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‘We are sending more powerful messages to the next generation’: Color of Change President on using technology

President of Color Of Change Rashad Robinson joins Yahoo Finance’s Sibile Marcellus and Jen Rogers to discuss how Color Of Change is using new technology to advance racial justice causes, their recent ‘The Pedestal Project,’ and the Color Of Change’s focus on Hollywood.

Video Transcript

SIBILE MARCELLUS: Welcome back to A Time for Change. Civil rights organization Color of Change is asking for all Confederate statues across the country to be removed. And they have this savvy social media campaign that they're doing to celebrate social justice leaders. And Jen, I know that you've been playing with that technology on your phone a bit.

JEN ROGERS: Yeah. I mean, it's actually really clever and quite powerful. The statues, even though they're virtual, are beautiful. It's called the Pedestal Project. It's an augmented reality experience. It's on Instagram. And basically, what it does is it lets users place statues of social justice leaders atop empty pedestals where Confederate statues once stood.

SIBILE MARCELLUS: And joining us now is Rashad Robinson. He's the president of Color of Change. Rashad, how is Color of Change really leveraging this technology to achieve more social justice?

RASHAD ROBINSON: Well, one of the things about symbols is they get to send us a message, powerful messages, not just about where we were and what we should uplift, but also what is possible and what we should sort of strive towards. And so many of these Confederate statues were placed far after the Confederate-- far after the Civil War. They were placed in places like California, in Oregon, in front of courtrooms, in schools, to send a powerful message about who belongs and doesn't belong.

And part of what we're doing is we have seen so many communities remove their statues. It's not just what we tear down, but it's about what we build up in its place. It's about the messages that we send about who we hope to be and what we want to uplift. And we thought this technology and leveraging the talent of a Black creator, in terms of being able to create these statues, these augmented reality statues, giving people the ability to place statues in some of these places where things have been tore down. For us to talk about not just what we remove, but what we create.

JEN ROGERS: I want to talk with you about where you put the statues. So you know, we were showing some of the video there about putting them in places where a statue has been taken down. And it is powerful, because you have the connection with the history and then where we're going, and honoring somebody-- two of these people are pretty young, so for the future.

But then I think, like, should Stonewall Jackson even get a pedestal there? Is it important to be on the pedestal? Do you want to keep that old reflection back? Or should we just be getting rid of all of it?

RASHAD ROBINSON: I think we have to make anew. I think we have to build anew. And part of what we thought with this augmented reality project was to get people thinking about it, was to get people imagining not just an empty space, but new things that we could put, not just in these spaces, but in other spaces.

And all around the country, we're hearing how communities are having conversations about what we name things, about who we uplift, about how we create the next generation of leaders so it is more diverse from a racial perspective. It's more diverse from a gender perspective, that we are sending more powerful messages to the next generation about who we are, who we hope to be, and who, in some ways, we are still fighting to be.

All of that, I think, is incredibly important. We also know that as much as symbols are important, as we remove these statues to Confederate leaders that fought to keep systems of servitude, of forced labor, of rape, of all these systems in place, as we remove these statues, it also has to come connected to putting statutes on the books, the laws and the policies and practices that actually advance a more just and a more equitable society for all of us.

So we recognize the power of symbols, but also know that it's only a piece of the work that's going to be necessary.

SIBILE MARCELLUS: As an organization, Color of Change works hard to increase representation in Hollywood. But there's a tiny group there that wields outsized influence, and they have no Black members. I'm talking about the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. And they get to pick the Golden Globe winners. Now, they are facing fresh allegations of corruption, bullying, even self-dealings to the tunes of millions of dollars. And that's according to a recent "LA Times" investigation.

Rashad, what are your thoughts on that? Are Golden Globe nominations for sale? Is there corruption there?

RASHAD ROBINSON: Well, you know, I'll let the journalism speak to itself and the allegations that should be investigated and folks should be held accountable. What I'd want to say is about the lack of diversity that we sometimes hear in these seasons. And sometimes, people will say, well, just create your own awards. Or why do you care if these Hollywood folks are not getting awards, regardless of their race?

And I think what I hope folks kind of understand, and given that we're inside of conversation around business and finance, when industries create validating systems where they give opportunities and awards, that then flow other opportunities and rewards from it. What we know from Golden Globe and Oscar nominations is that what oftentimes follow it is more doors that get opened, more opportunities to create, more opportunities to be your own decision-maker in the industry.

So this is not simply about whether or not we are handing out awards or whether or not an industry is handing out awards. This is a conversation about what doors get opened and to whom, and how validating systems can be created that exclude certain communities, thereby stifling people's careers, stifling opportunities. And when that happens along racial lines, when it happens along gender lines, as we've seen over the years, in terms of the director categories at major awards excluding women of all races, we recognize that then has impacts that are deep and downstream.

Those doors that get closed are economic doors, are doors to greater opportunities, are doors where people could then build businesses for the future. And so that is why this is so important, and that's why these allegations are so egregious, because the role that the Golden Globes had in being able to be this door opener should be questioned, and all of the folks along the way who may not have had a chance and the impact it has had on them, and their families, and communities.

JEN ROGERS: So what do we do now? As you said, we're going to let the journalism play out. But I think it's really smart to bring it back to the business. It is show business, and these are actors, and writers, and directors that they want those doors open for them. But does that mean that they have to go along with the system? Or do you think people should be-- Color of Change say, like, let's boycott the Globes, or don't go if you get nominated. Like, what should people do in this case?

RASHAD ROBINSON: I mean, I think there's going to be a range of roles for folks to play. There are things that can be said from the stage, if you get on the stage and you're an ally. There are things that can be said from the red carpet. There are businesses who might be supporting and engaging in the Globes that maybe should hold the Globes accountable and remove their support and participation.

There are Black creators who did get nominated this year, that we should be celebrating and uplifting, and making sure the Golden Globes director category is more diverse from a gender perspective, I believe, than ever before. So there are some things that we should make sure we don't throw out. At the same time, we never get structural change without looking at the rules. And right now is an opportunity to examine the rules that animate the Golden Globes.

And if the Hollywood Foreign Press Association is not willing to interrogate their rules, deal with the leadership challenges they have, then they don't deserve our support anymore. The networks that run them should question whether or not they're running a system, an awards show, that is rigged or has these type of violations. We would hold our support or we would push back on other big events if we thought that they were rigged.

And so we actually have to challenge it. This has really deep business implications. And at the same time, it's an opportunity to examine rules that, even before these allegations, the Golden Globes had deep problems in terms of diversity, in terms of recognizing Black talent, in terms of some of the ways in which the decisions were made that weren't very transparent. We should not allow this to continue this way, and that's the opportunity for change that we have before us.

SIBILE MARCELLUS: Well, Rashad, we'll definitely have all our eyes on Hollywood on Sunday for those Golden Globe Awards. Rashad Robinson, thanks so much.

RASHAD ROBINSON: Great to be with you.