In the world of advertising agencies, a passionate pitch to a client doesn't mean that idea will make it onto billboards or television. And once the final decision has been made you prepare for the next pitch. In 2010, such was the case for ad industry guru Valerie Graves. She had pitched a public service announcement (PSA) on positive statistics related to young African-American men that was passed over by the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids (formerly known as the Partnership for a Drug-Free America). About five years later the PSA has finally come to fruition.
During the time she co-developed the idea, Graves was the chief creative director at the now defunct agency Vigilante. In her role she wanted to spotlight the achievements of young men of color--something she felt was not prevalent in the mainstream.
"A kid graduating from high school and going to college is not very news-worthy," she said. "All of those things are ordinary facts of life for most people but for blacks they are counterbalanced by news accounts of our young men being arrested, shot, and part of the problems of society. Their successes are overshadowed."
One member of Graves' team Jack McGoldrick, head of McGoldrick Marketing researched statistics culled from U.S. federal government agencies that ran counter to the perception of young African-American men as teenage fathers and high-school dropouts. After the pitch was denied everyone moved on except McGoldrick. After a few years, a move to Massachusetts, and establishing a partnership with the NAACP Mystic Valley Branch, he was able to realize the PSA he co-developed with Graves.
In the PSA, twenty Medford, MA high school students collectively announce statistics such as "I am a statistic. I am the one out of three who will go to college," and "I am the 7 out of 8 who is not a teenage father." Both McGoldrick and Graves hope the PSA will go viral and help to change the image of young men of color, especially during a time of racial and social unrest following the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, and Mike Brown.
"News stories often paint African-American men in a negative light and the statistics we presented shows that is not true," said McGoldrick. "The teenage guys in the commercial feel a sense of pride and told me they haven't forgotten the numbers."
"Everyone I know that has seen the spot for the first time is surprised," added Graves. "If they are black they tend to also be pleased."
Jeff Bradshaw takes it Home to make history
Trombonist Jeff Bradshaw has come a long way over a short distance from playing music on the streets near the Kimmel Center in his hometown of Philadelphia to making history at the celebrated performing arts venue. With the forthcoming March 31 release date of Home he has the first R&B live album recorded at the Kimmel Center.
As the album title suggests it is a full circle moment for Bradshaw. When he played around the corner from the Kimmel Center it was to raise money for his church band to travel to conventions. Bradshaw, who grew up in the United House of Prayer for All People was taught by his father how to play the lyrics of songs and add vocal expression on the trombone. But once he decided to create secular music he experienced some criticism from members of the church, more concerned with potentially disastrous lifestyle choices than his musical content.
"Of course there is always some form of backlash when you take a gift developed in church and play secular music with that same gift," he shared. "But once people see you won't turn into a drug addict or an alcoholic and that you will always give honor to God with your lifestyle in this business, then it's all love."
Bradshaw decided to spread the love by including an esteemed line-up of collaborators for his momentous Kimmel Center project including the album's executive producer Robert Glasper and singers such as Marsha Ambrosius, Kim Burrell, Kenny Lattimore, and more.
"It is an honor to be an African-American young man born and raised in a North Philly housing project to now headline a historic live album recording at Kimmel Center. It is a blessing and humbling."
The weekly column, On the "A" w/Souleo, covers the intersection of the arts, culture entertainment and philanthropy in Harlem and beyond and is written by Souleo, founder and president of event/media content production company Souleo Enterprises LLC.