"The energy and feeling of community at each of the events were amazing," explains W+K Noir member and senior strategist at W+K, Mahu Attenoukon. "Our goal was to demonstrate as many facets of our culture as we could so even if you were only able to attend one event, you learned something new or got to connect with someone new."
It’s obviously an enormous undertaking to put on programming of this magnitude. Being part of an affinity group within an organization comes with heaps of self-imposed responsibility, ownership, extra work, and . . . no extra pay. So why would anyone do it? For Autumn, there was never a question she would join Noir.
“I’ve always been involved as far as my Blackness. For example, in undergrad, I was part of Black student government, I was a part of the National Association of Black Journalists, so I’ve always tried to find ways to elevate my community. For me, coming to Wieden, it was instinctive. We have that platform to really celebrate Blackness and highlight the people within these walls that do the work because there aren’t a lot of Black people that work in advertising in general, so just to be a part of that 5% and to have the opportunity to use the resources at Wieden to put on other people in the community. It is a lot of work, but it’s worth it. It’s work that we enjoy.”
Faith agrees and maintains it ultimately helped them make their mark as junior employees in the workplace.
“It’s a win-win,” Faith said. “We’re winning by celebrating our Blackness, but on the other end, we’re showing our peers we have ideas, we know how to execute, and we make it fun. We’re getting respect and personal relationships, which is invaluable. As a junior person to work with leadership, and get that recognition; we are rising stars!”
She continued, “I think that being a Black woman in advertising period holds a lot of weight and being an environment like W+K adds another layer of weight, so it’s really important to me to let people know in this office, and without, that we are working on our diversity. We are truly celebrating the cultures and the people that work here. That was one reason I really wanted to do this. To put it simply, I wanted to show off. Look how great W+K is and how great the Black people are. It has a big impact on my morale coming to work.”
Even with Black History Month coming to an end, affinity groups like Noir have laid the groundwork to keep recognition of Black employees and the surrounding community front and center all year long. This doesn’t just mean bringing back events like the Black Is Business Market for the holidays, although that is something they plan to do, but also increasing consciousness overall for those they work with and the community they work within.