The newest addition to #TeamBurrell, copywriter Makeda Loney, explains how she realized the truth behind Xfinity’s “Be King” ad during its conception.
68th Street, Hunter College in Manhattan’s Lenox Hill. The rebuilding of service reminds me that I have a conference call that I’m supposed to be on. I put in my headphones and weave through people trying to memorize the call-in number. I’m listening as everyone presents while I try not to get hit by taxis and tiny children in strollers. My phone battery is dying. I need to say goodbye to my mother while she’s working before I leave for my first job as a copywriter at Burrell Communications. The campaign? For Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The idea? That the previous generation of people who believed in his dream is passing the torch to mine, the new generation of dreamers.
The first team presents their first idea. I give my mother what she needs, I desperately Google a nearby Starbucks and quickly say goodbye. I emerge back onto the streets with 11% battery and approximately 45 minutes more of this call. Hearing about the different ways Martin Luther King Jr. inspired people makes me think about the wave of others who are also doing their best to live out this dream, within both the most simple and complex ways. My mother texts me, I forgot to hug her, back down the block I go. 9%. 39 minutes left.
I think about our campaign idea, and how we all as individuals make up a collective of dreamers. Tens, hundreds, thousands across America and the globe though they not be currently in a protest or march are all figuratively marching towards freedom, towards opportunity, towards a hope of equal rights. My mother hugs me, her warmth and love and interrupting her night of work away from home, passes on her dream to me. Her dream that I, a young black woman in America can be successful despite all the obstacles tattooed into the melanin of my skin.
My feet race, I charge my phone, I pitch my idea. I imagine the people of Starbucks, all different colors, genders, sexualities, religions and creeds coming together as one. I get goosebumps. I look at the drafts the print ideas to see all the illustrated bodies becoming King. I think about how myself, sitting in this Starbucks, using the same bathroom as the white man before me back then would be laughable.
From conception to casting to the photoshoot itself has been a surreal experience. To see these strangers come to one place to make one collective picture of the man who inspired millions inspired me. I was already driven to be the best I could in an industry that struggles with diversity. I was already driven to keep the dream alive, but now know that I can communicate this idea, and that people agree, makes that journey tangible and less lonely. We’ve all got a little King in us, we just need to keep marching forward.
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