Raise your hand, share the glory, trust your instinct, and stay curious, because it’s fun.
These are the core beliefs of Christina Norman, head of content for the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) and keynote speaker for the second day of the 2022 Business of Creative Enterprises (BCE) Conference, “(dis)enfranchisement: Getting a Seat at the Table,” held Saturday, February 12, in Boston.
“Put your hand up. It always pays to step up to the challenge, even when you don’t think you’re ready for it. Now that’s not a fake-it-‘til-you-make-it kind of thing. It’s really about having a vision for yourself before anyone else can really see that vision,” Norman said.
Originally from the South Bronx, Norman worked her way through MTV, VH1, and the Oprah Winfrey Network, building her reputation as a “turnaround kid” and helping brands raise ratings and revenue. Throughout her time in marketing, radio, podcasting, and digital media, Norman used her abilities to shift popular perceptions of Black people and culture, asking for forgiveness rather than permission along the way.
“Portrayals of African Americans on our networks at the time were sometimes awful, but I also didn’t want to be the only angry Black woman in the room. So how do I counter that imagery? MTV was the pop culture guidepost…we have a responsibility to show all folks, especially Black women, in a positive light. Being able to show people of color as healers…was a way to try and change what that perception was,” Norman explained.
The second keynote speaker of the day— early Nirvana fan, ACT UP activist, and president and founder of Soul Kitchen Music Lorrie Boula— closed out the conference with a discussion on longevity within the music industry.
“You have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable…I’ve always had a really strong sense of self. Get right with yourself and where you’re trying to go, and look at everything else as a distraction and how to navigate it,” Boula said.
Noting how she was often underestimated for her position as a young woman in the industry, Boula spoke on using identity as an advantage and her role in uplifting others.
“Women and people of color have to work twice as hard for half as much, but I don’t think that’s something that should prevent us from doing it. I’ve worked really hard to lift other women and people of color up into positions and open doorways because if I want it to change, I have to work towards changing it.” Boula said.
The conference also hosted a variety of panelists with discussions on social justice street art, cryptocurrency, and independent music production. Select highlights were:
- On the importance of community: “Lateral cooperation creates vertical movement…I’m one person. I’m not extraordinary, I’m just doing some extra work,” Walker Wear CEO April Walker said. “Make sure you respect the community…and think bigger-picture for them or they will just stay stagnant and only create for each other. Make friends, make partners, and gain trust,” Roger Gastman, chief creative officer at R. Rock Enterprises added.
- On the importance of education: “The seats may not have been open to people of color and neither was the educational process to get there. That is the most important part of creating fantastic talent coming into the industry,” Friends Executive Producer, Emerson Los Angeles Founding Director, and Emerson Trustee Kevin Bright ‘76 said.
- On where to get started: “For a writer, just write. Musicians can create content with their phone…If you create great work, be consistent, build your fanbase, and someone is going to come to you,” Rob Kenner, founder of Boomshots Media, said. “Take that next step in your own hands…Don’t be too picky at your first stop. Your first stop is not your last stop. Get in the door,” 300 Entertainment A&R Research Manager Jonah Rappaport said.
BCE student Valeria Ocando ‘22 produced the 2022 BCE Conference alongside BCE students Jessica Saavedra ’24, Chloe Williams ’24, Nissim Hershkovits ’24, and Karthik Ramaswami ’22. The LA portion of the conference was held Saturday, February 5.