Wade’s Last Dance Goes Far Beyond the Hardwood

Future NBA hall-of-famer Dwyane Wade retired earlier this month after an illustrious 16 year career. Wade — who will go down as one of the game’s greatest shooting guards ever — left an impact on teammates, opponents, fans and the league as a whole that will be hard to replicate. His legacy however extended far beyond the arena and will be felt long after the last buzzer has sounded.

In an ad released by Budweiser, Wade does a ‘jersey swap’ not with his fellow NBA players, but everyday people whose lives he’s impacted beyond measure. One person in particular offers a glimpse into Wade’s upbringing and what he went through that few would have known beforehand.

This is one of the most moving ads I’ve seen in sometime and shows the power and impact that brands can create when they tell a story from a unique perspective.

When Keeping It Real Goes Wrong: The N.W.A. Casting Controversy

A few weeks ago it got real heated real fast when the casting call sheet for the upcoming N.W.A. film became public. People were mad. I’m sure calls were made. Hell, the original casting notice was even taken down. But was it really as shocking as it was made out to be?

Here was the original casting notice:

SAG OR NON UNION CASTING NOTICE FOR FEMALES-ALL ETHNICITIES- from the late 80’s. Shoots on “Straight Outta Compton”. Shoot date TBD. We are pulling photos for the director of featured extras. VERY IMPORTANT – You MUST live in the Los Angeles area (Orange County is fine too) to work on this show. DO NOT SUBMIT if you live out of the area. Nobody is going to be flying into LA to do extra work on this show – and don’t tell me you are willing to fly in.
SAG OR NON UNION FEMALES – PLEASE SEE BELOW FOR SPECIFIC BREAKDOWN. DO NOT EMAIL IN FOR MORE THAN ONE CATEGORY:
A GIRLS: These are the hottest of the hottest. Models. MUST have real hair – no extensions, very classy looking, great bodies. You can be black, white, asian, hispanic, mid eastern, or mixed race too. Age 18-30. Please email a current color photo, your name, Union status, height/weight, age, city in which you live and phone number to: SandeAlessiCasting@gmail.com subject line should read: A GIRLS
B GIRLS: These are fine girls, long natural hair, really nice bodies. Small waists, nice hips. You should be light-skinned. Beyonce is a prototype here. Age 18-30. Please email a current color photo, your name, Union status, height/weight, age, city in which you live and phone number to: SandeAlessiCasting@gmail.com subject line should read: B GIRLS
C GIRLS: These are African American girls, medium to light skinned with a weave. Age 18-30. Please email a current color photo, your name, Union status, height/weight, age, city in which you live and phone number to: SandeAlessiCasting@gmail.com subject line should read: C GIRLS
D GIRLS: These are African American girls. Poor, not in good shape. Medium to dark skin tone. Character types. Age 18-30. Please email a current color photo, your name, Union status, height/weight, age, city in which you live and phone number to: SandeAlessiCasting@gmail.com subject line should read: D GIRLS


So there you have it folks. You have the ‘A’ girls, who apparently are women of any race and the prettiest of the group, all the way down to the ‘D’ girls, black girls not in good shape. Well damn, Hollywood. Tell us how you really feel.

Truth be told, while this type of ad may be shocking to the public, it really shouldn’t be all that surprising. The real irony here is that this movie is about a rap group from Compton, but yet somehow black women still find themselves at the lowest end of the totem pole in the casting of this film. People shouldn’t be surprised however.  After all, when a major corporation like Sprint advertises their “Framily Plan” commercials, there’s always that one random black guy in a room full of white folks as if to say, “See, we’re not racist, we have this black guy here to prove it.” Exhibit A: 

So we really shouldn’t be surprised anymore. Until there is greater diversity in the casting industry and among the people making these hiring decisions, we still will continue to see notices like the one above and Sprint ads where one person of color suddenly makes a group diverse. Oh, and as for N.W.A. considering I saw this hat in an Urban Outfitters the other day, safe to say 25 years later, the group is more mainstream then their founding members could have probably ever imagined. 



Changing Face of Corporate Commercials

Last month during the NBA Finals, I happened to view two commercials back-to-back that featured quite the stark views of black folks in their ads. The first ad is from Verizon.

I was honestly a little surprised when I saw this. A commercial full of black folks in an ad for a phone company of all things? This was indeed different. Below is the commercial that came up immediately following the Verizon ad.

Maybe it’s me, but dude seems awfully happy to be in the kitchen making some chicken. I’m just saying.

I look at these ads and on one hand while I’m happy to see a a prime-time commercial featuring black folks as the primary characters, I’m still dismayed that in 2014 we got brothers talking bout “it saddens their heart that some people will never know the pleasure of tasting chicken that’s hand breaded twice.” Really though?

A Little Girl, A Bowl of Cheerios, and A Whole Lot of Hate

It’s somewhat ironic that a 30 second Cheerios commercial could show just how far America has to go when it comes to race and media.

The Cheerios commercial that has ignited a racist backlash is rather simple in its premise. A young girl – who happens to be biracial – asks her mother if Cheerios are good for your heart. Her mother responds that they are indeed healthy for your heart. The commercial then cuts to her sleeping father on the couch who awakens to see an avalanche of Cheerios on his chest. Here’s how it all plays out:

As you can see, the mother is white and the father is black. More than a few people apparently couldn’t stand to see an interracial couple being featured in a commercial in 2013 America. What followed were some pretty nasty and hateful comments left on the commercial’s Youtube page. The vitriol was so bad that General Mills (the brand that makes Cheerios) disabled comments on the page.

Now what does this commercial say about race relations in 2013 America? That there is still much work to be done. Many people want to believe that race is not as big of an issue as it was say in the 50s and 60s, however I tend to believe that race isn’t as public a topic as it used to be.

What these hateful comments and this backlash shows is that unfortunately there are still many who harbor racist views of not just blacks, but a multitude of people within our society. This was true in the 60s as well. The key difference? Today, people (by and large) aren’t that stupid to express their racist attitudes in public. It’s a lot easier to spew hatred anomalously via the the black box that is the internet. And these racist comments aren’t limited to commercials either. This has been a problem in the gaming community for years and the issue was addressed at this year’s SXSW festival.

Ultimately, despite the racist attitudes of many, it’s worth noting that there were a number of people who supported the Cheerios commercial for its diversity. At a time when American families are integrating more than ever, this commercial is a reflection of the changing makeup of society, if not changing thoughts. Perhaps Camille Gibson, who is the vice president of marketing for Cheerios, said it best when she stated, “We felt like we were reflecting the American family.”