ICM Partners on Monday joined other music and Hollywood companies in pledging to observe the nationwide “Black Out Tuesday” initiative in response to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Tomorrow’s event will be used as “a day to disconnect from work and reconnect with our community” via “an urgent step of action to provoke accountability and change.”
The company joins fellow agencies CAA, WME, APA and Pantheon in the move, which ICM announced after a speech this morning at the weekly all-agency meeting from partner Robert Gibbs, who spoke in a deeply personal way about racism and its effects on him, his children and extended family. He then introduced J. Cole’s performance of “Be Free” from the Late Show With David Letterman in 2014 after the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO. (See it below.)
After Gibbs, ICM Partners board member/department head Lorrie Bartlett, who last year became the fourth woman on the board and the first African American board member of a major talent agency, gave the following speech:
I hear the pain in J. Cole’s voice and it’s a pain that black people can access and know all too well. I told a number of my black colleagues last week that I am undone. I did not share that feeling with any of my white colleagues. It’s just exhausting and debilitating to be filled with this much rage, frustration and sadness.
There have been a number of articles circulating that analyze and articulate this better than I could ever hope to. And I want to borrow from an article by Danielle Cadet for Refinery 29.com that Dana Sims sent.
She writes: over the last few months Black People have watched people who looked like them be gunned down while going for a jog, be murdered in their homes, threatened while bird watching in Central Park and mercilessly choked on camera – a modern day lynching.
It’s hard to be your best self at work when our personal traumas are triggered by events like those I just described. Please make no mistake, that could have been Dana Sims, Ava Greenfield, Rob Gibbs, Andrea Nelson Meigs, Yves Pierre, Dennis Ashley, Mari Davies, me or any of our African American colleagues. We are acutely aware of that fact. But we show up for work anyway. And we contain our rage, tears, fears and sadness. We write to each other in group chats. We post and repost and retweet on social media. But we don’t take our pain to work.
Well, our brothers and sisters in the music industry have declared that we should bring it to work – at least for a day. And while it has not been business as usual for the last several weeks we are still conducting business and preparing for our post quarantine world.
As an agency, we are joining our music industry colleagues in making tomorrow, June 2nd, black out Tuesday. We often have moments of silence to honor a memory or acknowledge a tragedy. We are taking tomorrow to disconnect from business and reconnect with each other. And it should be a day to reflect on how we push forward and create the runway to permanently eliminate the pervasive and systemic racism that plagues this country.
In the coming days, weeks, months, we will continue to give guidance and create opportunities for us to link arms and collectively be part of the change.
On Friday, ICM Partners boss Chris Silbermann had sent out the following note to staff, as he has been doing at the end of each week during the coronavirus crisis:
I hope everyone had a peaceful Memorial Day and that you’ve enjoyed being back at it this week. I certainly have. Our company continues to perform well in all aspects, despite the challenges of this time, and that is a testament to everyone receiving this email. THANK YOU.
I try to make these notes about our business, our colleagues, our clients, and our marketplace; to focus us on what’s in front of us, “the task at hand,” as the saying goes. What we do here at ICM matters, more than ever, and us focusing on that and our clients goes far beyond just a paycheck. This imperative is worthy of our focus and our efforts, especially in the midst of a global pandemic.
But recently, and cumulatively, events in our country are so painful to me that I’m compelled to break protocol here and talk about them. For many of our colleagues, our clients, and friends in our community, the ongoing racial violence in our country, and most recently in Minnesota, is deeply painful and personal. It is wrong, it is unacceptable, and it is unbelievable that we live in a country where this can happen and does happen with frequency. Our country is in turmoil, and while there’s no right answer to everything, there are inherent truths that need to be talked about and re-affirmed. The murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery demand justice.
We are standing with the Floyd, Taylor and Arbery families in calling for a reckoning and for action; Congressional hearings, a national taskforce, and bi-partisan Congressional legislation to address police accountability and use of excessive force. We will support this effort with the full weight of this agency. We are actively looking for the appropriate way to assist this work and will be back with more opportunities for employee engagement soon. We also welcome your thoughts, ideas and points of view.
President Obama said it better than me this morning so I’ll leave you all with this:
“It falls on all of us, regardless of our race or station – including the majority of men and women in law enforcement who take pride in doing their tough job the right way, every day – to work together to create a “new normal” in which the legacy of bigotry and unequal treatment no longer infects our institutions or our hearts. “
Here’s the J. Cole performance: