Keisha Senter on creating opportunities for black art through social change initiatives

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Keisha Senter, Vice President of Culture and Impact at Monkeypaw Productions

Keisha Senter is all about inclusion. As Vice President of Culture and Impact for Jordan Peele’s Monkeypaw Productions, she leads social impact strategies and campaigns that bolster its film and TV catalog, while developing partnerships with organizations. that relate to topics covered in all of the company’s content.

As one of the few women of color in her position, Senter fully realizes the importance of providing other minorities with the opportunity to showcase their work and share the experience of promoting diversity in various industries.

Senter has previously created initiatives for several government, fashion, entertainment and philanthropy brands. So his landing in Peele’s production company was fortuitous, so to speak. “It really is a dream come true,” she told ESSENCE. “I’ve always been a fan of what Monkeypaw has done – and of Jordan too – so getting on board and really growing the Culture & Impact team was in line with the company’s vision and DNA. really been a pleasure the last two years to work with such a dynamic brand.

“Jordan Peele really has his finger on the pulse of the culture; and not just what is happening in the culture, but the trends that will be happen,” she continued. “He also has the foresight to understand our culture and what resonates with us, and how we are affected.”

The Kentucky native joined Monkeypaw Productions in February 2021, just months before the release of the Nia DaCosta-directed film candy man, with Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Teyonah Parris. She was instrumental in creating the film’s social campaign, which included a panel discussion, an artist showcase, as well as screenings of the film across the country.

candy man really addressed a number of issues that were happening — black trauma, but also black excellence, black joy, and black art,” the Florida A&M grad said. “What our department has been doing is building a culture and impacting campaigns throughout the life cycle of the film. It started with working with our development team to identify the touchpoints we can reach to make sure our audience feels engaged and has some of our content even before the credits go up.

“Whether it’s stories behind the scenes or in front of the camera, we also work with Black and Maroon-owned businesses to really see how we create these activation campaigns and how we highlight the ‘art that resonates with our target demographic’, Senteur added.

Before the release of Peele’s new film Nope – which hits theaters today – The Culture & Impact team at Monkeypaw looked for a way to promote the project, and how they can partner with talent, or even community creators to create something that resonates culturally. “Our movies are so big that each collaboration takes on a different lens,” Senter said. “Every story is unique, so every project that comes out of these films is also unique.”

Daniel Kaluuya, the current cover star of ESSENCE and one of the protagonists of Nope, teamed up with fashion designer Jide Osifeso to create a line of products that coincided with the film’s themes, messages and style. Senter, who is also the former vice president of the Will & Jada Smith Family Foundation, spoke about this monumental collaboration and where it came from.

“We watched the movie and knew it would have great iconography that would strike a chord with a lot of our viewers,” Senter told ESSENCE. “So we worked with Daniel, and it was his idea to create a merchandise line, so we started a collaboration with Jide Osifeso. We do things like that – we watch our movies and watch our content and how we can work with black artists and black creators to bring their visions to life.

Senter has extensive experience in all areas and has consulted for global companies such as Gucci, Social Capital Markets and Aritzia. She has also held leadership positions at the Rockefeller Foundation, the Clinton Global Initiative, the Center for American Progress, and the office of Senator Charles E. Schumer, while earning a master’s degree in international relations from Dublin City University in Ireland. This growing list of accomplishments can be attributed to her Kentucky roots and the educational foundation she received in Tallahassee, Florida.

As a FAMU graduate, this 2016 Presidential Leadership Fellow knew she would end up in an HBCU from a young age. His mother went to Tennessee State University and his sister is a fellow Rattler, so their influence alone was enough to push Senter down a similar path.

“When you’re in college and you spend your spring break at FAMU, and you go home every year, you really think that’s the next step,” she said of her decision. to attend an HBCU. “I had scholarships and other opportunities to go to PWIs, but I just knew an HBCU was the right place for me.”

“I’m from Kentucky and I spent a lot of time in my classes where I was the only young black girl there,” she continued. “What I knew I would get from an HBCU was what I needed. It was the only choice for me, and I think it was one of the best choices I’ve ever made.

During our chat, Senter also emphasized how essential it was to go abroad for her master’s degree, saying that “it was a completely different experience. I think no matter where you go to school you can bond for life, and I will say going to Ireland was just as unique and invaluable to my growth and trajectory as going to an HBCU . It was these lifelong experiences and lessons she learned at FAMU and DCU that allowed her to excel in her career today.

Being a black woman in a leadership position, Senter faces many moments of discrimination. However, it is not what happens to us that is important, but how we react to it. The things she has experienced and the skills she has learned from living in different places throughout her life have given her a beautiful and necessary perspective – that she has the right be here. In fact, we all do. It’s something she takes with her wherever she goes.

“One of the key things for me is understanding that we have a right to be in these rooms. But when we are in this room, what do we do, what do we say and how do we continue to speak for those who are not in the room?”

“If I have an opportunity or a place at the table, I will make room for others to come,” she added. “To be able to hire other black women who can see you, and you can be a role model for them – we can all learn from that. Making sure you’re trying to diversify and create opportunities for more of us is key. This is the real goal.

TOPICS: Jordan Peele Monkeypaw Productions

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