The Media Industry Is Set To Be Great For People Of Color

Lincoln Stephens started a project called The Marcus Graham Project as a way to increase diversity in the media industry.

By Victor Ochieng

It seeks to offer training in advertising, marketing, and media. So far, it has provided training to hundreds of young people of color through summer boot camps. The boot camps provide participants with exposure and the necessary experience they need to pursue career in the media industry.

CGI America, a segment of Clinton Global Initiative, employs a unique Commitment to Action-centered model, requiring that all participants build a concrete, measurable strategic plan to help them transform their ideas into action, an approach that has notable impact on Stephens and the work of MGP. “Even the process of filling out the paperwork helped me to think more intently about the work,” Stephens says.

Although the partnership between MGP and CGI America is on its second-year running, their commitment has become more expansive this year. “We’re now looking at a deeper level of impact,” Stephens says. His vision has been shaped by the many thought leaders who take part in CGI events and partnerships with MGP’s partners.

“Hearing how other organizations approach fundraising has encouraged us to think bigger,” he says.

The project is on a clear mission of expanding its impact and is working hand in hand with American Association of Advertising Agencies, the VCU Brandcenter, and the Interactive Advertising Bureau.

“This may sound corny, but the lyrics I’m a movement by myself, but a force when we’re together are really true. It only makes sense to be a force.”

MPG is focused on increasing the number of those participating in the program from 200 people in a year to 5,000 in the coming year.

“Exponential growth and impact is possible if you’re not afraid to imagine something larger,” Stephens says.

Stephens has a serious sense of urgency, and says the issue of diversity is as serious now as it was back in the 1960s.

“By the year 2020 there will be 1.4 million job openings in advertising, marketing, and media. Not only do we need to prepare people to be aware of those jobs, we need to ensure that these jobs are filled by qualified minority professionals. But at our current rate of hiring, it will be 2079 before the industry reflects the population of the country,” Stephens says.

The organization has been making some notable differences since it started the program. It’s been providing participants with invaluable career preparation and mentorship, with the MGP boasting of a 94% job placement rate.

Part of the organization’s focus is to create awareness within the Black community on the available career options.

“We consume more media than other groups, but we’re not aware of jobs in production, traffic, finance, and business affairs,” Stephens says. “The only HBCU with a credible advertising major is Howard.”

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