As a kid, Oak Park native Darien Marion-Burton was never known to raise his hand in class. He was too fearful of the consequences of being wrong — too many eyes glued on him, looking at how he acted. Today you can find him advocating for the business community as the “youngest, Blackest and gayest” Oak Park-River Forest Chamber of Commerce President in board history.
What caused this dramatic shift in confidence? Marion-Burton attributes his success to channeling his true authentic self. While he says he is still growing and learning about himself, he always gets positive results when he leans into who he truly is.
“I started being myself. I started authentically being the Darien I wanted to be, and people loved it,” said Marion-Burton.
Throughout high school, Marion-Burton says he kept busy to distract himself from figuring out who he was. He worked at Buzz Café, managed OPRF football and basketball teams and enjoyed taking restaurant classes the school provided. Support came from his “teacher-moms” who taught him the importance of “existing” — a phrase he references while breaking down barriers, despite current obstacles.
“I think simply existing, being a businessman in our community and being the chamber president, it really is just simply doing those roles and excelling at them. I am opening up the door and showing little Black kids and little gay kids and everybody that you don’t have to fit into this box that the world thinks you’re supposed to be in,” said Marion-Burton.
Marion-Burton graduated from Augustana College in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and Management. He gained experience interning at the Multicultural Student Life Office at Augustana, finding a passion for diversity services. Eventually he returned to Oak Park to pursue sales.
With a background in marketing and a dream in mind, Marion-Burton took a leap and opened a digital marketing agency called D.M. Burton. His local digital marketing agency specializes in crafting social media plans and web designs for small to medium-sized businesses across the Chicagoland area.
“We’re really concentrated on helping make the world more beautiful and helping people tell their stories through visual representation,” said Marion-Burton.
Marion-Burton prioritizes people from diverse backgrounds through customer interactions and a meaningful hiring process. He chooses team members that align with his values, hold a solid definition of inclusion and bring different identities to the table. To organically amplify LGBTQ voices, Marion-Burton created the campaign “Get Gay.”
The campaign advocates for Pride marketing created by members of the LGBTQ community, resources to promote LGBTQ-owned businesses and provides Pride marketing courses. Marion-Burton loves this time of year to celebrate the right and the ability to be yourself but wants to see these efforts continue throughout the year.
“I think we all as people try not to do the wrong thing, and I think that’s how we end up doing the wrong thing. But if we just act in our true natural ways, I think that all takes care of itself,” said Marion-Burton.