In our world there is a lack of racial understanding and general tokenism still exists within our diverse British cultures despite entering the eve of the 21st century.
The EMMAs (Ethnic Multicultural Media Awards) were originally set-up with the funding and support of National Westminster Bank in 1997, to celebrate the contribution made by the minority ethnic communities within the media industry.
EMMA recognises that individuals from this ethnically diverse background should be encouraged to participate in furthering their careers, by highlighting their successes and promoting role models. To that extent the recognition of those working behind the scenes is paramount, regardless of the many public figures we have who maintain a glamorous position and command a high degree of respect within our society.
The desire by all concerned, to highlight and promote true talent has not been overlooked by our supporters, sponsors and colleagues and within BT (British Telecommunications PLC) I have enjoyed a rapport with Peter Philipson, (Head of the Equality & Diversity Unit) and Caroline Waters, (Head of Employment Policy) whom I have learnt to trust and respect with regards to the above objectives in a relatively short period time.
My aim alongside many friends and professional colleagues has always been to highlight the positive nature of our social development, as well as to allow many media and governmental organisations to participate in taking the lead by fighting institutional racism, which is threatening to tear the fabric of our society apart. The death of Stephen Lawrence, followed by the Lawrence enquiry was a watershed in Britain's race relations history in revealing what every ethnic person had known for some time, that the system was ultimately not working for him or her. The affect on the younger generation would have been unforgivable. They have already become more and more cynical, due to the lack of fair employment prospects within the vast management infrastructures in our corporate society. I felt that there was an important need to develop and highlight positive role models from this powerful media industry to stem the tide towards urban tribal culture, or a global racial political backlash based around i.e. Religious opinions.
My own experience in organising the EMMAs for the past six years has made me realise how far we have to go, before we can develop a truly multicultural society. This can only be reached through eradicating institutional racism.
My academic (BSc Social Science, South Bank University BA (Hons) Peace and Conflict Studies (International Relations), Bradford University and MA Area Studies-Politics (South Asia), School of Oriental & African Studies - University of London and professional media (Saatchi & Saatchi Rowland Company) Corporate and Governmental PR (Hearsay Communications Worldwide, PR & Marketing Consultant) background, I hoped would help me in undertaking such a difficult task in today's changing world.
With regards to EMMA, my aim was always to develop a prestigious event, which seriously questioned the way we had been portrayed as a community in the past, by identifying the individuals and organisations that are committed, and by those who hide behind tokenism.
As you can imagine, my PR & Marketing consultancy went downhill, as my focus moved more towards organising the EMMAs. I had at one point tried to combine both to maintain an income from my PR & Marketing Company, which would help to fund the EMMAs, this had proved extremely difficult to sustain for my own clients demanding requirements.
The early years of EMMA were very much based around juggling the finances as well as maintaining various interest and income from all possible sources from the private sector, without any government funding in any shape or form. I decided to go onto a major marketing offensive, to raise the necessary financial support, which would allow this event to establish itself as a truly multicultural British showcase. There had been another development at the same time, from the media industry, which made them quite concerned about the growing minority ethnic community who were beginning to turn their back from the mainstream media.
The growth of the minority ethnic population in Britain, which may number unofficially anything up to 10% of the British population, as well as the lack of representation from these communities in any major management post in any large industrial or media multinational organisation. Surprisingly the EMMAs had been shown twice in the London region, which housed 50% of the British minority ethnic community, and had received the largest viewing figures for Carlton Television for an 11.30pm broadcast slot. The television industry had recently set up the Cultural Diversity Network (CDN), which became an initiative acknowledging the above problem after the success of EMMA 1999 TV broadcast in May.
The EMMAs were formed to break any tribal/national barriers, which would allow a better understanding of each of our ethnic groups, and the exciting work they all undertake in this growing media industry. This whole process would only help the mainstream community to appreciate the vast differences and the unique contribution made. EMMA continues to celebrate the different strands of our business at a high professional level from this vast Non Euro-centric based community, by celebrating their religious, cultural and ethnic make-up in a world, which is becoming ever smaller and more multicultural in essence.
The Internet has ultimately revolutionised present forms of communications, for every ethnic group, by developing an even-playing field in our maturing global village and defining the market place in its entirety. This may one day lead to the dream of a truly human federation, as depicted in 'Star Trek', whereby one can be equal and be appreciated for their unique skill and ethnic origin in our society, as we jointly discover the true challenge facing humanity in the 21st century, which is exploring space as the final frontier by discovering new life-forms. The need to explore and enhance ones knowledge has never been greater, with the parallel development of the media industry, especially in the form of the Internet as a truly global method of communication for everyone. I had recently discovered the joy and power of the Internet by my 14 year old nephew, not just as a communication method via the email or method of surfing various website addresses. The Internet has become a truly powerful interactive form of communication and human bonding tool, which allows strangers from around the world to converse, whilst sharing in leisure time, playing various types of computer games with each other.
The neighbour has now become global, as we search for a challenging lifestyle, by ignoring our next-door neighbour in search of a global marketplace or a group of like-minded individuals, who may open our door to a deeper and broader world. The language used on the Internet has developed a unique global culture through communication, whereby race, religion, culture has been set aside, in the quest for knowledge and social interaction with new language like 'LOL' (laugh out loud) is common. The younger generation that shares in this mindset will ultimately take us to our dream of formulating the Starship 'Enterprise' multicultural team, where one is only judged for his or her skill in our ever-changing universe; where humanity strengthens its role and future within the wider picture. One cannot ignore the power from planting the seed within this Internet technology, as we have done with the seeds of EMMA, as an ultimate unique form of communication, which works 24 hours a day and is commanded by each individual around the world who has access to the basic Internet packages on their computer.
The true heroes on the EMMA front are many, recent support, from the BBC as a whole and Mark Thompson in particular. From the BT front, I am indebted to Ben Andradi, President and Chief Operating Officer and Andy Green of BT OpenWorld as our major sponsor, which has underlined the commitment for a positive future in this exciting Internet age. This is also shared by many of our other EMMA sponsors ever since we had started our personal crusade, with a vision for the future based on a truly human federation, which recently captured Nelson Mandela's imagination during his visit to London, to receive the 'EMMA Lifetime Achievement Award' at a special presentation ceremony. It would be good one day to see this award ceremony as a major mainstream event with the funding and trappings of success, as EMMA celebrates multiculturalism and allows the community to discover how far we have developed down this road, or maybe not, whatever the case may be. Any person who watches EMMA on their TV screen would one day discover and maybe appreciate the snapshot of our multicultural society, whilst celebrating the successes of each year with celebrities around the world who also aspire to develop this human federation called the 'Starship Enterprise' team from the EMMA seed.
'To Kill a Mockingbird' is one of my all time favourite movies and I have drawn a lot of inspiration from this wonderful film, starring Gregory Peck. It was screened in the 1960's, Peck defends a 'Black Man' in court, saying 'Negroes are deemed as liars, immoral beings, not to be trusted... our courts are the great levellers and in our courts all men are created equal'. I would like to think that if we can promote positive role models within EMMA, regardless of race, creed or colour from the ethnic communities maybe, just maybe, we could all learn to enjoy EMMA and the positive contribution it has made in the past with nominees, finalists, winners and the general public alike.