*General Motors is denying accusations of racism being leveled at CEO Mary Barra in the wake of Black-owned media company heads letting the world know of their allegations in a Detroit Free Press advertisement on Sunday.
GM’s aim is to literally include inclusion in all areas of its business, including advertising, according to Patrick Morrisey, a GM spokesperson, despite those Black media industry leaders’ remarks suggesting the opposite is true.
The ad says “less than 0.5% goes to media companies owned” by African Americans, calling that “horrendous, considering that we as African Americans make up approximately 14% of the population in America and we spend billions buying your vehicles.”
The ad is signed by the following:
- Byron Allen: Founder, chairman & CEO of Allen Media Group, a California-based media group that owns The Weather Channel and provides video to broadcast and cable TV, mobile devices, multimedia platforms, and the web.
- Roland Martin: CEO of Nu Vision Media, Inc., a Chicago-based company that produces and distributes Roland S. Martin’s daily digital show, #RolandMartinUnfiltered.
- Todd F. Brown, PMP: Founder, Urban Edge Networks and HBCU League Pass, which covers historically Black colleges and universities.
- Don Jackson: Founder, chairman and CEO of Central City Productions, a Chicago-based full service television production company.
- Earl “Butch” Graves Jr.: President and CEO, Black Enterprise, a magazine covering African-American businesses.
- Ice Cube: BIG3, Cubevision, CWBA.
- Junior Bridgeman: Ebony Media, the publisher of Ebony Magazine, which covers pop culture and news focusing on the African-American community.
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Allen, Martin and the others reportedly tried to craft a new advertising strategy with GM executives so that at least 5 percent of the corporation’s ad budget would be allocated to Black-owned companies, Allen said in comments to the Free Press. However, Allen noted that Barra turned her back on the group’s attempts to schedule formal correspondence between them “constantly, over time and after multiple requests.””
Allen said the group could recommend 14% of the budget be spent on advertising with Black-owned media companies, “that would be economic parity, we’re not even asking for parity, we’re asking for inclusion.”
But GM spokesperson Morrisey says the company spends more than .5% of its media budget now with Black-owned media. While he declined to provide specifics, he said it is increasing and it is “much higher than .5%.”
When the group reached out to Barra again several weeks ago, GM’s chief marketing officer, Deborah Wahl, replied and said she would meet with them instead of Barra. Apparently Wahl’s action precipitated the group’s decision to speak out about GM in the context of alleged systemic racism in Sunday’s advertisement.
“You stand on stage, after the death of George Floyd, saying, ‘Black Lives Matter,’ when you have refused to acknowledge us,” the ad reportedly stated, referencing Barra’s public advocacy as demonstrations against police violence and racism erupted across the U.S. last summer. At the time, GM also pledged to donate $10 million to “organizations that promote inclusion and racial justice.” The company donated $1 million to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, according to a statement issued in June.
“The very definition of systemic racism is when you are ignored, excluded and you don’t have true economic inclusion,” they pointed out in Sunday’s ad.
“If you say status quo is OK, that’s wrong. That is racism. Let me be clear, that is racism. But if you get to the table and you lean in to effectuate change, then you are showing the world you who really are,” added Allen in a separate comment to the Free Press. “This is an opportunity. The numbers will never lie. You’re either doing business with Black-owned media or you’re not in a fair and equitable way.”
Morrissey reportedly told the newspaper that GM has already established plans to refocus ad spending in ways that enhance diverse representation and cultivate partnerships with “diverse-owned and diverse-dedicated” media companies. He also said that GM will continue to engage in discussions with Allen.
“We have increased our planned spending with both diverse-owned and diverse-dedicated media across our family of brands,” Morrissey said, according to the Free Press. “We’ve partnered with the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters on a content series for Black American listeners produced and distributed by underrepresented businesses…In this same spirit, we will continue to have an open dialogue with Mr. Allen.”