to the producer — an actual letter. Fair play to the producer who responded, because people rarely write letters. I met an associate of his twice and then ran into a brick wall at the idea of creating a summit that included…

At this point, given the manner in which semiotics works, you could likely think of me as a rabid nationalist (whatever that is?) and exclusionist, unyielding and whatever more, until you go through my history. Google “ David Dunkley Gyimah” and you’ll hopefully find out to the contrary.

I run my life on a simple motto: Do onto others what you’d like them to do to you.

Coates’ response to the woman was peachy and resonated. In a land, where because of the colour of your skin, you don’t even question entitlement; it is the air you breathe, why can’t you use any language you want — even the N- word.

Is there a parallel here when it comes to bringing the best onto podiums to share their experiences in tech, media and broadcasting?

That, flipping Coate’s answer, if you’re black, and that’s what a recruiter, conference producer, summit producer sees first, the question of relevance surfaces first and foremost. I mean what possible experience do you have to match their audience? Unless, and the emphasis is “unless”, you’re speaking on diversity. There’s nowt wrong with that. I occasionally do. @janeRockHouse then spots this.

Back in 1990 at journalism school, a friend of mine now working for the EU wrote an essay about this entitled, ‘black people eat cornflakes too’. He sent it into a popular lifestyle magazine. The editor more or less reprinted it — removing his name.

The co- producer of a project with @TheTVCollective launched last December which brought together some of the UK’s leading talent from diverse backgrounds captured a broad point. The talent is there. They exist.

Now I need to do something quite tricky here. I need to talk about myself to illustrate a point, but in so doing want to diminish the sense this is about my ego. Anything we write about, which involves ourselves elides with ego, but when it becomes gratuitous, it’s a turn off. I hope that’s not the case here.

One of the many, and perhaps poignant blue prints for local comes from an outfit set up in the UK in 1994. Channel One TV started the revolution in the UK for the use of videojournalists and London getting its first dedicated 24 hour news station. Channel One also proved how diversity worked. Firstly, I worked for Channel One, so carry experiential knowledge. Secondly, Channel One was part of my PhD from University College Dublin in which the investigation examined how the company worked and ultimately folded, and its context globally. In the US there was NY1 and in Canada City TV.

Here’s a short video, one of around 60 videos, I made for my PhD submission.

The Oxford Media Convention will speak about regional journalism. In 2006, the UK’s Press Association asked me to devise and deliver their videojournalism programme to teach newspaper journalists video journalism. I did and the very first attempt on an active story was captured and turned into a film, which won the International Videojournalism Award in Berlin.

This too was part of my study. Why newspapers and local TV got into trouble.

So to answer the question above I, and I know many others, wouldn’t expect to be part of a conference for no other reason than being black. I figure I have something to say in my capacity as me, and the knowledge that I can share. And that knowledge isn’t confined to my experience because I’m black.

On occasions it has. In the early 90s as a freelance correspondent in South Africa, I got in and out of places — without uttering a word because of my colour. I was sometimes black, sometimes coloured and when I spoke I was British or African, when I spoke Twi ( a Ghanaian language).

The difficulty is not my thinking, but that anyone reading this can get past the idea that someone of colour can add to a conversation ( tech/media and so on) because of merit.

In 1990, at the start of my career I got a break. I was hired as a researcher to work on BBC Newsnight. The first thing the editor said when we met was I shouldn’t be thinking I’m here to do black stories. I’d been working as a presenter on BBC Black London where I had. I got what he meant. Can you? Let’s talk…david@viewmagazine(dot)tv

David is a visiting professor of Journalism at University of British Columbia and heads up the disLAB programme at the University of Westminster. He’s spoken extensively at conferences e.g SXSW, Sheffield Docs, and the International festival of Journalism. He’s a leader writer in journalism on @medium

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Top Writer & Creative Technologist, Int. Award Winner. Cinemajournalist. Cardiff Uni @jomec. PhD (Dublin). Visiting Prof UBC, Ex BBC/C4News. Apple profiled.

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