With his recent ousting as a Co-Dean from an educational program of Cannes Lions, Abraham Abbi Asefaw has criticized the organization for not standing up for diversity and alleged ‘long-standing promises’.
“I have now been removed as Dean at the Cannes Lions School. Making the list of Deans ALL WHITE. Yes, even the Roger Hatchuel Academy – the most diverse place at Cannes Lions,” wrote Abraham Abbi Asefaw in a Twitter thread as he expressed his concerns over Cannes Lions’ lack of POC representation which is ironic to what they preach and its commitments towards diversity and inclusion.
Further, he shared that in 2019 when Cannes launched their ‘Most Ambitious Diversity & Inclusion Program to Date’ as a response to ‘less than 2% of attendees being POC or from underrepresented communities, there was a massive media push for the initiative and POC speakers, himself included, became poster children of this ‘change’.
“As co-Dean of the Roger Hatchuel Academy (RHA) at Cannes, I had spent years prior to this big, public realization, doing the groundwork in creating at least one space within the organization where representation mattered,” he explained further.
Three months after waiting to hear from Cannes over his outrage, Steve Latham, Head of Talent & Training at Cannes Lions wrote to him citing, “With regards to RHA, my decision was selfish and not thought through and for that I apologise. I was presented with a quick fix solution during a stressful time but in hindsight, I would handle this differently.”
To which Asefaw replied stating that he can handle not continuing as Dean regardless of his decade-long commitment to the organisation and being their ‘go-to’ person for anything diversity. But what he can’t handle, is the next generation of creatives, from all over the World, lacking representation because of a ‘QUICK FIX’.
He wrote, “You can add all the POC leaders and celebs to your roster of speakers that you want but if you are not committed at the core, YOU ARE NOT HELPING!”
After the thread went viral and more industry persons came forward to take notice, Cannes Lions officially released an apology note across social media welcoming Asefaw’s criticisms to ensure a mistake like this is not made again.
“This is a particularly disappointing moment for LIONS, as the organisation has been proud to appoint increasingly diverse panels of jurors and talent. These events are a clear sign that it is now time to direct that focus internally – and this is a promise that we will do better,” the post mentioned.
Cannes has assured to take into cognizance the seriousness of the allegations and its starting out by taking the first step by further vetting its processes, across the board.