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Speaking Tuesday at Cannes Lions, Rev. Jesse Jackson called out Hollywood and Silicon Valley for their lack of diversity and pushed the audience — made up mostly of advertisers and marketers — to leverage their media reach to promote positive messages for women, people of color and the LGBTQ community.
“For too long, Hollywood has stereotyped people in ways that have either damaged the culture or been indifferent to change,” he told The Hollywood Reporter.
Jackson specifically cited the portrayal of Native Americans as well as the entire continent of Africa as particularly ignorant and egregious. “Hollywood must open up and tell the truth and be inclusive to who can bring films. It needs to tell more positive, Schindler’s List-type stories with a broader base,” he said.
Speaking at a press conference, Jackson directly appealed to the advertising world to open the doors to minorities and be more inclusive, and also called tech to task.
“Amazon does not have a person of color on their board, Facebook does not have a person of color on their board — and these are our allies,” he said. “There have to be opportunities there [and] they have to see it as value-added. It’s not a zero-sum game.”
Asked about political solutions, Jackson said: “Those in charge have the most responsibility, but they’ve become lazy, lazier because of their habits and they don’t want to take the risk of change and do what is convenient and what is expected.”
With politics in a deadlock, he is looking to advertising to change the message.
“We must brand our values. Branders must heed that call, I think maybe more than politicians. They are willing to explore the other side,” said Jackson.
The civil rights leader seemed to tout a specific kind of benevolent corporatism, singing the praises of companies such as Coca-Cola and General Motors, which have historically given executive opportunities to women and minorities, while also calling companies to task for exporting jobs to lower-paying markets.
“There is a struggle for the soul of America,” he said earlier onstage.
With the election of Donald Trump following the presidency of Barack Obama, Jackson also reflected on Dr. Martin Luther King’s saying that the “arc of the universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” Added Jackson: “It does not bend automatically. We must do the bending. We must pull the arc down.”
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