Welcome to the United Melanin Group website – we’re glad you stopped by. Since you’re here, we guess you’d like to know more about who we are, what we do and, most importantly, why we do it. So, let’s start at the beginning…
We are UK-based creative media company founded in the spring of 2020 by two cousins, Marisha and Lisimba Pink. What started as a conversation about the lack of diversity in the UK’s media industry, quickly led to a consensus on the failure of our mainstream media to represent the voices and experiences of communities of colour in its programming. The discussion left us with one simple question: what are we going to do about it?
To find a practical solution, we knew we had to look deeper at the problem. So we started asking even more questions…
Are there simply not enough of us for whom the content would be relevant?
In the 2011 census, the BAME community represented 13% of the UK’s population.
Source: 2011 Census, Office for National Statistics
It might not sound like much, but with a population of 63.2 million that year, that’s a cool 8.2 million people…and it’s now 2020. Our numbers can only have increased.
Is there not enough talent or interest from people of colour in pursuing careers within the media?
John Boyega, Daniel Kaluuya, Idris Elba, Letitia Wright, Naomie Harris, Thandie Newton, Nathalie Emmanuel, Freema Agyeman, Sophie Okonedo, Trevor McDonald, Moira Stuart, Andi Peters, June Sarpong, Jameela Jamil, Miquita Oliver, Margherita Taylor, Maya Jama, Clara Amfo, Angie Greaves, Diane-Louise Jordan, Gurinder Chada, Sunny & Shay, Parminder Nagra, Dev Patel, Naveen Andrews, Rickie Haywood-Williams, Melvin Odoom, Noel Clarke, Archie Panjabi, Ashley Walters, Kano, Mo Gilligan, Big Narstie, Richard Blackwood, Lenny Henry, Doc Brown, London Hughes, Michaela Coel, Krishnan Guru-Murthy, Naga Munchetty, Nihal, Paul Sinha, Paul Chowdhry, Nina Wadia, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Meera Syal, Munsur Ali, Menhaj Huda, Sally El Hosaini, Micheal Ward, Jodie Turner-Smith, Norman Beaton, Ram John Holder, Geff Francis, Mona Hammond, Felix Dexter, Eddie Nestor, Llewella Gideon, Kulvinder Ghir, Bijan Sheibani, Andrew Onwubolu.
Need we go on? TV, film, radio, stage, young, old, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic. These are only the faces you see, the voices you hear, and the names you read about. There are countless others who work behind the scenes and an even greater number working to build careers for themselves, hoping for a big break. There isn’t a shortage of talent or interest, but there is a lack of opportunity and it’s forcing homegrown talent to try their luck elsewhere, most notably in the US.
The content that we grew up on featuring people that looked like us almost always originated in the US (to a certain extent, the content that we consume today still does). While we’re grateful for access to this content, we believe that our ability to relate to it will always be limited. There are unique perspectives and experiences that come with being part of the UK’s communities of colour, and our stories need to be brought to the forefront and shared.
Which begs the question, who is controlling media opportunities in the UK and making those all-important programming decisions, for example in TV?
At the five major TV organisations (BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5-owner ViacomCBS and Sky), BAME representation at senior levels is just 9%. Worse, in 2019 the proportion of ethnic minority talent working in creative and content production – crucial in shaping on-screen output – fell from 9% to 8% across the wider UK-based TV industry.
Source: Diversity and equal opportunities in television. Monitoring report on the UK-based broadcasting industry, Ofcom 2019
As a community, we cannot hope to have our stories told if we’re not even in the room when programming decisions are being made. This problem is only compounded by the fact that the nature of our stories and experiences has the potential to make the masses uncomfortable. Groupthink is a problem among commissioners – more often than not they attend the same universities, read the same books and watch the same films – so convincing them to broadcast content that they might not fully understand because it’s outside of their cultural comfort zone is a mammoth obstacle for content creators.
In short, we realised that the problem is systemic, and with this realisation came the answer to our original question. What are we going to do about it? We’re going to build an ecosystem.
So here we are.
United Melanin Group produces content, builds platforms, creates opportunities, and establishes support networks within the media for the UK’s communities of colour.
And we do it all for the culture.