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Shavone Charles is the last member of the media to be featured in the Lve from Studio A Series in 2022. Photo Courtesy of Sam Johnston.
An important discussion about representation, featuring Shavone Charles, took place at Hofstra University’s Lawrence Herbert School of Communication (LHSC) on Friday, Nov. 18. This was the last of three speaker events presented by the LHSC’s series: LIVE from Studio A.
Hofstra welcomed Charles, who is the head of Global Diversity and Inclusion Communications at TikTok, and author of her recently published book, “The Black Internet Effect.” Charles is an activist at heart who dedicates her life to being a voice for underrepresented members of her community, especially women of color.
Charles opened the show by reading an excerpt from her book, which set the tone for the night. She shared her hard-earned success as a Black woman in the white- and male-dominated workforce of technology. Her journey started with her parents; she is the daughter of a local hair salon and a restaurant owner in San Diego, California. Explaining the meaning behind her book, Charles told the audience how social media culture and popular trends are directly impacted by Black influencers and creators on the web.
Charles, who has held many positions within the umbrella of diversity and inclusion, explained why these career opportunities were important to her.
“Looking at ways to amplify underrepresentative communities and voices have just been a part of my mission – it’s been a natural evolution,” Charles said. “I think a lot of what storytelling looks like for those voices is at the heart of diversity and inclusion – amplifying those very voices that are serving that platform and serving those communities.”
Many of the positions that Charles has held she created, including her position as head of diversity and inclusion at TikTok. She emphasized the importance of uplifting our community, whether that be through education or helpfulness. Charles has been a voice for inclusion ever since she was in school helping her peers in and out of the classroom.
After working in the tech industry for some time, Charles has a better understanding of what community truly means.
“My view and lens on tech as a whole has been super interesting just because of how fast the industry moves,” Charles said. “The pace of tech is incredibly unlike anything else we will ever see in our lifetime, and it’s so innovative and it’s absolutely based on ideas and community and connectivity.”
Most of the audience members were college students who related to Charles’ experience as aspiring entrepreneurs in the BIPOC community.
“As someone who is also Black and a woman trying to make a career in media, I wanted to hear about the industry from someone who can relate to my struggles and experiences,” said Arianna Wallace, a sophomore film major.
Charles’ experience of finding a community that encourages you and never makes you afraid to occupy space was helpful advice to many students.
“I feel that too frequently BIPOC individuals are made to feel smaller and lesser,” Wallace said. “So, we should all learn how to be more willing and confident in our abilities [to] speak our mind freely.”
Daniela Macias, a junior music business major, is a woman of color who compared her experience with Charles’ by “shattering the glass ceiling” in a white- and male-dominated fields. At the end of the show, audience members were able to participate in a Q&A session with Charles. Macias asked what advice she had for BIPOC women in technology.
“She was very encouraging and mentioned some places I can look for funding for my project,” Macias said. “I think it’s cool Hofstra invited someone they know a lot of their students can relate to.”
Although this is the last LIVE from Studio A event for the semester, faculty members who helped plan the event felt as though Charles’ was an important person to bring to the school.
“We wanted to end the semester strong with [Charles], a professional who could speak about something extremely relevant to the student population,” said David Henne, the director of content strategy and student media engagement at LHSC.
Regarding diversity and inclusion, Charles gave advice on how to create change.
“Start small. Start with your community; start with the people next to you. Often there’s this facade that we think we have to make it big, or we think we need a huge platform to make change or drive – and that’s not true,” Charles said. “We can start at our school, in our classroom, our homes and communities. You don’t have to wait until you’re at this pillar of success or checked this larger societal box that says now you can make an impact.”
The final installment of the series ended with an inspiring discussion of representation and social media, which is a relevant issue to many Hofstra students.
“[Charles] was a super friendly and approachable person who took the time to talk to every student, well past her allotted time. The show couldn’t have come off any better in my opinion,” Henne said.
Students and faculty members that are interested in more LIVE from Studio A events should stay tuned for 2023 schedules.
Shavone Charles’ book “The Black Internet Effect” is on sale now. For more information visit http://www.shavonec.com/about/
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