Black History Month Presented by the Black @ The Many ERG

Ty Gates | Feb. 15 2022

The Black @ The Many ERG is made up of 19 incredible individuals spanning across The Many’s brand, creative, design, growth, media, operations, project management, and strategy departments. Black History is here, but before we celebrate heroes, champions and trailblazers of the past, present and future, we’re shining the line on our own heroes, champions, and trailblazers at The Many. So for those that don’t know us, have yet to work with us, or are standing on the sideline (what’s up future employees) wanting to see more from us, here is an intro to some of the folks that make up the Black @ The Many ERG, aka B@TM.


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Alexis Oguiké, Project Manager

How long have you been working at The Many: 8 months

We’re not monolithic so where are your roots from and how has that upbringing defined who you are as a Black person in America today?
I was born and raised in the burbs of Chicago, Illinois, but my roots run back to Imo State, Nigeria –specifically the Igbo tribe. My entire family on, both, my mother and father’s side were all born in Nigeria, making me the first born and raised U.S citizen in my family. This, of course, made life somewhat ‘interesting‘ growing up Black in America.
 
At home, I operated under Nigerian customs and traditions, but out in the world, I adjusted to American culture. Yet in both environments, I never really felt like I belonged. I wasn’t ‘African enough’ and was considered too Americanized, while also not being ‘Black enough’ because of my likes, interests, style, etc. And I definitely wasn’t white enough – despite being referred to as an ‘Oreo’  numerous times growing up.
 
Nonetheless, I was grateful to have experienced my Nigerian culture while being Black in America. It taught me so many things from my core values to the way I dress, how to style my hair, the types of foods I like, and the music I listen to. Having this exposure at home ultimately shaped my Black identity today. And that’s something I (unfortunately) used to be ashamed of, but can now look back on and find so much pride in. I started to embrace my differences and began to pull them into my Black culture as I grew. I incorporated afro-beats into my dance routines in school. I fell in love with spices and pulled them into SO many recipes. I even fused Nigerian print/Ankara fabric into the Black modern fashion line I manage with my sister.
 
As I grew, I realized that there really is no one way to be Black in America. We’re all just a mixing pot of so many different cultures and backgrounds which makes being Black, truly amazing.
 
What has being Black taught you in advertising?
In Advertising, being Black taught me to – Prove. Them. Wrong.
 
Looking back, I was probably 1 of 3 other Black people in my graduating class from the College of Media, so I’ve always been the one Black girl amongst my peers. And unfortunately, that didn’t change much as I entered into the working world. No one truly believed that I would ‘make it’ in this industry. I even remember an old agency coworker ‘jokingly’ saying that the only reason why I was here was because they needed to fulfill a diversity quota (I know, I wanted to slap her into the next week, but I remained professional haha).
 
Regardless, I kept persevering. I joined the black ERGs, I joined the diversity teams. And I even found a new passion I never knew I had – helping minorities thrive in advertising. I wanted to inform many Black students about advertising and the world of marketing, so I connected with some students from my old college and gained some mentees. The issue wasn’t that we weren’t ‘good’ enough to be here, it was that the knowledge of this field wasn’t even known! That’s why I’m always rooting for anyone Black. Because when the world expects you to fail, who else will support and cheer you on other than your own community? And as we continue to rise and thrive in the world of advertising, the content and creative we touch then inspires the rest of the world. So many hot trends in today’s culture originated from Black people.
 
So despite the hurdles, glass ceilings, and numerous obstacles we face in this industry (as well as in the media), advertising taught me to keep pushing forward, keep proving them wrong, and keep being unapologetically Black.


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Anissa Sanders, Media Supervisor

How long have you been working at The Many: 1 year and 2 months

We’re not monolithic so where are your roots from and how has that upbringing defined who you are as a Black person in America today?
Growing up, I moved quite a bit but had my formative years across South Carolina, Virginia, and California. With each move, it was rare that people in my classes and neighborhoods looked like me. I constantly was adapting to new environments and cultures but sometimes it felt like it was at the expense of my own.
 
As I got older, learned more about my own history and culture, I began to understand and embrace what it means to be Black to me. It’s not something a history lesson could show me or even my parents could define for me. It was something I had to figure out for myself. There’s a foundation that sets the tone but with more experiences and years of life – the structure is constantly changing and evolving.
 
What standards have you set for yourself as a Black person in America?
Be myself — I show up and show out unapologetically as myself each day. Being a Black woman in America is hard but it’s also a unique experience. Oftentimes we’re associated with the stereotypes of aggression, intimidation and anger but I don’t let those stereotypes define me.
 
We all have emotions and opinions and how one chooses to associate those based on skin color is a reflection of them—not me. I walk through life with my head held high and use my voice because many before me were beaten down for doing the same thing. Not only do I owe it to myself to be me, but also to generations past and future as a reminder we matter. In all things—we matter and our voices matter.


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Brittany Goode, Associate Media Director

How long have you been working at The Many? 1 month

We’re not monolithic so where are your roots from and how has that upbringing defined who you are as a Black person in America today?
Growing up in a military family, we bounced around a bit before settling down in New York City. The range of environments I was exposed to helped me ground myself and understand what it means to be Black from a young age. Getting to my roots, both sides of my family are from the South, my mother is from Louisiana and my father is from Virginia. We learned to keep our heads up, be confident in who we are, have faith, and know where we come from. However, learning where we come from is difficult. I can’t recall the moment I was first introduced to my history, but I do know I felt anger, sadness, and overall discomfort.
 
As a child, I didn’t fully grasp it, but as I matured and learned, I began to understand the gravity of what my ancestors endured. Though there is a deep history of violence and trauma, that does not define who I am. That feeling of discomfort turned into PRIDE. The resilience, courage, strength and love of the generations before me runs in my veins and I wear it like a crown. We all have unique cultures, stories and experiences, but share a foundation of power rooted in making the impossible possible.
 
What does an accurate representation of black in the workplace look like to you?
For me, an accurate representation is having Black presence from entry-level to executive positions. It’s being our authentic selves in every space we hold and feeling comfortable using our voices. It’s not just having a seat at the table, but also thriving.


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Ifetayo Jabari-Kitwala, Growth Coordinator

How long have you been working at The Many? 6 months

What is our responsibility to the culture as black people in America?
Our responsibility to the culture as Black people in this country is to understand that not everyone is going to ‘get it.’ So when they don’t or when they try, but overstep, it is crucial to not let their ignorance cloud or take away from the richness of our culture. Our responsibility is to keep our culture alive, unified, strong, and pure. Our unification and Black excellence does not need to be gatekept, but it is also NOT our responsibility to be a steward of access for other people into our culture. There is a balance. Our responsibility is having that personal balance.
 
What do you love most about being Black?
I love being Black because there is a continuous and constant evolution and discovery around me. I grew up with such a jaded view of what it meant to be Black in this country – what can I wear, what can I say, how can I say it.
 
My mom and my dad, both 100% Black, raised me on two opposite sides of the spectrum, one told me to keep my head down and one to me to never look down when challenged. Although this led to several cultural identity crises before the age of 21, it also made me love being Black. I first-handily experienced all of their intersectionalities that live within a Black community. These intersections happen when there is a mix of not only larger call-outs like dialect, education, financial literacy, but also the more mundane differences that an outside may not pick up on such as elderly presence in the home and the way you cook your mac & cheese.
 
I love being Black because our greatness is not only never ending, but it is ever-evolving.


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Iman Forde, Director of Project Management

How long have you been working at The Many? 7 years

We’re not monolithic so where are your roots from and how has that upbringing defined who you are as a Black person in America today?
 
I’m biracial with a French/Caribbean mother and French/English father, and I was born in France, with most of my family still living there. In France, Black people aren’t lumped into one category and people are more tied to their home country and traditions – for example, we recognize and celebrate the differences between a Senegalese person and a person from my family’s island, Guadeloupe.
 
In the US, I find it disappointing that Blackness is often seen as monolithic, but I’ve tried to flip the script and instead enjoy all the things that we have in common despite our differences. Being raised by my white father in predominantly white spaces was also quite confusing as I never felt white or Black enough. I tended to go with the French mentality of deprioritizing race because it felt too uncomfortable, but it wasn’t until I was older that I realized I was doing a disservice to myself in trying to ignore or erase a big part of what makes me, me. It’s been a long internal journey, but I’m incredibly proud to be Black and love that I do stand out in the way that I look.
 
What is our responsibility to the culture as Black people in America?
It’s our responsibility to break stereotypes and also expand on what the Black experience is. Showing Black people creating, supporting, and succeeding is extremely important as it shows the vastness of who we are, but also inspire others. Everybody says “representation matters” for a reason – it reminds us that we aren’t alone in this world and encourages us to break the mold. 


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Jesiah Atkinson, Junior Designer

How long have you been working at The Many? 7 months

What advice would you give other Black creatives that want to make it in advertising?
 
Don’t get caught up in the current lack of representation across the numerous positions within this industry. Try not to take it super personal when you’re in a meeting and either no one looks like you or there’s only a small few. Don’t make yourself small. Be YOU.
 
Resist the urge to make your non-black colleagues feel comfortable by way of subduing who you are. And if you see something that isn’t right, something that is offensive, call it out. Understand that the old days where black people stood by and let non-black people subdue us, use us and silence us, are over. There are many roots to be uprooted and you are a part of an entire group of Black people across the world who are taking center stage and are serving as more than a hashtag or fulfilling a quota.
 
You are helping change the world and set the standard. You are helping shift the playing field. Be confident. Be sincere. Do not let anyone silence you. Do not be afraid.
 
What do you love most about being Black?
I love how resilient we are. Entire systems around the world have been built with the intention of subduing (and literally killing) us and our talents and still, we push past the adversity and succeed. We are a people who remain full of joy, despite the fact that the world has been against us for centuries.
 
We are creative, spearheading entire movements and shifting culture without even trying.
 
We are the blueprint to most of your slang.
 
We set the standard for what is “cool” in mainstream media spanning across the globe.
 
Our music. Our language. The way we dress. The way we move. Everything.
 
And *that* is something I’m proud of.
 
What standards have you set for yourself as a Black person in America?
As a Black person in America, I have set the standard within myself to always approach everything sincerely. To not shrink myself, regardless of how many people in the room don’t look like me. To always make sure that I am representing myself authentically. I know that as a Black person, I have to not only work harder, but smarter than my non-black counterparts in certain spaces.


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Justice McCree, Senior Digital Specialist

How long have you been working at The Many? 2 years

What standards have you set for yourself as a Black person in America?
The standards I’ve placed on myself as a Black man in America are deeply rooted in my upbringing. Watching my parents work so hard to try to make my life better than theirs, constructed the ideals that I live by.
 
Although I’m not perfect, I strive to make every day better than the last by putting forth 110% effort in all I do, leaving a positive impact on those I meet, and , above all, remaining loyal to who I am. By doing so, I work towards the goal of setting a precedent for the next generation, so that one day my children, too, may have a better life than mine.
 
What does an accurate representation of Black in the workplace look like to you?
To me, an accurate representation would reflect Black talent showcased throughout an org chart, all the way from the top through the bottom. A workplace featuring diversity across all levels, within multiple departments, helps promote cultural change and builds a better sense of community.


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Kristin Grant, Brand Strategist

How long have you been working at The Many? 4 months

What standards have you set for yourself as a Black person in America?
The standard I set for myself as a Black woman is grounded in the lessons I learned early on from my family, specifically my mom, who embodies each day the standard of always showing up as yourself, even when that’s not what others may want you to be.
 
I live by the mantra that it’s none of my business how other people perceive me, just how I perceive myself. Making my standard a daily exercise in staying true to myself, showing up as I am, and taking up space.
 
What advice would you give other Black creatives that want to make it in advertising?
Don’t let the limitations of other people’s lack of imagination stop you from trying.
 
There is no one path to advertising, and your life experience outside of the industry, may very well be the thing that fuels you to create great work that truly represents all of the various intersections of life you reside in.
 
You’ll know the right agency/role, when you see it, because it will be the one that celebrates every aspect of your back story and supports you on your journey.


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Marcus Blackwell, Senior Copywriter

How long have you been at The Many? 6 months

What does an accurate representation of Black in the workplace look like to you?
For me, it’s when there’s a diverse group of Black leadership and true representation from one team to the next. There’s an infinite amount of talent within our community — in all fields. It’s endless. An accurate representation for me is when that’s showcased at all levels.
 
What advice would you give other Black creatives that want to make it in advertising?
We as Black creatives are the innovators, influencers and driving force behind so much of culture. Create with that confidence and mindset.
 
It might sound simple, but stay true to yourself. Be unapologetic.  When navigating into and through the world of advertising, remember that your unique skill set, creativity and POV is BEYOND valuable. It’s important for us to tell our stories, our way.  In my experience, I’ve learned how necessary it is to lift each other up. Connect and collaborate with other Black creatives, and mention their names when opportunities pop up.
 
Speak up when things don’t feel right.
 
Be open to advice from those who’ve been in the game longer, but remember that there isn’t only “one” way to do this.


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Melvin Johnson, IT & Facilities Coordinator

How long have you been working at The Many? 11 months

What standards have you set for yourself as a Black person in America?
The standard that I have set for myself as a Black man in America is to be the change I’d like to see in the world and lead by example.
 
What are we doing RIGHT as a culture?
Redefining the status quo.


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Rediate Tekeste, Senior Brand Director

How long have you been working at The Many? 11 months

We’re not monolithic so where are your roots from and how has that upbringing defined who you are as a Black person in America today?
 
I was born in Ethiopia, raised in Iowa, and I’ve lived in Arizona, back in Ethiopia, and now in L.A.
 
My identity journey as a Black person in America, was at the very least a challenging evolution, at the most – traumatic. Growing up, I didn’t really reflect on it, but when I moved back to Ethiopia after college, I expected to fit right in (I mean, everyone looked like me…), and boy – was I wrong. I quickly realized I was more American than Ethiopian in a lot of ways. I started feeling like I was never enough of one-culture or another.  The turning point was actually in my professional life – I started working as a field producer on an international documentary and my ability to understand cultural nuances, code-shift, and fluidly move between different cultures (in different countries) was immensely valuable. I met more third-culture people, immersed in Ethiopian and Black culture, and started finding the value of my experience.
 
I realized that identity is not stagnant and that it will continuously evolve. 
 
Being Black in America, to me, is having an awareness of the history and a reverence for the resilience of the people before me. Knowing that there is power in our shared experiences. Understanding that my origin story may be different, but the America we navigate is the same.
 
We are valuable because we can code-shift, we understand different viewpoints, and our melanin is beautiful – wherever it’s rooted. I am not monolithic.
 
I am Black. I am Ethiopian. I am American.
 
What has being Black taught you in advertising?
I’ve learned that my voice is important and it makes a difference. When I was little, my sister would say a random product and I would make up a commercial (I was a weird kid). I had no idea that meant I should be in advertising, I just loved storytelling. After working in a super culture-forward agency, I realized that my little kid dreams were coming true. I could be part of a team that created content with people that looked like me, had my experiences, had diverse experiences, connected with different audiences – and it was still relevant to a brand. Whenever I want to just not say anything (to protect myself professionally…or because I’m tired), I try to remember that there’s some random little Black girl in Iowa that might see what we create and feel like she’s more relevant to the world.


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Shera White, Project Coordinator

How long have you been working at The Many? 2 years

What standards have you set for yourself as a Black person in America?
I love everything about this question and the accountability it comes with as a Black individual. I do my best to change the narrative from storytelling and wanting special treatment simply because I am Black. Historically – it is true that I am impacted by generational trauma but how I move forward is what matters the most. The standard I have set for myself as a Black American woman has a strong presence today, focusing on my mental health, nourishing my body. My goal isn’t to be perfect, it’s to never give up. Showing up as my authentic self and making sure that I have self-compassion.
 
What do you love most about being Black?
My skin makes me the proudest because it was a gift given to me at birth by my late father (Howard James White). I realize how fortunate I am to have this brown skin. The strength, resilience, courage and JOY that it comes with is like having superpowers. It has protected me, guided me and reminded me to be strong. I do realize the stigma attached to our skin, the torture, humiliation and heartbreak of those before me, even being called ugly for no reason. So every time I look down at my brown skin I am reminded of my father’s love, BLACK JOY and I’m full of gratitude. Thanks, Dad for making me a brown skin girl!!


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Thaxton Scott, Associate Brand Director

How long have you been working at The Many? 5 months

What standards have you set for yourself as a Black person in America?
The possibilities and standards for me as a Black man are limitless. I am a firm believer in having my own personal standard of excellence and every day I aim to maintain that for myself. It’s important that I continuously pour into my community to ensure we are evolving and striving to uphold Black excellence. More importantly, the true gem and standard my family has taught me to live by is trusting my instincts and always showing up to any room confidently and authentically me. There’s just a certain level of swagger, finesse and power that we, as Black people, possess and it’s truly unmatched.
 
What do you love most about being Black?
What I love most about being Black is OUR CULTURE. Our culture has influenced the world and nothing would be what it is without Black culture. I love the fact that Black people share an unspoken bond (Black Twitter, for example). Seemingly, we were all raised the same, love a good loud laugh, the joy that comes from a family gathering, our music *chef’s kiss* — everything. While the misappropriation of Black culture in our society is heart wrenching, it goes to show how impactful and influential Black culture is to the world we live in.


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Thompson ‘Tomo’ Imasogie, Senior Art Director

How long have you been at The Many? 6 months

What has being Black taught you in advertising?
Being Black and working in advertising has taught me a lot about the power/influence that we have through media.
 
As a creative, I find it important to ensure that black people are represented in an authentic manner that doesn’t reinforce negative stereotypes or promote non-constructive behavior. On a professional level, I’ve also learned what it means to be Black in the workplace.
 
Advertising/media has a long history of racism. Not only from the work that’s being produced but the workplace environment as well. My experiences at various agencies has opened my eyes to many of the problems that exist in our industry which in turn has impacted not only how I view the workplace but also my long-term career goals.
 
What is our responsibility to the culture as Black people in America?
It is our responsibility to keep pushing/reminding our people that it’s okay to think, feel, and be BLACK. It’s okay to have a Black consciousness, a Black POV, and respond/react to things in a Black way without worrying about how it will make non-black folks feel – as well as the “consequences” that might follow due to their discomfort. It’s also our responsibility to remind each other of the greatness that already lives within us. We are more than capable of problem-solving, being independent, being self-sufficient, and uplifting our communities.


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Tirris 'Ty' Gates, Communications Manager

How long have you been working at The Many? 10 months

How has the word ‘privilege’ affected you in the workplace?
 
Throughout my career, I’ve noticed that people with a sense of privilege can get off some wild, and sometimes disrespectful, opinions. I’ve also noticed that they can take your ideas and reap the benefits. I remember speaking up once back in the day on what I thought was the right approach for a client’s announcement rollout and was completely shut down. At the next meeting a coworker took that same approach but wrapped it up with that sense of privilege and it was considered “great insight.”


What does an accurate representation of Black in the workplace look like to you?

I would say what we have going on at The Many is the start to an accurate representation of Black in the workplace that I’ve seen in my career. It is nice not being the only one or one of less than five.
Put yourself in my shoes during the moments following George Floyd’s death. The only Black person in a 20 person company (four of us were based in America while the rest were in the EU). I didn’t really have an opinion on the matter as everything was unfolding, but I was spotlighted for an opinion as the resident Black during a global meeting. I remember sitting there like, “do these people think I can somehow channel the thoughts of every Black person in the world and deliver a synopsis on what everyone was feeling? This is wild.”
 
Would that had happen with a more prominent representation of Black folks?


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Yasmine Nozile, Managing Director – Finance
 
How long have you been working at The Many? 9 months
 
What standards have you set for yourself as a Black person in America?
Walking in my own unique path is most definitely the standard I’ve set for myself as a Black WOMAN in America. Having to walk into a room knowing I am viewed by many as a “double minority” adds a certain level of pressure whether you know it or not. Therefore, if I live and lead knowing that any and everything that I am doing is of high standards, the burden of those expectations or comparison have little value. But my relationships and impact are ultimately the story that is told as I walk through doors.
 
What are we doing RIGHT as a culture?
As a culture, we are now focused on wealth generation, financial education and closing the wealth gap which is SUPER DOPE to me. On the heels of the 2020 Pandemic, I watched many people in our community take ownership in educating our community in investing, money management, estate planning and several other areas for free. The community that has been built and the movement itself is one that I am a part of and SUPER passionate about. It only takes a dollar. But teaching our community what to do with the dollar once they have it is a task that no one took the time to teach. But we now have the platforms and the knowledge barrier is gone.

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