Sunday, July 5, 2015

Local African-American Chamber of Commerce threatens to boycott Philly Mag

AACC will pull ad dollars if there's no effort to diversify.

Local African-American Chamber of Commerce threatens to boycott Philly Mag

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March cover of Philadelphia Magazine.
March cover of Philadelphia Magazine.

Shalimar Blakely, executive director of the African-American Chamber of Commerce of PA, NJ and DE, sent out an e-mail to members calling on them to pull ad money from Philadephia Magazine if there was no effort made to diversify the editorial staff within 30 days.

Blakely came to the conclusion after attending the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists (PABJ) event regarding their now-infamous "Being White in Philly" cover. My colleague Jenice Armstrong wrote about it today.

See the full letter after the jump below.

This past Tuesday, I attended the meeting hosted by The Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists (PABJ) regarding Philadelphia Magazine's controversial article "The Elephant in the Room." Invited guests were Tim McGarth, editor of Philadelphia Magazine and Robert Huber, author of the article.

I read the article and believed it to be more about class than race. I believe that, among other things, it highlighted the insensitivity and ignorance of some White people in Philadelphia towards the realities of being poor, and what Africa-Americans who live in poor communities experience on the regular basis.

My biggest shock in the Being White in Philly issue was when I read the editor's message, indicating that Philadelphia Magazine has "exactly zero people of color on its full-time editorial staff." So my question at Tuesday night's meeting was clear. When will this demographic change?

While Mr. MrGarth stated that he understood the positive impact diversity could have on the magazine, and that he is committed to that effort, a timeline could not be provided. I'm sure, as members of the business community, you can understand why this answer was not acceptable. Even more so that it came from an individual who works in the deadline-driven industry of journalism.

As an advocate for African-American business development and economic opportunities, it's important that the African-American Chamber of Commerce of PA, NJ and DE (AACC) holds businesses accountable and ensure that their workforce is reflective of the demographics where they operate. It is unacceptable for an organization to say they are committed to diversity, without providing clear metrics to measure that commitment.

Therefore, the AACC will provide a timeline. If, after 30 days, there has not been efforts made by Philadelphia Magazine to make their staff more diverse, the AACC will call on businesses who advertise in the magazine (businesses that the African-American community pour more than $900 billion into) for their support. The AACC will continue to work with PABJ, and is open to working with Philadelphia Magazine to help them find qualified candidates and to monitor progress.

I am hoping that Philadelphia Magazine will start making efforts on their commitment to make their staff more diverse. However, if that does not happen, I pray that the AACC could count on the support of the minority community as a whole and, if the time comes, count on those businesses who advertise in the magazine, for their support and encouragement.

Thank you,

Shalimar Blakely, Executive Director

The African-American Chamber of Commerce of PA, NJ and DE

Inquirer Staff Writer
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