It just breaks my heart to think of how hard it must be to be rich and famous and black in Hollywood. It’s practically a slave plantation. I know this because BLD PWR (I’m guessing it sounds like Build Power?) produced an open letter to Hollywood. BLD PWR was founded by Kendrick Sampson. Mr. Sampson who grew up in the harsh, gritty, uh, suburbs… of Houston. So, you know, he’s every bit as ‘street’ as Beto O’Rourke. The letter from BLD PWR includes vague allegations of wrongdoing (no named offenders, no dates, no places, and no named victims) and it includes a list of demands. One could call it a manifesto. Have a look…
To our allies in Hollywood,
Hollywood has a privilege as a creative industry to imagine and create. We have significant influence over culture and politics. We have the ability to use our influence to imagine and create a better world. Yet, historically and currently, Hollywood encourages the epidemic of police violence and culture of anti-Blackness.
The way that Hollywood and mainstream media have contributed to the criminalization of Black people, the misrepresentation of the legal system, and the glorification of police corruption and violence have had dire consequences on Black lives.
STOP: Which movies *glorify* police corruption? I’m going to need examples, because I’m pretty corrupt cops are depicted as the bad guys. If there aren’t abundant examples, then this is a solution looking for a problem.
This includes stories that demonize our mental health as violent.
STOP: Which movies demonize the mental health of black people? Is this another solution looking for a problem? Sure seems like it.
People use these stories to justify the killings of Black people like Deborah Danner, who was murdered by NYPD Sgt. Hugh Barry. It also includes the perpetuation of transphobic stories that people use to justify the murder of Tony McDade in Florida, Nina Pop in Missouri, Dominique Fells, in Philadelphia, and Riah Milton in Ohio.
STOP: Which people? What are their names? People have names. Who are these people and when and where did they justify the murder of someone by referring to a movie? Which movies did they mention? What were the titles? Why be vague unless this is just not true? You want it to be true, or at least you want us to believe it’s true, don’t you?
We must end the exaltation of officers and agents that are brutal and act outside of the law as heroes. These portrayals encourage cops like Derek Chauvin, the murderer of George Floyd.
STOP: Why don’t you identify the movies? Where is your proof that the cop in question was encouraged by the unnamed movies? Is proof important when making decisions? Picture any ‘Dirty Harry’ movie, but imagine he’s really into non-violence and he’s a stickler for paperwork and every cause du jour. Would you pay to see that? Neither would we.
The lack of a true commitment to inclusion and institutional support has only reinforced Hollywood’s legacy of white supremacy. This is not only in storytelling. It is cultural and systemic in Hollywood. Our agencies, which often serve as industry gatekeepers, don’t recruit, retain or support Black agents.
STOP: Any agencies discriminating due to race would face stiff punishment (search for The Civil Rights Act of 1964: Title VII, Equal Employment Opportunities). If this is occurring, then why don’t you identify the agencies by name? Which specific agencies are doing this? If you name them, then there might be a trial… and evidence would be required… Oh. I see why you don’t name names.
Our unions don’t consider or defend our specific, intersectional struggles. Unions are even worse for our below-the-line crew, especially for Black women.
STOP: Have you considered changing your union leadership? If not, why not? If you can’t change your union leadership, then it sounds like unions aren’t worth your dues. Why don’t you quit the unions? Should California be a Right to Work state? Does the correct way to pronounce “intersectional struggles” involve a comical lisp? Try it and let me know.
Hollywood studios and production companies that exploit and profit from our stories rarely have any senior-level Black executives with greenlighting power. Even with the recent successes of Black-led and produced films and television, myths of limited international sales and lack of universality of Black-led stories are used to reduce our content to smaller budgets and inadequate marketing campaigns. White people make up the smallest racial demographic globally, yet their stories are seen as internationally universal.
STOP: It sounds like you don’t trust senior-level executives unless they are black. What is the word used to describe a person who distrusts people of other races? What is that word? Oh, well. Given the staggering amount of money earned by the extensive list of people who signed your open letter, why don’t you form your own studios and production companies?
When we do get the rare chance to tell our stories, our development, production, distribution, and marketing processes are often marred, filtered, and manipulated by the white gaze.
STOP: You just told everyone that white people make up the smallest racial demographic globally. Why don’t you put some of your vast wealth into reaching the global audience? Do it yourselves. Why aren’t you funding black films?
Due to Hollywood’s immense influence over politics and culture, all of the racism, discrimination and glass ceilings Black people in Hollywood experience on a regular basis have direct implications on Black lives everywhere.
Every time a Black executive or assistant is passed over for a promotion, or the marketing or production budget for another Black led film is limited, or when Black agents aren’t supported, Black writers are shut out, outnumbered or diminished, Black hair stylists are neglected, Black grips, gaffers, and camera assistants and operators are shut out of below the line unions – EVERY SINGLE TIME – this gives us less control over our narratives, continues the legacy of white supremacy’s influence over our stories and makes Black people in Hollywood and all over America less safe.
STOP: If only there was a federal agency like, I don’t know, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) that promoted equal opportunity in employment through administrative and judicial enforcement of the federal civil rights laws. If there was such an agency, then people violating federal civil rights laws could be punished and the problem eliminated by law enforcement. Oh, wait.
By allowing white people to control and oppress the narratives that affirm Black lives, Hollywood has directly and indirectly inflicted harm and oppression onto our communities. Because Hollywood has been a huge part of the problem, we demand it be a part of the solution. We, as Black people, bring immense, immeasurable cultural and economic value to the industry. We are also suffering from the oppression perpetuated by this industry. We have every right to demand this change.
STOP: Every one of you stars that made a fortune or even a living in movies have had your lives affirmed. Apply your immense, immeasurable cultural and economic value to making the movies you want. Movie stars, you are not oppressed. If you think you are oppressed, get a job on the assembly line, sit in the office cubicle, drive the truck, and punch the clock like all of the people you think are not oppressed.
We demand better. Prove that Black Lives Matter to Hollywood by taking bold moves to affirm, defend and invest in Black lives. Follow the examples of the Minneapolis School District, Denver Public Schools, the University of Minnesota and many other institutions in divesting from the policing system and investing in Black community.
STOP: If it’s not racist to demand Hollywood invest in black lives, then it can’t be racist to demand Hollywood invest in white lives, right? After all, you admitted that white people are a global minority.
WE DEMAND THAT HOLLYWOOD
DIVEST FROM POLICE
- Commit to no police on sets or events or for any other purposes. For security, we can use private unionized security officers from SEIU-USWW – if they drop their ties with police unions*.
- Pressure Los Angeles City Council and Mayor Garcetti and Governor Newsom (and any applicable shooting location) to move jurisdiction for permits and traffic coordination to the City, County or State offices (instead of police, sheriff or CHP) and to reduce its spending on police according to the outline that Black Lives Matter – Los Angeles and PeoplesBudgetLA.com
- Pressure every state, county and city from which Hollywood benefits from tax rebates to divest from police, invest in Black communities based on the model outlined at PeoplesBudgetLA.com
STOP: Given your distaste for police officers, I trust you won’t mind if the police decline to take calls to your workplaces and the Minneapolis School District, Denver Public Schools, the University of Minnesota and many other institutions… and your homes, right? To honor your wishes the police should just put you on a No Service list, right?
DIVEST FROM ANTI-BLACK CONTENT
- End the intentional glorification of police brutality and corruption in our storytelling and all content that dehumanizes or criminalizes Black people (cis, trans, queer, and mentally ill) and/or champions abuse by law enforcement.
STOP: Please make your own movies where black people cannot play the roles of villains. We’re all equal, but some of us are more equal than others.
INVEST IN ANTI-RACIST CONTENT
- Every major studio should have multiple senior level Black executives with budget authority and greenlighting power.
STOP: Maybe there could be a quota system. Could we apply it to the NBA and the NFL? Could apply a similar strategy to the Congressional Black Caucus?
- Invest in developing, producing and distributing anti-racist content that humanizes and advances nuanced portrayals of Black people.
STOP: If you really believe the current movies are inadequate, why aren’t you making your own?
- Financial comp systems and marketing budgets for Black content should go through regular implicit bias reviews and consultation to ensure that Black stories are given adequate support. Empower Black executives to determine the value and authenticity of Black stories.
STOP: What is “black content”? What are “black stories”. Why do you keep capitalizing “Black”? What percentage of movies should be “white content”?
- Hire culturally competent social justice consultants to inform projects from development through distribution to help identify conscious and unconscious bias and prevent racist, anti-Black LGBTQIA+ and other culturally insensitive portrayals of Black people.
STOP: The words “competent” and “social justice consultants” do not belong in the same sentence. It may be difficult to get a job with a degree in Victim Studies, but why should a business choose to appoint Commissars? Who is going to pay to be lectured by people who determine their virtue by the smallest thing that can offend them? Maybe I ‘m wrong. Do it. Let’s see.
- Create a system of public disclosure for anti-racist efforts.
STOP: It’s not enough to turn every movie into a social justice sermon? You want to implement a leaderboard too?
INVEST IN OUR CAREERS
- Every agency and management company should have Black partners and board members and provide substantial support for its Black agents and managers [cisgender and trans]
STOP: Let me try. We’ll see if this sounds racist, “Every agency and management company should have White partners and board members and provide substantial support for its White agents and managers [cisgender and trans].” Yeah, that sounds racist. As a global minority, I object to your efforts at Black Supremacy.
- Every Hollywood institution should have a system of recruitment and ongoing support of Black professionals [cisgender and trans] in every department with clear paths to promotion all the way up to the highest senior levels and boards.
STOP: “Every Hollywood institution should have a system of recruitment and ongoing support of White professionals [cisgender and trans] in every department with clear paths to promotion all the way up to the highest senior levels and boards.” Yep still sounds like White Supremacy in blackface.
- Unions – including above-the-line (SAG, WGA and DGA) and especially below-the-line (IATSE, Teamsters etc) – must reconcile with their racist and discriminatory practices while actively recruiting and creating opportunities and protections internally and externally for Black (cis and trans) employees, execs and membership – talent, crew, department heads, background performers, hair and make up, camera operators etc. to increase their Black membership and leadership to a point that is at least reflective of the Black share of the population.
STOP: “Unions – including above-the-line (SAG, WGA and DGA) and especially below-the-line (IATSE, Teamsters etc) – must reconcile with their racist and discriminatory practices while actively recruiting and creating opportunities and protections internally and externally for White (cis and trans) employees, execs and membership – talent, crew, department heads, background performers, hair and make up, camera operators etc. to increase their White membership and leadership to a point that is at least reflective of the White share of the population.” Yup, you’d make a fine white supremacist. Everything to you is about race.
- Every studio and production company should adopt the inclusion rider as their inclusion policy.
STOP: Inclusion Rider sounds like the title for your movie. Please make this, not as satire, but as a deadly serious action film. It’s appeal to a global audience will no doubt create a profit from your investment.
INVEST IN OUR COMMUNITY
- Every union must expand their accountability of workplace safety to include racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, bi-phobia and other related biases and attacks and create antiracism task forces with substantial power to hold studios and production companies accountable and include specific intersectional protections in our negotiations.
STOP: Workplace safety is workplace safety. Exposed wiring literally does not care what color you are, how you like to dress off-duty, or who you screw. Having your feewings hurt because someone isn’t into your kink is not a safety matter. You don’t need an antiracist task force, you have the EEOC and your members are already paying for it with their taxes.
- The task force should have a senior level Black executive and anti-racism experts and be reflective and representative of the gender, age, ability and identity diversity within the Black community.
- The task force should include Black trans, queer and gender non-binary people and make bold moves toward their specific, substantial protections.
- Invest in and contract with Black-owned and Black-led businesses (catering, PR etc), especially for services in sectors that have traditionally excluded Black people.
- Consult with our coalition and organizers throughout implementation.
STOP: “The task force should have a senior level White executive and anti-racism experts and be reflective and representative of the gender, age, ability and identity diversity within the White community. The task force should include White trans, queer and gender non-binary people and make bold moves toward their specific, substantial protections. Invest in and contract with White-owned and White-led businesses (catering, PR etc), especially for services in sectors that have traditionally excluded White people. Consult with our coalition and organizers throughout implementation.” Yup, still sounds racist.
We know these changes have the power to change Black lives in America. It is time for Hollywood to acknowledge its role and take on the responsibility of repairing the damage and being a proactive part of the change.
STOP: What are the damages, specifically? Why have these not been reported to the federal government? Is it because the damages aren’t real? It’s because they’re not real, isn’t it? Yeah. Thought so. It’s easy to claim there’s a bogeyman; it’s much harder to prove it.
In light of continued systemic, brutal murders of Black people, members of the Black community in Hollywood are standing together with the Movement for Black Lives, a coalition of community-based organizations from all over the country including Black Lives Matter, and with the families and loved ones of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Kenneth Ross Jr, Wakeisha Wilson, Rayshard Brooks and countless others in the movement to Defund Police and Defend Black Lives.
STOP: “In light of continued systemic, brutal murders of White people, members of the White community in Hollywood are standing together with the Movement for White Lives, a coalition of community-based organizations from all over the country including White Lives Matter, and with the families and loved ones you couldn’t care less about because they’re white in the movement to Defund Black Lives Matter and Defend White Lives.” Any person of ANY color or ethnicity who published an open letter like yours in support of white people would be pilloried and their career would be destroyed. If a person is any combination of white, straight, cis-gendered, conservative, or Christian he or she has the privilege of being accused of being all manner of deplorable by the overwhelming majority of Hollywood’s celebrities and establishment including the cry-bullies who wrote and signed this open letter. Now ask yourselves why ticket sales are down (it’s not because we want *more* SJW sermons and insults). What do I know? I’m Justa Gaibroh.
Movement for Black Lives
Color Of Change
Black Lives Matter
Black Lives Matter – Los Angeles
Women of Color Unite
People’s Budget LA Coalition
National Black Justice
NAACP Hollywood Bureau
Yvette Lee Bowser
Yemi Adegbonmire, Esq.
Yazmin Monet Watkins
Thembi L. Banks
Terilyn A. Shropshire
Tarell Alvin McCraney
Taraji P. Henson
Susan Kelechi Watson
Sterling K. Brown
Stephanie Lilly Smith
Stacey Walker King
Stacey Evans Morgan
Shihan Van Clief
Sheryl Lee Ralph
Shari B. Ellis
Shana C. Waterman
Safia M. Dirie
Reggie Rock Bythewood
Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine
Nkechi Okoro Carroll
Nijla Baseema Mu’min
Nichelle Tramble Spellman
Monique Lauren Peters
Marissa Jo Cerar
Mara Brock Akil
Malcolm D Lee
Leslie Odom Jr.
Leah Natasha Thomas
La La Anthony
Kristina E. Taylor
Kriss Turner Towner
Jon Michael Hill
Joe Robert Cole
James D. Wilcox
James Cheeks III
Jacque Edmonds Cofer
J. August Richards
Hanelle M. Culpepper
Felicia D. Henderson
Ernest Leif Boyd
Erika L. Johnson
Effie T. Brown
Dondre’ T. Whitfield
Deric A. Hughes
Debra Martin Chase
Dayna Lynne North
Cornelius Smith, Jr.
Cheo Hodari Coker
Cheryl L. Bedford
Charles D. King
Charles D. Holland
Brook Sitgraves Turner
Brian Tyree Henry
Bozoma Saint John
Black Employees of A24
Avril Z. Speaks
Ashley Blaine Featherson
Angel Kristi Williams
Andrew J. Horne
Andrew C. Coles
Andrew “King Bach” Bachelor
Andrea Nelson Meigs
André Des Rochers
Ahmir ?uestlove Thompson