All Articles Tagged "Black Hollywood"

The Peculiar Reasons Why We Celebrate The Historic ‘The Birth of A Nation’ Deal

January 27th, 2016 - By Charing Ball
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Image: Mandalay Pictures

Image: Mandalay Pictures

Nate Parker’s The Birth of a Nation made history yesterday at Sundance when Fox Searchlight paid $17.5 million for worldwide rights to the film, thus making it the biggest sale to ever come out of the annual film festival.

And Black folks celebrated…

But folks forgot all about the time when we were calling out Black folks for supporting shows like “Empire,” which ain’t nothing but funding tools for the Man (aka Rupert Murdoch who is the founder of News Corp and 21 Century Fox) – so I’ve been told.

And we also miss the irony in that the same forces that we vilify for giving a platform to Stacey Dash is now giving distribution platform to Nat Turner’s story.

All of that to say that we the people can be pretty contradictory at times. We accuse some of us of seeking validation from White people or helping them to get rich or even acting as their propaganda tools but then turn right around and validate other people that come out and benefit from the same system.

Oh, what a tangled web exceptionalism weaves…

And this is no shade to Nate Parker. I don’t even know the brother but I’m extremely happy for him and can’t wait to see the film.

But let’s be honest, a huge part of the whole “wow” factor in this story has generated is just because Parker made the film. But also because the film that he made was acquired by a major studio and sold for history making amount.

And I get it: why the hell should we not be impressed?

I mean, who would have thunk that any studio in Hollywood would have the audacity to distribute and theatrically-release a film about a Black revolutionary historical figure who kills a bunch of slave-owning White people?

Tell me who?

Still, as great as an achievement as that it is, there is no denying that The Birth of A Nation’s current and future achievement is still very much a part of the system that we claim we hate and seek to dissociate from.

At least that’s the impression I got from reading this article in the Hollywood Reporter entitled “Sundance: Why Nate Parker Chose Fox Searchlight Over Netflix for ‘The Birth of a Nation.’

And as Rebecca Ford and Tatiana Siegel, who interviewed Parker for this piece, writes:

Parker, 36, quit acting for two years to realize the passion project that he wrote, produced, directed and toplined. He put in $100,000 of his own money to fly around the country to talk to anyone who might want to finance it. A dozen investor groups — which included former NBA player Michael Finley and San Antonio Spurs star Tony Parker — cobbled together the film’s $10 million budget.

Many of those investors and producers were invited to a private dinner in Park City with Parker and the cast at Zoom on Sunday night, ahead of the screening. More than 85 people filled the upper-floor dining space of the restaurant, noshing on meatballs and sliders before a seated dinner. Spirits were high.

“I keep saying: We’ve won already. The movie exists, we contributed to it as a family, it belongs to us,” Parker told his cast and crew at the gathering. “Everything that comes after this is bonus.” (For a behind-the-scenes look at Parker’s Park City visit, see the exclusive video at the bottom of this post.)

For all intents and purposes, Parker’s story of an actor who wrote a film seven years ago and gets plucked from obscurity at an independent film festival does sound like the quintessential underdog tale. And when you add race, along with the social climate at this moment including the #OscarsSoWhite debate and the overall movement for social justice, his story sounds even more magical.

But as reported by Ford and Siegel, “Birth came to Sundance with big expectations, with many major buyers seeing it as an Oscar contender.” And it even got a standing ovation from the audience even before a single image of the film could be shown.

Likewise the excitement over the film continued to grow after the Sundance screening and as reported by THR, during the after-party, Parker and the other producers were flanked with various offers from studios and distributors.

To help separate the “serious” bidders from the less serious ones, the article states that Parker’s agent set a minimum bid of $12 million just for film studios and other distributors to get into the room to talk to him. Among those contenders were Fox Searchlight, The Weinstein Co., Sony and Netflix. And as THR reports:

“Searchlight and TWC appeared to have an edge with Parker, given that both distributors have successfully released movies theatrically with black casts and subject matter — Searchlight with best picture Oscar winner 12 Years a Slave and TWC with Lee Daniels’ The Butler.”

And as Parker would tell THR about how he came to settle with Fox Searchlight:

“My responsibility to the project is to make sure to find a partner that is as passionate as we are about it socially, so if that meant we had to take less money, then those were conversations I was willing to have,” says Parker, who would not speak about specific suitors that did not submit the winning bid.

Multiple sources say there had indeed been a higher bid: Netflix offered $20 million for all rights but was insisting on a day-and-date streaming/theatrical release like it did with Beasts of No Nation last fall. At a Sundance fest that has been dominated by streamers Amazon and Netflix, such a massive offer must have been tantalizing. But sources say Parker and the producers wanted a large theatrical experience, so, similarly to the premiere, people would be rallied to action.

Parker says Searchlight was open to hearing all his ideas about how the film should be released, including his hope for it to be shown in high schools and colleges around the country.”

If it was really just about the film, the team could have opted to screen at the Pan-African Film Festival and the American Black Film Festival. And if it was just about getting it made for us and by us, the team behind the project could have sought out Centric or TV One or even Bob Johnson’s internet streaming site.

But instead the team took the film to Sundance, the most prestigious of indie routes where studio executives go specifically to purchase films. And the team ultimately set its price high and then eventually settled with Fox Searchlight because that would guarantee the most views, as well as solid chance at an Oscar nomination.

Again, I personally celebrate Parker’s story because it is a reminder of how important it is to just do the work. And I am thankful that Parker’s personal dream of making a film included us. Likewise, I am extremely pleased that the Nat Turner story, which is a complex tale of rebellion and personal autonomy, will finally get the mainstream validation it deserves.

But we shouldn’t act like those stories don’t exist (Check out Tula or check out Sankofa or check out Quilombo, which are just a few classic Black slave revolt films that have not been endorsed by the Hollywood system).

And we should be honest about the reality of how successful Black films are created. It does not happen in a bubble. It does not happen without mainstream endorsement. And it ain’t just a matter of making our own. As we forget that there are tons of finished good Black film projects, which have no chance of being seen by the masses.

Instead we should keep in mind that Parker’s achievement is a combination of building from the outside and strategically working for inside validation. And he is building his own much like the Smiths had build their own. And much like Lee Daniels and Ryan Coogler who is the director of Creed had to build their own.

And I think that is important to remember when next year’s Academy Awards nominations are announced. Whether Parker gets snubbed or not, we can’t say that it doesn’t matter when we all celebrate a moment in time when it did matter.

What Does White Hollywood Have To Say About Diversity?

January 26th, 2016 - By Charing Ball
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Jada Pinkett Smith at Golden Globes


Ever since Jada Pinkett Smith announced to the world that she (and later her hubby) would not be making an appearance at this year’s Academy Awards, the mainstream media has been scrambling to find out what the rest of Hollywood thinks about it.

And while most are keeping tally on how many Black stars will or will not attend the event, the most interesting responses to #OscarsSoWhite have come by way of White Hollywood.

So in the interest of keeping tabs on them (so we know whose films to support and not support in the future) as they do on us, I have decided to create a list.

I know: It sounds like a Late Night With Jimmy Kimmel sketch. And while I can’t guarantee that it will be as funny as a Kimmel sketch, let’s not act like Kimmel is really that funny to begin with…

Why Jada Pinkett Smith’s Oscar Boycott Is Corny, But Necessary

January 19th, 2016 - By Charing Ball
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Image Source: WENN

Image Source: WENN

On Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, Jada Pinkett Smith made a very powerful plea to Black Hollywood, but from a very corny place.

What I mean is, in this video post uploaded to her Facebook account, Smith made it known that she would not be attending or watching the Academy Awards.

More specifically she said:

“I can’t help but ask the question, is it time that people of color recognize how much power, influence that we have amassed, that we no longer need to ask to be invited anywhere? I ask the question, have we come to a new time and place where we recognize that we can no longer beg for the love, acknowledgement or respect of any group? Maybe it’s time that we recognize that if we love and respect and acknowledge ourselves in the way in which we are asking others to do, that that is the place of true power. I’m simply asking the question.

Here’s what I believe: The Academy has the right to acknowledge whomever they choose. To invite whomever they choose. And now I think that it is our responsibility now to make the change. Maybe it is time that we pull back our resources and we put them back into our communities, into our programs, and we make programs for ourselves that acknowledge us in ways that we see fit. That are just as good as the so-called ‘mainstream ones.’ I don’t know.

But here’s what I do know: Begging for acknowledgment or even asking diminishes dignity. It diminishes power. And we are a dignified people and we are powerful. And let’s not forget it.

So, let’s let the Academy do them, with all grace and love. And let’s do us – differently.”

Generally speaking, I am of the firm belief that asking for help is neither undignified nor does it make one powerless. Quite the contrary. And as a people, we need to stop asking – no, demanding – that we suffer in silence for the sake of public image, a.k.a., “dignity.”

Nevertheless, this is a very powerful sentiment from one-half of Hollywood’s Black power couple. And not something that we haven’t heard countless times from those outside and inside Hollywood before. For instance, Anthony Mackie has been very vocal in his belief that Black people need to stop begging for recognition and begin creating our own.

But powerful sentiments aside, I hope that means Smith and others, including the likes of Snoop Lion and Spike Lee, who too are supporting the boycott, will keep that in mind the next time an invite comes in the mail from the NAACP Image Awards or BET Honors award shows.

And I’m serious.

In a video posted to his social media networks, Snoop Lion not only offered his support for Smith’s planned boycott but keenly noted, “I say let’s have a hood awards where we give all Black people what they due and deserve. From yesteryear, today and tomorrow.”

Googly side-eye emoticon…

But to be fair, he likely rolled up the invite and smoked it by accident.

Even still, there is something to be said for folks getting in their feelings about what these White award shows aren’t doing and how we need to “boycott,” but when Black award season rolls around, you have Terrence J and M.C. Hammer accepting an award on their behalf.

To me, that’s corny.

Also kind of corny is telling Black folks to show some dignity by not “begging” the Oscars for acceptance while previously advocating for the further integration of Essence magazine (i.e., The “if we ask our white sisters, who tend to be the guardians of the covers of mainstream magazines, to consider women of color to grace these covers, should we not offer the same consideration to white women to grace our covers?” question she posted on her Facebook page).

And if that doesn’t meet your corniness threshold, here comes the original Aunt Viv with a video of her own to point out how it wasn’t fair for Smith to ask other actors and actresses to “jeopardize” their careers. Especially when the power couple personally made millions from “the very people you talking about boycotting.” Likewise, Janet Hubert pointed out that Jada would probably have no interest in a boycott of the Academy Awards if not for her husband’s film getting a snub.

She also took a moment to, once again, remind us that Smith ain’t nothin’ but a low-down dirty dog. More accurately, the “Blackstress” said in full saturation:

“And I seem to recall that twenty-six-seven, twenty-five…I don’t seem to remember. But I remember at option time coming to you and saying, you know what Will? You’re the star of the show. Why don’t we all get together and with you, maybe we can get a little raise. Maybe the network, since the show is such a hit and you being the star of the show, your influence will help us greatly like they did on Friends; like they did on White shows. Do you remember that? I do. And your response to me was, ‘My deal is my deal and y’alls deal is y’alls deal.’

Well, karma must be a b—h because here you are…”

Aunt Viv over there sounding more like Aunt Esther.

To be fair, the Smiths have not exactly been dormant when it comes to social justice issues. In fact, DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince once led a very public boycott of the 1989 Grammy Awards even though they were nominated and ultimately won an award. As noted by DJ Jazzy Jeff in an interview from 2014 with BET:

At the time, less than three decades ago, while the awards committee didn’t want to televise the category nomination for rap’s first Grammy recipients, they did ask them to perform. “It was almost like, you kind of want us to be the token,” Jeff said. “This is our contribution to hip hop on the Grammys, but it’s not big enough for us to televise the category.”

That “slap in the face” led the duo to boycott. “We didn’t know what that was going to do for our career, but at that point, in that stage of hip hop, you had people saying that hip hop is only going to be around for a certain amount of time.”

And I would be flagrant if I didn’t mention that the Will & Jada Smith Family Foundation and Overbrook Entertainment has put a lot of their money behind projects. That includes the Million Man March, Justice…Or Else! and the Free Angela and All Political Prisoners documentary, as well as the film and television programs Love & Basketball, ATL and the Queen Latifah Show. And then there is Jada Pinkett Smith’s very passionate support of the campaign to end human trafficking.

So if Jada, in particular (because Will hasn’t said a thing), is only boycotting the Academy from a self-serving place, one could see how she might feel like she has earned herself some privilege.

Not to mention that this – Hollywood – is their chosen profession. And unlike other actors and actresses who like to seek change elsewhere in the world while failing to call out the injustices in their own backyard, I appreciate Jada for at least trying to use her position to push for reform. Even if she is now just waking up.

Wherever it comes from, there’s no doubt that this boycott needs to happen. Hell, it needed to happen years ago, and not just at Oscar time. There is a lot of money being made off of our image and stories while not including us. There are a lot of tax incentives (i.e., our tax dollars) going to help support Hollywood films that don’t support us. And there are a lot of good Black actors, actresses, directors, producers, writers…down to the Black gophers being denied key platforms and positions and money within a global industry needed to help us build and ensure that our own institutions flourish.

Yes, we have to build our own, but we can’t build our own in isolation. Even Tyler Perry, who has his own, answers to somebody.

And yes, we have to build our own. But building our own takes time, especially when we are attempting to build our own in a way that structurally opposes how “the man” had come to build his (i.e., through oppression, slavery, imperialism, colonialism, segregation, discrimination, etc…).

So while I fully understand the criticism of the boycott and too think the possible motivation for it is corny, I’m also thankful that one of Black Hollywood’s biggest gatekeeping couples has finally seen some parts of the light. Maybe we can finally get somewhere…

15 Of Our Favorite Magazine Covers Featuring Black Women In 2015

October 20th, 2015 - By Desiree Bowie
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Misty Copeland

Source: Essence

There used to be a time when the only magazines that featured Black women on their cover were Ebony, Essence, Jet, and Vibe. Well, times have changed, and Black women of all shades, ages, and sizes are showing up and showing out on a variety of mainstream magazines all over newsstands. We’re being represented just about everywhere. Let’s take a look at the top 15 covers of the year so far.

#MCM: 10 Eligible Bachelors We’d Like To Recruit For Cuffing Season

September 14th, 2015 - By Desiree Bowie
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michael b. jordan talks faith


‘Tis the season for hookups and love. That’s right, as the weather changes, that means cuffing season is drawing near. With so many baes to choose from, why not shoot your shot in the direction of some of Black Hollywood’s most elite single men? Prepare to hop on the ‘gram and slide into those DMs as we look at famous fellas who are on the market.

Michael Ealy On Black Hollywood Struggles: We Raise Our Children To Want To Shine In Front Of The Camera

September 11th, 2015 - By Brande Victorian
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Source: Johnny Nunez

Source: Johnny Nunez

Fun fact: “The Perfect Guy” hits theaters today. Extra fun fact: Sanaa Lathan and Michael Ealy, who star in the film alongside Morris Chestnut, are also executive producers of the thriller. It’s that fact that offered great insight into the struggle of Black Hollywood which is a never ending discussion whenever a project with African American leads is released.

At a blogger luncheon in New York City September 10, Ealy and Lathan were asked whether they were cognizant of hiring Black crew members to work on the film, given the greater influence they had for “The Perfect Guy” versus prior movies. Interestingly, in answering that question, Ealy pointed out a fact about so-called Black Hollywood most aren’t aware of: There are actually more Black actors than there are Black production crew members.

“It would be Utopian to say I need at least 16 Black grips and a Black DP (director of photography),” Ealy said. “The reality is, because of access to film, you don’t have a lot of Black people who want to go behind the camera. We raise our children to want to be in front of the camera and shine, and that’s on us. We have to change that ourselves and try to inspire kids to want to be DPs. We have to inspire them to want to do things behind the cameras, be costume designers.

“I’m not saying there are none,” Ealy added in response to a comment from the crowd about there being Black people interested in production roles. “I’m just saying there’s a lot more actors and singers than there are Black costume designers, for sure.”

Speaking less about Hollywood and more about his personal life, Ealy also dropped a piece of advice almost anyone can appreciate when he was asked about keeping his relationship so private. Likening the entertainment industry to high school, Ealy says he learned as a teen it’s best to keep certain things to yourself.

“The less people who are involved in what you’re doing, the more likely it is that you’ll be successful.”

Didn’t See That Coming! 15 Shocking Moments From “Scandal” Season 4

May 14th, 2015 - By Desiree Bowie
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15 Shocking Scandal moments

Image Source: ABC


The Scandal season finale is tonight, and it promises to be one that will slay our very essence. But then again, this season has provided shocker after shocker.

Before we go any further, be warned that from here on out, it is nonstop spoiler alerts if you’re not caught up on the season. Shonda Rhimes has put damn near everyone on the cast in danger this season. Let’s take a look at 15 of Scandal‘s most shocking moments from this season.

Deepak Nope-rah: 11 Times Stars Wanted Us To Believe They Were Deep When They Actually Sounded Crazy

May 1st, 2015 - By Desiree Bowie
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We’ve all had those moments when we read a celeb quote that made us roll our eyes and shake our heads because the star absolutely tried it. Thanks to social media, you can always expect a head-scratch worthy quote from a fake deep celeb. Let’s take a look at 11 times celebs did the absolute most.


To Be Young, Gifted, Black, And Fat: Why I’m Proud To See More BBWs Front And Center On-Screen

April 9th, 2015 - By Cynthia L. Dorsey
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Getty Images

Motivation comes in many forms. One motivational musical piece for me is Nina Simone’s melodious proclamation that, In the whole world there are a billion boys and girls who are young, gifted and Black, and that’s a fact!” But if I could add an adjective to this adage it would read, “To Be Young, Gifted, Black, and Fat.”

Yes, it must be written and archived! Notated and dialogued. Black women living on the pluser side of life are walking with more confidence than ever and taking over Hollywood and primetime television at the same time. You no longer have to “watch out for the big girl.” We are here, taking names, and cashing checks.

In an industry where thin and white is the prototype for beauty, opportunities for actresses who are Black and thicker than thick used to be non-existent unless they were playing the Mammy; and in most cases, they were muted of all beauty and sexuality. We honor those Black actresses like Hattie McDaniel for breaking down barriers in the entertainment industry so that there would be a place, time and opportunity for actresses today to share their talent with the world. We are thankful that we are able to see images of our likeness on television and in film.

Today, the list of beautiful and plump actresses is steadily growing. Writers have started to give an authentic voice to female characters who have more to love. The characters now have more depth. We are transitioning from being able to play only the maid, the mom, and the sassy best friend, to having successful lives and even having love interests.

One evening I watched Raven Goodwin in her role as Niecy Patterson on BET’s Being Mary Jane. Goodwin was standing in front of the mirror, glowing in the eminence of her beauty as she tried on clothes for a night out. She stared proudly at who she saw in that mirror and I was ecstatic about it. The brilliantly edited montage of Goodwin getting dressed in form-fitting clothing even featured a moment where she stood in her bra and panties, showing the world that size does not diminish beauty. It was a scene I’d been waiting to see for my entire life.

But BET isn’t the only network to be blessed with a voluptuous beauty on one of their shows. Millions of us tuned in every Wednesday for eight weeks straight to watch the new FOX Drama, Empire. Cookie wasn’t the only one serving fierce night after night. Gabourey Sidibe came pumping through the halls of Empire Entertainment as Becky, the loyal yet firm executive assistant to Lucious Lyon. On Empire, Sidibe is witty and fearless, and her confidence is contagious. As a plus-size woman, I can admit that I have an insecurity about wearing tops that expose my arms. I just can’t do it. So I’d often yell at the screen, “Gabby, where are your sleeves?!” But I was honestly glad to see that Sidibe didn’t care one bit and wore the hell out of every outfit!

Fox may have its suspect views on pretty much everything, but it’s clear they love us BBWs. Before Sidibe, Glee featured the beautiful Amber Riley as belting diva club member Mercedes Jones. Riley even catapulted that opportunity into a stint on Dancing With The Stars, taking home the mirrorball trophy in 2013.

What’s most heartwarming is that even in an industry where competition is seemingly inevitable, these three young women can be seen flicking it up on Instagram and hanging out together. Yes, Black women of Hollywood do support one another.

But this is just the beginning for plus-size actresses. There are more of us out there patiently waiting in the wings. We are going from overlooked to overbooked. We are beautiful, smart, sexy, and have a rightful place in film and television. “Oh but my joy of today is that we can all be proud to say, to be young, gifted, Black, and fat is where it’s at!”

The Hollywood Black Film Festival To Return In 2016 After A Year Off

March 18th, 2015 - By Ann Brown
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via Twitter

via Twitter

In 2014, the Hollywood Black Film Festival shut down after 16 years of offering an outlet for Black filmmakers to show their films, network with Hollywood insiders, and learn more about the trade via workshops.

Needless to say many in Black Hollywood were disappointed. But with a lack of supporting sponsors, Tanya Kersey, founder and executive director of the HBFF, and programmer Jacqueline Blaylock didn’t think they could continue.

But now, after a year off the HBFF is on it’s was back for 2016. And Kersey could be more happier.

“We had so many people texting, calling, emailing saying how disappointed they were we were ending. Many said they had been planning to participate in the event,” says Kersey in a phone interview with MadameNoire. “So we felt this responsibility to the Black filmmaking community. When we started this, it was to give them a much-needed outlet. And there is still a major need for the resources we provide. So we prayed on it and decided just to set a date and move forward. If we had to scale back, we would scale back. Whatever it took we decided we were coming back in 2016.”

Kersey says this time around they may be making some changes. One thing they will be doing is utilizing a young team to run the festival. “Jacqui and I will have our daughters be more involved this year. They are both in their 20s and have handled things for HBFF in the past. But for 2016 we will be turning over more responsibility to them. Jacqui and I can’t do this forever, so we think it is time to start turning it over to the new generation.”

Kersey says they are also looking for young people to volunteer and join the team for next year’s event.

They are also changing the date. “We decided to do it in February for Black History Month, right after Sundance but before the Oscars,” says Kersey. This was a strategic business move by HBFF. “We found that at lot of people were saying they could get their company to partners with us as a sponsor if we were in Black History Month. So this way we can get on the corporate budgets for February.” It will take place February 24-28, 2016.

They may also relocate the festival from Beverly Hills to Downtown Los Angeles, as the city have started to court the event. “That area is really thriving, so if it makes sense for us business wise we will be moving as well,” says Kersey.

HBFF was founded in 1998 and since that time it screened a total of 721 independent films including 132 features, 382 shorts, 108 documentaries, 73 student films, 14 animated films and 8 music videos, from all across the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and the Caribbean. It hosted 339 world premieres, 13 U.S. premieres, 91 West Coast premieres and 59 Los Angeles premieres. And it has been attended by more than 50,000 people.