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Reflections on Black History Month from Marlena Edwards

Sandra Masiliso
Sandra Masiliso
Global Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Lead
4 min read
26 February 2024

We recently sat down with our new Head of People and Culture for the Americas, Marlena Edwards, to get her thoughts on this year’s Black History Month theme of African Americans and the Arts and how our industry can better support African American content creators and creatives in the US.

Here are the insights she shared, including more details about her career journey. 

Can you describe your career journey up to this point?

It’s rare that you’ll find someone in Talent that has a linear journey. Mine started with a love of law. After my first year of law school, I realized it wasn’t my passion and decided to pivot, which wasn’t easy being a child of an immigrant parent. 

It took a few years to align my passion with my skill set, but ultimately a career in Talent would allow me to leverage my abilities to solve business problems while centering people and engagement. 

For the last 20 years I’ve had the opportunity to partner with great organizations and help guide teams through some of their most rewarding and challenging times. While navigating spaces with limited representation, I’ve been fortunate to have a few mentors and champions who advocated for my growth and success, alleviating moments of “otherness” and “imposter syndrome” along the journey. 

I’d encourage anyone reading this to know that there is no blueprint, or perfect journey map. There will be opportunities to solve problems, regardless of your craft or specialty. How you choose to engage with those opportunities will materially define your journey.

Thoughts on this year’s Black History Month theme of African Americans and the Arts?

Great question. As a Black American, I initially grappled with this due to the historically prevalent focus on Black contributions in music, art and entertainment and little regard to other areas of material impact. However, amidst the recent heaviness across the globe, centering the arts and thereby Black joy offers a meaningful way to celebrate and uplift African Americans and their contributions. Joy and expression are a big part of who we are.

Thoughts on how the industry can best support African American content creators and creatives across the US?

There are a few key areas that come to mind. First, acknowledge that Black creators are creators and are not a monolithic community. Second, align Black creatives to opportunities that feel authentically aligned to their brands and superpowers. Lastly, acknowledge their contributions, and pay them equitably. I love how social platforms have provided an opportunity for creators of color to access audiences that they wouldn’t historically have the opportunity to engage with at such a scale.

What can we do to better support, empower, and represent Black creatives?

Since joining DEPT®, it has been incredible to learn more about the variety of impactful diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. 

One of my favorite initiatives that has a particular focus on creating employment opportunities for Black creatives is the Ignite internship program which is led by Onyx (one of our Black Employee Resource Groups) to attract, hire, retain, and develop upcoming talent in the marketing industry. We also have fantastic employee resource groups such as BLA3Q who continue to provide a platform to represent and contribute to turning the dial on DE&I related to Black communities in the workplace. 

I personally am excited to be part of the journey, continuing to drive our efforts forwards across the US.

More insights


Global Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Lead

Sandra Masiliso