Updated Jun 17, 2022 - Axios Events

Watch: A conversation on Juneteenth's call to action

On Friday, June 17th, Axios race and justice reporter Russell Contreras, local managing editor Delano Massey and executive editor Aja Whitaker-Moore hosted a virtual event exploring Juneteenth’s call to action and the significance of African American culture and contributions. Guests included Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, Princeton University professor Eddie S. Glaude Jr. and BET chief executive officer Scott Mills.

Mayor Sylvester Turner explained what’s at stake for the next generation if discussions about slavery are restricted in schools, the importance of understanding the meaning behind Juneteenth and how confronting the pain of the past could lead to a a more inclusive future.

  • On understanding the history and meaning of Juneteenth: “You don’t just want to commercialize it. This is not just another day where you just take off. It is important for everybody to understand the history and how it came into existence…it is a day of freedom, of liberation for people who were once slaves and who were set free, and in setting African Americans free, quite frankly the whole country set itself free, because you can’t enslave one without enslaving others as well.”
  • On ensuring Houston confronts its past in order to address its future: “They need to know what took place in order to have meaningful reforms and to do better as you move forward. They need to know that African Americans, for example, were enslaved and then what it took to bring about their freedom. Otherwise, you walk around as if nothing has ever happened. So in order to build a great future where we are reflective of the diversity and we’re working to be inclusive, it is important to know how you got to this point…and if you don’t, then you run the risk of repeating the past in the very worst way.”

Eddie S. Glaude Jr. described what needs to happen for society to truly make progress toward racial equity and how learning about the history of race in this country informs the understanding of current events and combats racist views.

  • On uprooting societal distinctions based on race: “There is still in this society a valuation of particular bodies and a general disregard of others. And until we uproot that, until we get rid of this distinction, this insidious distinction based on race, that some people ought to be valued more than others, we will find ourselves on this racial hamster wheel over and over again.”
  • On teaching history to combat racist views: “Telling the truth about who we are and what we’ve done sets the stage for us to grow up and be otherwise. It doesn’t resolve the problems. It will not settle the contradictions. But it will damn sure put us on the road to becoming better people, becoming a more just society I believe.”

Scott Mills highlighted how BET is employing research on sociology and psychology to create content that combats racist beliefs and how their mission to entertain and empower the Black community inspires visions for their platform and their programming.

  • On BET’s campaign to promote content that drives change and spotlights systemic racism: “The trick is there’s actually not a body of scholarship or data or research that’s sitting on the shelf that you can just go and take, that says the way to kind of break a racist misperception or disrupt a racist belief is to do these three things. There is no actually kind of proven techniques around how specifically to do this. So our starting point was to engage with scholars, academicians, who actually specialize in understanding sociology and behavioral psychology to determine and identify specific narrative devices and techniques that can be used to combat racist beliefs.”
  • On building a mission to entertain, engage and empower the Black community: “Where we ultimately landed was that our mission is to entertain, engage and ultimately empower the Black community, and that became a powerfully clarifying approach to everything that we do. Part of the reason we start with entertaining is, yes, that’s the commercial side of our business, but it’s also the vehicle that we use to bring people into BET…but then ultimately using all of our resources to simultaneously empower.”

In the View from the Top segment, Bank of America SVP of global supplier diversity and responsible sourcing executive Vonshe Jenkins shared how collective pain around contemporary injustice has led companies to take action toward racial equity.

  • “Going back to the killing of Mr. Floyd, and I remember that time and we all individually digested and experienced it differently, but we knew as a company we had to really turn the collective pain that we were feeling and our devastation and our horror, quite frankly, and put it into action.”

Thank you Bank of America for sponsoring this event.

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