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Creative industries must move away from tokenism, superficiality and insincerity

26 June 2020

Joycelyn Longdon (BSc 2019) is a freelance marketeer and founder of BLACKONBLACK, a creative agency which champions diversity in the creative industries and supports creatives of colour. We talked to her about her work, the impact of COVID-19 and #BlackLivesMatter, and what the future holds.

I was determined to get out of London but really wanted to go to a Russell Group University. Looking into the tables for universities that were great for science, specifically physics, Cardiff was in the top ten and so it was a winner for me. I chose to study Astrophysics because I was curious. I wanted to know how the universe worked and had gotten a taste from documentaries, but really wanted to dig deeper. 

I’ve always been creative and entrepreneurial. Through my schooling I was always coming up with business ideas. I would read the Harvard Business Review and even started my own jewellery business in year eight. I am someone who uses both sides of my brain and can’t actually have one without the other – so it was more out of necessity during my degree that I started BLACKONBLACK, my creative agency. 

Being named a runner-up in the Cardiff University Start-Up awards for BLACKONBLACK was amazing. It helped us create opportunities and projects for our community, and meant we could support them through a really rough time. Our ‘Quarantine and Create’ project has supported young black creatives who have lost their jobs during quarantine and raised their morale during our current global racial crisis. These are things we couldn’t have done otherwise. 

Of our recent work, Im very proud of our ‘COMME THE F*CK ON’ project. It was a satirical photo-project raising awareness of the overt racism and appropriation within the fashion industry – specifically in this case, Comme Des Garcons, who sent multiple white models down a runway in poorly applied cornrow wigs, as an apparent “homage” to “Egyptian culture”. The project was our way of inciting a new form of consumer-led critique in the industry, one that doesn’t serve brands by giving them free publicity, but one in which they are mocked. We wanted to encourage the making of racist (and exclusionary) brands a laughingstock and create a world where it’s embarrassing to be the centre of discussions like this. Diversity in the creative industry is not just about representation on screen or in shows. True diversity also includes the teams behind the cameras, the strategists and directors who can save brands from flops like this, intentional or not. 

As a freelancer in the digital space, COVID-19 has made me busier than everwith a lot of my clients pushing to pivot and move online. I am very grateful for this but also wish I could have a bit more of a break! In terms of BLACKONBLACK, COVID-19 has made things a little uncertain, specifically how we transition back into a business and not just a supportive platform. We love supporting creatives through workshops, webinars and challenges, but our main aim is to provide tangible opportunities in industry for them as well. 

For black people, what’s happening around #BlackLivesMatter has always been at the forefront. Nothing has changed apart from the message reaching further and louder. For my community, the topic of race has always been inherent in their creativity. If you look back at our first two submission periods, a lot of the artists’ inspirations were race and feminism. Our community more than ever needs support, creative outlets and opportunities for rejuvenation. 

Looking to the future I hope that the creative industries move away from tokenism, superficiality and insincerity. Progress has been made but it needs to be sincere. I also hope that creatives of colour fully step into their power and realise their capability in creating their own movements, spaces, platforms and projects! 

I recently got the news that I have been accepted onto a PhD programme at CambridgeI’ll be looking at the Application of AI on Climate Change with a focus on how we can empower indigenous communities and those in developing countries. I’ve also launched a new creative platform, Climate In Colour, to make climate conversations more accessible, diverse and informative.  

My focus has shifted slightly, only slightly, and I will be taking this time to understand how BLACKONBLACK moves forward and continues to fit into my new life.