Barra to meet with Black-owned media leaders as ad continues to run


DETROIT– General Motors CEO Mary Barra plans to meet with leaders of Black-owned media companies this week after the group took out a full-page ad in the Detroit Free Press on Sunday accusing Barra of ignoring multiple meeting requests, the automaker said. Even with the meeting scheduled, the group ran a nearly identical ad in The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday.

The group had a preliminary meeting with GM’s chief marketing officer, Deborah Wahl, on Monday ahead of the meeting with Barra, which is scheduled for Thursday, GM said.

The group of seven media owners who signed the ads is made up of Byron Allen, founder and CEO of Allen Media Group; rapper and actor Ice Cube, who owns the pro-basketball league Big3 and production company Cubevision and is behind the Contract with Black America; Roland Martin, CEO of Nu Vision Media; Junior Bridgeman, owner of Ebony Media; Earl “Butch” Graves, Jr., president and CEO of Black Enterprise; Don Jackson, founder, chairman and CEO, Central City Productions; and Todd F. Brown, founder, Urban Edge Networks.

“We are disappointed that Mr. Allen and his fellow signatories resorted to additional paid media advertising to advance a narrative of factual inaccuracies and character assault against our CEO, Mary Barra,” GM said in a statement. “As we have maintained all along, the meeting with Ms. Barra was always on the table once Mr. Allen invested in a brief discussion with our CMO to correct factual inaccuracies and to scope the request from Mr. Allen and the signatories, which varied wildly from day to day. It appears that Mr. Allen’s preference is to continue making his contentions in the media.”

The Free Press reported late Tuesday that the meeting with Barra was scheduled.

The group initially said GM allocated less than 0.5 percent of its ad spend to Black-owned media, but in the Journal ad, the group amended its letter to say that GM spends “very little” on Black-owned media.

GM spokesman Pat Morrissey said GM spends 2 percent of its ad budget on Black-owned media. The automaker doubled ad spending on Black-owned media from 2020 to 2021, Morrissey said.

In both ads, the group said it had no interest in meeting with Wahl, claiming that she neglected Black-owned media when she was CMO for McDonald’s. The group pushed GM to invest in Black-owned media, not minority-owned media.

“Minority includes white women and large corporations like General Motors can hide behind and tout their minority records while continuing not to do business with Black Owned Media companies,” they wrote.

“Mary, we and others firmly believe that if you continue to hold the position that Black Owned Media doesn’t deserve meaningful economic inclusion and we are not worth meeting with, then you should resign, effective immediately,” the group wrote.

The group also called on Coca-Cola last week to allocate more ad spend to Black-owned media.

“We are proud of our relationship with Black-owned media partners, including our existing commercial relationship with Mr. Allen. We have stated our aspiration to be the most inclusive company in the world and have taken many concrete steps to advance that goal,” GM said in the statement.

In June, Barra created an inclusion advisory board made up of several prominent Black leaders, and GM designated $10 million to support organizations that promote inclusion and racial justice, starting with a $1 million donation to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

Last week, GM added more diversity to its board, naming NBA COO Mark Tatum to the board along with tech executive Meg Whitman. The additions expand GM’s board to 13 seats, seven of which are filled by women.

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