Full-page ad blasts GM CEO Mary Barra as racist

Full-page ad blasts GM CEO Mary Barra as racist

Jamie L. LaReau

 

Leaders of several major Black-owned media companies including Byron Allen and Ice Cube are accusing General Motors CEO Mary Barra of being racist for what they described as her refusal to meet with them.

They are asking for an hour-long Zoom meeting with her or, in the alternative, her resignation.

That’s according to a full-page ad on page 3A in Sunday’s Detroit Free Press accusing Barra of refusing to meet with them “consistently, over time and after multiple requests.”

The ad is signed by the heads of the seven Black-owned media companies including rapper and actor Ice Cube, who co-founded pro-basketball league BIG3, TV and film production company Cubevision, and Contract with Black America (CWBA), which he started with the goal of initiating dialogues about racism.

Also signing the ad is native Detroiter Byron Allen, head of Allen Media Group, and former NBA player Ulysses “Junior” Bridgeman, who bought Ebony Media last year after bidding $14 million for it in U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

In response to the ad, GM said it aspires to be the most inclusive company in the world, and that includes how it allocates its advertising expenditures.

“We have increased our planned spending with both diverse-owned and diverse-dedicated media across our family of brands,” said GM spokesman Pat Morrissey in an email. He did not provides specifics.

‘No one happy with GM’

The Black-owned media group wants GM to allocate at least 5% of its ad budget to Black-owned media companies, said Allen in an interview with the Free Press on Sunday.

The ad says “less than 0.5% goes to media companies owned” by African Americans, calling that “horrendous, considering that we as African Americans make up approximately 14% of the population in America and we spend billions buying your vehicles.”

Allen said the group could recommend 14% of the budget be spent on advertising with Black-owned media companies, “that would be economic parity, we’re not even asking for parity, we’re asking for inclusion.”

But Morrissey said GM spends more than .5% of its media budget now with Black-owned media. While he declined to provide specifics, he said it is increasing and it is “much higher than .5%.”

Allen said the men who signed the ad have known each other for years. For the past five years, they have been reaching out to Barra asking for a meeting to win more of GM’s advertising. But Barra does not respond, he said.

About two weeks ago, the group sent an email again to Barra. This time GM’s Chief Marketing Officer Deborah Wahl responded indicating she would meet with them instead, Allen said. That was the final straw that prompted the group to compose the ad, which Allen said is currently running only in the Free Press.

“If you say status quo is OK, that’s wrong. That is racism. Let me be clear, that is racism. But if you get to the table and you lean in to effectuate change, then you are showing the world who you really are,” Allen said. “This is an opportunity. The numbers will never lie. You’re either doing business with Black-owned media or you’re not in a fair and equitable way.”

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