By: Lisa King
On October 15, 2013, the New York Urban League for Young Professionals hosted a panel discussion to explore and examine what it takes to be successful in media while maintaining a balance between social responsibility and creativity. The panel of five media heavy hitters included Sonya Lockett, Vice President of Public Affairs for Black Entertainment Television, Angela Lee, Radio Personality of New York City’s Power 105.1, Claire Sulmers, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Fashion Bomb Daily, Dave Roberts, VP and General Manager of ESPN Radio and last but certainly not least Sil Lai Abrams, Writer, Anti-domestic Violence Activist, and Founder of TruthInReality.org as moderator.
The meeting began with a welcome and introductions. The panelists gave brief summaries of their career history, descriptions of their field of expertise in media and some even went on to share the hardships they’ve experienced on their journey to success. With formalities out of the way, Sil Lai Abrams immediately engaged the panel. She was uninhibited and direct, asking questions that ranged from career based inquiries focused on helping young professionals stand out in today’s job market to addressing the current state of Reality Television. “Reality TV often depicts negative images of people of color, [with women being portrayed as] Jezebels and Gold Diggers, [and men as] the sleazy industry producers or the failed athlete. Who is accountable?” Abrams asked.
Sonya Lockett responded with, “Unfortunately, as long we continue to flock to it, [the media] will continue to create it.” Dave Roberts chimed in saying that the people of color need to be behind the scenes creating the images they want to see. “The real power isn’t being an actor, the power lies behind the scenes.”
Angela Yee, who starred in a reality television show herself agreed. “Reality Television is not real. Producers follow the drama. Acting like the crazy black girl will get you more air time.” She continued, “If you [as the audience] don’t like it, speak up. There is power in a unified voice.”
Lockett closed that section of the discussion with this: “In order for change to happen, people of color must show their support to all things positive by ‘liking’ positive productions through social media outlets.”
Claire Sulmers was also there to offer her insight on the fashion world- a world she says doesn’t have a problem misrepresenting people of color. According to Claire, the problem is that “there is no representation.” She expressed her concern but was optimistic that change is coming. She encouraged members of the audience to pursue careers in fashion. Her advice to up and coming fashion experts determined to be that change was to “Intern, Intern, Intern. Don’t be afraid to accept little or no pay – just get your foot in the door. With experience, you’ll be able create your own movement. You won’t need anyone’s green light.”
The recurring message throughout the meeting was clear. As young professionals and people of color, we must be accountable for what type of entertainment we support and take responsibility for our own success but in order to reach our full potential, we must be prepared to put the work in.
Dave Roberts summed it up with these final words, “I would like the up and coming generation of young professionals to understand and accept the fact that they will have to work two, four and even ten times harder to get the professional recognition that is deserved. Do not be discouraged. [If you] focus your career on building measurable tangible results, [your] commitment and hard work will translate to excellence in any profession you choose to pursue.”
After the discussion, panelists answered a few one on one questions from the audience. Attendees expressed their gratitude to YP for providing an event that they could relate to and be inspired from. One attendee I met with said, “This event was great. I definitely experienced a few ‘aha’ moments. I’m looking forward to the next one.”
In closing, this was a evening filled with sound advice, good humor and a creative energy that is sure that inspire young professionals to make a difference in the world by getting involved, staying involved and never giving up on their dreams.
About the Author, Lisa King
Lisa King is a graduate of Brooklyn College obtaining a Bachelors Degree in Business Management and Finance. She currently works in the private sector as a Director of Human Resources and is working on her first book focused on the empowerment of women.