No one ever said being a lawyer is the best way to win friends. Lawyers are the bane of most people’s existence. But, I like to say, I’m the good kind…until I am not. Probably like now, after you finish reading this post.
It was the Monday after the 2006 Grammy Awards, I picked up the phone and heard my otherwise laidback client YELLING into the phone before I could say “Hello.” “I can’t believe that MF came over here, shoving papers in my face, asking me to rearrange my deal! I told him to go f^%* himself and threw his ass out of my hotel room,” he said.
In the age of digital babysitting, where parents routinely use their iPads to keep their kids occupied, Jeff Friday’s mother was ahead of the curve. Barbara Scott was a single mother raising three kids in Newark, New Jersey, in the early 1970s. Trying to keep her kids off the streets, she had the brilliant idea of making her children watch TV while she attended graduate school at Columbia University and NYU.
When Ebony asked me to pen a regular column Behind Black Hollywood, I was elated. It was the chance to merge my job as an Entertainment Lawyer with my passion for writing, and if you know me, my love for chatting and asking questions. But more than that, I was excited to be have the chance to highlight the movers, shakers, the doers; people who are behind the scenes, those who bring to life what we see, read or hear in the media. Each person profiled in this column are game changers and quietly (or not so quietly) shifting the landscape of our cultural psyche.
Just as it seems like “Black Hollywood” is finally getting its just due with a few notable TV shows about, by and for Black people, here comes a wrecking ball in the form of a study that reinforces something that we’ve pretty much known all along: that even in 2015 “there is still a major disconnect between the percentage of minority writers employed in television and film and the U.S. population.” The 2014 Hollywood Writer’s Reportpublished by the WGA indicates a 7% decline in minority writers employed, down from 15.6% in 2012-’13 season to 13.7% for the 2013-’14 season.
Where is Ferguson?” As a native St. Louisian, I've been asked that question many times this week as the world watches White cops unleash tear gas and rubber bullets on Black citizens, marching toward the unarmed crowd in full riot gear for the fourth night in a row. This is the aftermath of the shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed Black teen, in a city where disenfranchised Blacks have had enough of the institutional racism that permeates one of the country's largest metropolitan areas.
Mike Brown was supposed to start college today. Instead his body lies in a morgue somewhere, and his community is in an uproar. It seems like a pathetic scene out of the movie Groundhog Day: another unarmed Black teen is dead, murdered in cold blood while questions swirl surrounding the facts of his shooting.
In her closing argument in the Michael Dunn murder trial, prosecutor Erin Wolkfson said “Jordan Davis never had a chance.” She was partially right. Dunn fired 10 bullets at point blank range into the red Dodge Durango on that fateful November Friday afternoon in 2012. But truthfully, none of the teens really stood a chance. They were arguing over “that rap music crap.” The other teens got lucky and escaped unharmed, but Jordan Davis was hit by 3 bullets. When the gunfire ended, Jordan Davis lay dead in the SUV; Dunn, on the other hand, left the scene guns blazing. He and his fiancé headed to their Jacksonville hotel room where they ordered pizza, walked their dog, had a few cocktails and went to sleep. He never called the police.
Chicago politics long been synonymous with corruption. With an average of 51 public corruption convictions each year since 1976, it is no wonder that Chicago has been hailed as the most corrupt federal jurisdiction in the U.S. The often ruthless climb to the top of Chicago’s political arena is frequently punctuated by bribery, extortion or other kind of shady behavior, but greed, somehow, someway, is always front and center of a Chicago political takedown. These politicians often subscribe to the notion that public office benefits them, the politicians, not the other way around. In a city like Chicago then, it is not surprising that another politician was sentenced just last week, found guilty of corruption and taken down by his own greed, even if his name is Jesse Jackson, Jr.
Something’s happened in 2013. It seems like all of a sudden, Hollywood is taking notice. Call it the Browning of Hollywood—gradually (to some degree) Hollywood is recognizing that Blacks can carry lead roles on the big and small screen. The changes didn’t happen overnight for Black Hollywood. The evolution is a slow burn, with a long way to go. Our struggle to become major players on the big and small screen is built on the backs of our thespian ancestors who, like their non-celebrity counterparts, struggled for equality, a voice and a seat at The Table.