ICM Partners’ Diversify ICM Hosts Two-Part Panel Series Honoring Black History Month
In honor of Black History Month, ICM hosted a series of virtual panels and events, one of which was the two-part panel series “Navigating Entertainment: The Executive’s Perspective”—a virtual symposium focused on the experiences and challenges faced by Black entertainment executives while navigating their careers.
Moderated by ICM Partners’ very own Yves C. Pierre and Ava Greenfield, both events were filled with tales of personal history, commonalities in working in the industry, and anecdotes that highlight the Black experience in Entertainment. The first panel featured Mari Davies, Shawn Gee, Tiara Hargrave, and Olasumbo “Sumby” Kuti, while the second event brought together Lorrie Bartlett, Oronde Garrett, Ava Greenfield, Niija Kuykendall and Bianca J. Levin. Both panels were produced and curated by ICM’s own Paris Jackson and Phillip Wells. With industry leaders spanning various facets of Entertainment, the conversation was filled with insightful moments across the board.
From music management and talent representation to film production, each panelist brought their own entertainment expertise to the discussion, sharing stories around representation, allyship, and what their hopes are for diversity and inclusion in the years to come.
While each panelist brought a trove of personal stories, all were united in the struggle of finding their identity within the entertainment industry. “I make it a point to be unapologetically black,” said talent manager and M88 partner Oronde Garrett. Others echoed that sentiment, sharing inspiring stories around forging their own paths. “It devalues me to change who I am,” said Niija Kuykendall, who went on to discuss her pride in being a Black woman from Inglewood who studied at Brown University. “It’s hard to find a voice as a young person when a room doesn’t look like you, but the thing of value is to be exactly who you are, that’s where your individual strength comes from. Be confident in that. Easier said than done, but it certainly gets easier over time as you do the work and get to know yourself,” she added.
When asked about the roadblocks faced in the industry, Shawn Gee, who is the President of Live Nation Urban, shared a poignant truth: “I came into this game as an entrepreneur and created my own world and space. I was in control of my team, and I was intentional on how I built my house. In 2017, when I ventured into corporate, it was tough to maintain my identity and vision in the system. The environment in itself is a glass ceiling—you just have to figure out how you exist in it.” Oronde Garrett agreed and pushed it one step further. “The bar is set so high for us that they expect mistakes, so you have to be perfect.” But Oronde made it clear that striving for perfection isn’t the ultimate goal—it’s about learning from your mistakes, moving forward, and owning who you are.
For Tiara Hargrave, navigating the industry as a woman of color is an ongoing struggle that she said women face every day. “Having a strong sense of yourself and what your goals are is key. You see the glass ceilings: you say things and people overlook you only to see a white person repeat it and suddenly it’s a good idea—that’s the type of thing that we, specifically women of color will experience. People will look to men as if they have more insight on the topic that we are talking about,” Tiara said.
The fight for equal representation both in front of the camera and behind the scenes was another discussion topic—ICM’s Lorrie Bartlett shared that while there is a commitment to hiring with diversity and inclusion in mind across the industry, “we have to continue creating a system that allows us to create a pipeline that gets as many people in as possible.” Beyond hiring initiatives, mentorship is another crucial component that Lorrie and other panelists emphasized. “We have to make it a job for people who look like us. By helping people along the way we can create the narrative that it’s different,” said Lorrie.
From questions focused on authenticity to moments centered around the importance of diverse storytelling, DiversifyICM’s “Navigating Entertainment: The Executive’s Perspective” symposium was ripe with inspiring and honest conversations that harness the power of Hollywood’s leading voices.