Shelly-Ann Brown, Freelance Publicist & Volunteer at The Museum of Public Relations
The world’s first museum dedicated to the history and practice of public relations hosted its 5th annual Black PR History event on Thursday night. The event, which included a three-part program of expert speakers, addressed ways to achieve greater diversity and inclusion across the profession, the almost-forgotten artifacts that impacted major social movements, and how historical moments created by African Americans that ultimately served as a barometer of progress.
Not only did the event cover a long lost narrative of public relations from the Civil War to Civil Rights era and beyond, it also featured a special exhibition that honored the lives and legacies of unsung PR pioneers and figures only known in the industry for their hard-hitting work such as Inez Kaiser, the first Black woman to run a public relations firm, Ofield Dukes, the PR guru whose clients included legendary Motown artists like Stevie Wonder and Diana Ross, and Bayard Rustin, a prominent civil rights leader, social activist and the main organizer of the March on Washington where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.
The stand-alone museum event was an important, inspiriting blast of a historical survey, that shed a light — in many ways — on the visionaries that shaped American culture over the past 150 years through their creativity, innovation, strategic skills, and social activism.
The need for diversity, inclusion, and recognition of African Americans in the public relations industry permeated this exhibition; a rather urgent takeaway from the only museum and reference library that chronicles the evolution of the field. Well timed, on the eve before Black History Month and during a worldwide surge of cultural-insensitivity, this event strived, successfully, for fresh relevance. The exhibition illuminated rare artifacts, never-before-seen images, memoirs, and displays of provisioners, while also highlighting the strenuous struggle that often imbrued the Black experience in America.
About the Author: Shelly-Ann Brown is a freelance publicist and the sole volunteer at The Museum of Public Relations, the world’s only museum and reference library that provides a historical review of the profession through a growing collection that chronicles the evolution of the field. As a graduate of New York University’s School of Professional Studies, her experience spans from fashion and beauty to health, wellness, and lifestyle PR.