“My name is Vann Graves, and I am a black unicorn”

“My name is Vann Graves, and I am a black unicorn”

August 7, 2019

That was the seemingly lighthearted remark Vann Graves, executive director at the VCU Brandcenter, used to drive home a point during his talk, “Let’s End Diversity Theater: It’s Time to Get Real.” His talk was the centerpiece of the One Club–Carolinas inaugural event, held here at McKinney, last Thursday.

And even though he donned a unicorn’s horn (OK, it was a party hat, of sorts) and handed out prizes, his discussion served as a serious counterpoint.

In the course of his talk, Graves alluded to his career, where he served most notably as global ECD with McCann Worldgroup and chief creative officer at J. Walter Thompson Worldwide. “Being a unicorn is the fact that I’m a black person who had the career that I had,” said Graves. “It’s rare…but it shouldn’t be.” And he made clear what he believes needs to be done to effect real change when it comes to diversity in advertising.

“It’s not about programs, it’s about getting personal. To create change, you have to be intentional,” Graves said. “So, what do we do about it? Do something now. Focus on people, not programs. Actions, not words.”

And he concluded with this: “I am inviting all of you to start a movement. I want you all to be unicorns.”