By Carla Ellison, Vice President
I once said jokingly in an interview that being a happy Black woman in PR was my superpower. The interviewer, a Black man named Abel, laughed and raised his fist in solidarity. We proceeded to share a candid conversation about the experiences of giving your whole heart to an industry that often makes you feel like an outcast.
That interaction summed up a lot of what I’ve always felt about being a Black woman in PR. However, despite the many hurdles I would experience after graduating as a PR major from the University of Miami, I always knew with conviction that I belonged in this industry.
In a lot of ways, that conviction fueled my light to shine brightest in the moments when my career was darkest. It wasn’t until 2020, after the birth of my daughter, that I found my power by fully accepting my strength and giving myself the permission to feel good about my accomplishments. That is where I found my joy and started to let go of the doubts left behind from past workplace trauma.
The biggest thing I learned from this journey was that our stories and our experiences make us more powerful than we can truly see. “There are years that ask questions and years that answer,” is one of my favorite quotes by Zora Neale Hurston.
2020 and 2021 were years that answered a lot for me, and the answers I found were consistently rooted in community. As Black PR professionals, many of us have learned to thrive without a community to lean on — without mentors or managers who yield a cultural understanding. The most successful of us and the ones who’ve been in this industry for decades were usually the only people of color in the room.
Many of us today still work and find success independently. However, our community is our strength. That’s why I strongly believe that Golin’s commitment to Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) is so important. It’s why I built my own unofficial Black Girl Magic ERG at a previous agency and why I make it a point to add value through DEI initiatives and programs. We need each other not only for the support but for the validation and the healing that comes from that.
Another resonating quote by Zora Neale Hurston is: “Sometimes, I feel discriminated against, but it does not make me angry. It merely astonishes me. How can any deny themselves the pleasure of my company?”
Black joy in PR is resilience and resistance, yes, but it’s also the full realization of a greatness no one can take away. Black joy is fearless and unapologetic. And while some may wish to limit our possibilities, Black joy gives a knowingly audacious smile and blazes new paths anyway.