Like that time he was mistaken for the security guard at creative agencies. And how it kept happening over and over again. Or how he’s overheard people at industry events whisper 'Is he meant to be here?' And how for most of his career, he’s been the only black person in the room.
It’s why he set up Creative Hustle, to help young creatives from ethnic minority backgrounds learn network and grow together. Because like us, he knows he can’t be alone in those alienating industry experiences. And if the crowd at Campus London on 22nd November was anything to go by, it’s clear there’s a whole generation of us, aching to be seen and heard.
"As a person of colour, you have to push back at stereotypes and preconceived notions of what you’re capable of."
Speaking on the night were four awe-inspiring leaders from different creative disciplines. Renée Davis, a journalist and founder of Out The Box; Indy Selverajah, an advertising creative who founded 8andrising.com; Bola Agbaje, an award-winning playwright and screenwriter; and Samuel Mensah, a visual creative and founder of Youth WorldWide.
As each speaker shared their ‘How I got where I am today’ story, one thing become very clear very quickly. As a person of colour, you don’t get to the top by staying quiet and getting on with it. You have to push back at stereotypes and preconceived notions of what you’re capable of. You have to stay strong in your beliefs and convictions, no matter how many times you get turned away or shut down. And of course, you have to work twice, three times, four times as hard to climb your way up.
All four speakers proved it can be worth it.
Renée showed us the importance of doing your job well, while also warning us, ‘Not everyone in your industry will understand you’, but how she was able to use her journalism voice to write her truth.
The slide of a whale shark in Indy’s presentation might’ve seemed lighthearted, but the serious underlying message was not only that you need to have thick skin to be in the advertising industry. But to be a person of colour in the industry, you need to have the thickest skin.
Bola had outrageous tales of the things white producers have suggested to make her scripts more ‘mainstream friendly’. But we love how she’s always stuck to her guns and refused to give in to suggestions of adding more knife crime, rappers, gangsters or Lethal Bizzle, because she knew that wasn’t her experience. She’s found powerful ways to get the backing she needs without giving in to stereotypes.
Samuel, who has had his artwork installed in MTV’s main offices in Camden, gave us his eight steps for success, from starting with a dream and mastering your craft, to giving back and finding your purpose. We were fully sold on his approach to speak up and speak out, especially for the next generation.
‘Not everyone in your industry will understand you’
We left the night feeling even stronger in our convictions about The Other Box. There’s definitely a buzz among young, minority creatives. We’re excited to be part of a growing community, and can’t wait to show you what we have in store for the New Year.
Big thanks and much respect to Alex for putting on Creative Hustle.
Follow them all if you know what’s good for you: