Bozoma Saint John on Work with Papa John’s: 'I Have to Use My Voice as a Black Woman' - Black Enterprise
Black Enterprise Magazine September/October 2018 Issue

Bozoma Saint John took to Instagram video on Sunday to push back on the notion that she is out to save beleaguered pizza delivery chain, Papa John’s. Instead, she said in a series of videos she posted on the subject she is engaging in “corporate activism.”

“Listen, I’m out here writing my own headlines because over the last couple of days I’ve seen some truly outrageous headlines and clickbait-type of dialogue and posts about my work and what I am doing,” she said in one of the videos.

“And the message on this Sunday is that sometimes you’ve got to write your own headline. You’ve got to write your own story because no one’s going to do it better than you can. The last 20 years of my life have been spent in a career that I truly love writing narratives for brands about different instances and culture. And there’s none more important than right now.”

Saint John, who recently joined Endeavor Global Marketing as its chief marketing officer, led the effort to bring on Papa John’s as a client, CNN reported last week.

Since that report, there has been some backlash across social media about her working with the company after the actions of its former CEO, which many deemed racist.

Here are Saint John’s full remarks in the videos:

I feel that the last 20 years have brought me to a place where I can have impact. Cultural activism and corporate activism is something that I take very seriously.

Some of the headlines I’ve seen lately say things like I am going to go save Papa John’s; that’s crazy. I’m not going to save anybody; I don’t even know how to do that. And by the way, the only Savior I recognize is Jesus Christ.

But honestly what I am going to try to do is help. Corporate activism is about helping to change culture. Barack Obama has one of the best quotes I read lately which is that a crisis is a terrible thing to waste.

I agree we have to take these corporate crisis moments and change culture. None of us are going anywhere, but we need to make our environments better, we need to make them richer, we need to make them healthier for us, so, therefore— we need to take these crisis moments and change these environments and that’s what I am trying to do.

So, this is not a superficial re-branding effort. This is not about me as a black woman using my voice to encourage black people to do something that is against our own benefit, no, of course not.

But I have to use my voice as a black woman who has a seat at the table at an important moment of time in corporate to change the environment to the betterment of us and that’s what I am trying to do, by any means necessary.

People say when there is a crisis they put a black face in to clean up the mess that is simply not true. We never get the call; we are often fighting for a seat at the table. And so guess what? When that seat becomes available, yes, I pounce because we have to use our voice in these situations. And by the way, why not? Why wouldn’t we want to have a voice? I think it’s important for us to take action when we are called and change these environments for the betterment of ourselves.

You are about to see me work. I’m going in with the best intentions, the best expertise to help change this environment and we’ll see how it goes. By the way, nothing is written in stone. If I find this environment is unchangeable or that I am unable to do what it is I intend to do, then I won’t do it, it’s as simple as that but we have to try, we can’t take this laying down.

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Samara Lynn

Samara Lynn is a technology journalist, covering the industry for a decade. Her work appears in The Wirecutter, Tom's Hardware, PC Mag, and other online outlets. She's the author of "Windows Server 2012: Up and Running" and previously worked in the IT industry. She's currently the digital manager at Black Enterprise.


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