CEE Centre for Young Black Professionals and Publicis Groupe Canada reclaim the hoodie, show the brilliance of Black youth in new campaign

Canada has a hiring bias problem. The unemployment rate among young Black people (aged 15 to 24) was a staggering 30.6% in January 2021, almost double the national average for the same age group, according to Statistics Canada. A recent survey revealed that 76% of Black Torontonians experience racial discrimination at least a few times a month. Two Canadian organizations aim to shine a light on the issue by showcasing the brilliance of the young Black community. The (CEE) Centre for Young Black Professionals, a Toronto non-profit providing free career skills training and supports to Black youth, has partnered with Publicis Groupe Canada to launch a new brand platform, Black Youth Can, and “Who I Really Am,” CEE’s first-ever major marketing campaign.

Over the last ten years, with the support of partners like BMO, TD, Deloitte, Cisco, Hudson’s Bay, the MLSE Foundation, the NBA Foundation, TikTok and Publicis Groupe Canada, CEE (which stands for Careers, Education and Empowerment) has provided professional workforce skill training and development for Black youth, alongside holistic supports like access to social workers and therapists, education and advocacy to influence systems and policy. To date, more than 1,000 Black youth have graduated from their programs and the non-profit proudly notes a 96% program retention rate.

Black Youth Can is a powerful declaration that Black youth can accomplish anything they set their minds to. And with the support and backing of CEE, nothing can stop them from becoming who they want to be. The first campaign, “Who I Really Am”, features the success stories of nine real CEE alumni, each wearing a custom designed “Who I Really Am” hoodie. The clothing acts as a canvas to showcase their individual stories, passions and successes – almost a powerful, wearable résumé. By flipping the narrative of what Black youth are presumed to be because of what they look like, and what they wear, this campaign shines a light on their brilliance one hoodie at a time. The hoodies were produced by Grandslammer$, an apparel brand founded by Jason Blackwood, one of the CEE alumni featured in the campaign.

“CEE changed the course of my career and life and armed with me the skills, support and confidence to boldly show employers what I can bring to the table,” said Mike Regis, a talented director and producer, and graduate of CEE’s Production Accounting program. “Being part of 2 Who I Really Am and seeing my story shared on such a big stage across the city has given me a whole new level of pride. I want Toronto to see what we have to offer.”

"Racial discrimination means unfairly higher unemployment rates for young Black talent. Our community is educated, motivated, and filled with talented young individuals who are willing to put in the work,” said Agapi Gessesse, Executive Director of CEE. “CEE gives them the skills and support to build careers in meaningful industries where Canada needs talented professionals most – from film and entertainment to tech, hospitality, trades, finance and beyond. It’s time to tackle employment stereotypes head on and show the Black brilliance that I see every day in our students, alumni and community. We have always known that Black Youth Can, and this Publicis Groupe Canada partnership has helped show the rest of Canada who we really are."

The result of a deep partnership spanning more than two years between Publicis Groupe Canada and CEE, the “Who I Really Am” campaign marks an important milestone for Publicis Groupe Canada who, as part of a national DE&I initiative, launched a new program that will see it create a pro bono campaign annually for a Canadian non-profit in the space. CEE was selected as the first organization for this initiative and every one of the Groupe’s agencies has supported and lent expertise to bring the campaign to life. The new campaign includes a hero digital video, social and influencer content, as well as out-of-home placements in Toronto.

“We wanted to give CEE a strategic creative territory from which future campaigns could unfold. This would shine a light on their ongoing commitment to help Black youth thrive,” said Scott Pinkney, Senior Vice President and Executive Creative Director at Publicis Hawkeye “We needed a powerful way to take the Black Youth Can platform to the streets of Toronto, and we did with our first integrated campaign, Who I Really Am.”

The campaign has also seen widespread support from the Groupe’s media partners, including Branded Cities, Pattison, Outfront, Vertical Impression, Allvision, and Astral. Together, these partners have united to champion the initiative, donating over $500,000 in primarily Out-of-Home advertising space including in premium locations like Union Station, Dundas Square, and the CF Toronto Eaton Centre as well as on highway billboards, transit shelters, and TTC stations.

To learn more about the 'Who I Really Am' campaign, see CEE alumni profiles, post job positions or donate, please visit BlackYouthCan.ca.

About the CEE Centre for Young Black Professionals:
The CEE (Careers, Education, Empowerment) Centre for Young Black Professionals is a Toronto-based non-profit organization actively contributing to the development of Canada by addressing economic and social barriers faced by Black youth aged 14 and over. Their mission is to create a society and economy where Black youth can achieve financial prosperity and a high quality of life for themselves and their families.

To achieve this, CEE collaborates with Black youth, employers, and the broader community in core focus areas of sector leadership, social enterprise and career training. Their career programming covers six identified labour market gaps - Technology, Entertainment, Social Services, Finance, Trades, and Hospitality – and is supported by CEE’s holistic, person-centered, and culturally relevant approaches which aim to improve the careers, education, and empowerment of Black youth in Canada.

For more information or to donate, please visit CEECentre.org

About Publicis Groupe Canada
Publicis Groupe Canada is the Canadian subsidiary of Publicis Groupe, one of the world’s largest communications groups with activity concentrated in four main areas: Communication, Media, Data and Technology. Publicis Groupe Canada represents the vision of a truly integrated set of collaborative and complimentary agencies that offer expertise and insightful services to many of the biggest brands in North America.

Publicis Groupe Canada is committed to its Diversity, Equity and Inclusion mandate which focuses on four pillars: Education, Talent Management, Outreach and Giving Back. Since the mandate’s launch in 2020 they have made strong and continued growth in all their pillars including top-tier mental health benefits, regular education sessions for employees, six business resources groups for employees of various backgrounds and their allies and developing training and scholarship programs with POV and the Miami Ad School Canada. The Groupe also launched This Is The Job, an initiative designed to work with Canada’s largest school boards to change the complexion of the marketing industry and inspire racialized teens and young adults to consider a career in the industry.