Photo: Black leaders utilize their giant Hollywood platforms for Black Lives Matter
When it comes to influencing, not many hold a candle to iconic film stars. Many of the great Black leaders, both men and women, in the industry have used their platform to speak on a worldwide issue: RACE and Black Lives Matter.
Over the last five years or so, some unique ideas and perspectives have been brought up on the topic. And in an unbiased and objective manner, I thought a look at these perspectives would be good for all. From Denzel Washington’s and Morgan Freeman’s blunt though supportive views, the strength of Viola Davis and Regina King, and Will Smith’s motivational words and videos, these men and women within the Black community have been vocal and unashamed in their willingness to help in the way they think is best. There are others, but I shaved it down to these for now.
Black Leaders Speak Up For Black Lives Matter
Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman are old school Black leaders of Hollywood. Old school. But sometimes we need that.
Denzel has been known for his blunt views on race and colorism in Hollywood especially. In one interview he agrees that the system is rigged, but clearly states that the family you grow up in is just as, if not more, important when it comes to your outcome in life. In fact, we are all defined by the people who raised us for better or for worse. Sure you can overcome a bad home, but Denzel knows that’s a rarity.
“More important to make headway in your own house. By the time the system comes into play the damage is done. They’re not locking up 7 year-olds.” This was an interview from late 2017 when Denzel was promoting Roman J. Israel, Esque. He continued by noting how he learned about the term “yummy” in regards to Robert “Yummy” Sandifer, an 11-year-old who was a part of a gang and was murdered by his fellow members. Denzel saw “little kids on bikes with masks on the side of their heads…they little yummies.” Kids getting murdered by each other. “You blame the system? Where was his father? It starts in the house.” Denzel had three close friends. All did time except him. The deciding factor? He had a father. Hard to see that as a coincidence. “We can blame the system if we want but they didn’t lock any of us up at seven. We were all doing enough to get locked up at 13.” They kept on going because they had no one and eventually “the system got em.” Denzel went another way because his parents kept him from that life. “The system is rigged,” says Denzel, “all the more reason not to help it.”
Black Leaders – Denzel Washington is DOING his part to BETTER Hollywood
Denzel also has vocally noted he thinks as long as you work hard and put your mind to it, you can do anything. Sitting around blaming others for your misfortune won’t get you anywhere. And though certainly systems can challenge you from getting past certain points, he’s right. And success like his is proof of that hard work paying off. He mentioned this during Fences, in which he also noted he would use his position to help improve diversity best he could. And to anyone who may see this as contradictory, it’s not. Denzel stands by what he believes in terms of how we should grow and become successful, but he will also do what he can to help. It may be the best example we have of a strong-minded person who also walks the talk. The latest event of him walking the talk was his mediating a homeless man and police during the craziness of the last couple weeks. Many have called the legend a hero for his willingness to stand up and help a man being confronted by officers.
Morgan Freeman has a similar view on race; there’s no reason any one person can’t pick themselves up and be successful. Freeman has at times made extreme statements. But it’s to prove a point. And as one of the most profound Black leaders, he definitely inspires.
Black Leaders – Morgan Freeman Wants Education Reform to Include Black Leaders in School Books
“Which month is Jewish history month?” Freeman asked Mike Wallace on 60 Minutes. Of course, Wallace said there isn’t one which Freeman asks if he wants one. Wallace says no. Freeman agrees. “I don’t want a black history month.” The history of Black people in America should be fully incorporated into learning. It needs to be taught. It’s his frustration bleeding out. He knows racism exists. Like Denzel, he feels there are ways to have peace and overcome the issue that isn’t dependent on the system necessarily changing. When on an interview with CNN, Morgan explains that successful people like him are proof that you can overcome a rigged system. And like Denzel, he knows racism exists and is trying to give a voice to the hurt. He thinks Black people should continue working hard, but he is using his platform to help those without a voice. Freeman recently announced he’d be giving Black people a chance to tell their stories of experiencing racism (something I’m sure Freeman has much experience with) through his social media account.
It may sound harsh, but these men mean only well, their actions this past week prove that. They have a wise and possibly unpopular outlook, but those who’ve lived longer are ones with wisdom we should heed.
Black Leaders – Viola Davis is Fighting an Uphill Battle to represent darker-skinned people
It hasn’t been an easy road for Viola Davis. But she may just be regarded as the best around. She stands for many things, one of which is giving women of color more opportunities. It’s not been easy for her when trying to get roles. There are lots of variables when trying to get a movie role in her position.
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“Denzel Washington saw a commotion in West Hollywood with cops and an unarmed distressed homeless man. He got out of his car and served as a barrier between the man and the police — helping to diffuse a tense situation.” | @Hollywdinsdr | Video: @RexChapman pic.twitter.com/xrYr5GcHk1
— Hollywood Insider (@Hollywdinsdr) June 28, 2020
Sitting down with Steve McQueen and Audie Cornish, she notes how for her it isn’t just getting quality roles that caucasian women may get. “I have to worry about, will they accept me in the role? Are Black people not going to like it? Are they going to just come up against me? What is it going to mean for Black women? Oh, man, I’m going to have to talk to the African-American journalists and just da-da-da-da-da-da-da.” Davis explained to The New York Times that she wants other young dark-skinned actresses to get to her level of success quicker. To not have it take thirty years to get to the level that a twenty-something white actress may be at like it did for Davis. For her, beauty is still an attribute that holds more weight than it should which she feels gives a boost to younger Black actresses with lighter skin than someone like Davis who is especially dark and is in her 50s. “I don’t see anyone on TV like me in a role like this,” Davis states. And she’s got a point. She’s a rarity and a gem to the industry. But she wants that to change.
Black Leaders – Regina King Asserts that Police Brutality is More Common for Black Americans
Regina King understands the tough road women of color drive and usually obtains roles that are based on racial issues in America. “You’d have to be living under a rock if you’re not aware of what’s going on, as far as policing — the difference between white Americans and Black Americans,” King said. She has a remarkable empathy for all parties involved. She continues to note that it’s tough for whites to see that looking away from race issues does nothing to help while it’s incredibly hard for Black people to have a conversation calmly without blowing up in anger. “We’re at a place now where the Band-Aids are ripped off. Hopefully, we can come to the table together with grace, but still, be honest about the pain and anger that we have.”
King and Davis have fought tooth and nail to become two of the prominent Black leaders and highly respected leading women in the film and TV industry. They won’t keep quiet now that they have opportunities to create more openings for others who are trying to live out their dreams of acting, directing, or any other role of influence in Hollywood.
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Black Leaders – Will Smith explains “Racism is not getting worse, it’s getting filmed”
Will Smith is a charismatic celebrity who has a loyal fan base. In the past, he’s explained that there is darkness before the dawn, similar to the idea that things get worse before they get better. He thinks the race issue has improved contrary to what many say. “When I hear people say it’s worse than it’s ever been I disagree completely.” He explains the horror of the 60s and 80s. The reason it seems worse now is because of one factor: every little thing that happens can be seen by the public. “Racism is not getting worse, it’s getting filmed,” Will told Stephen Colbert. For him, it’s progress that the issues are on the table being talked about, something that wasn’t happening in decades prior.
Smith has been pretty mum on the recent events (a fact some of his fans have taken issue with) but then released a beautiful montage titled “No Justice, No Peace,” that needs watching. It’s on his Facebook page. The video brings together the pain but coming together of many who have fought for years on the issues of race.
A picture is worth a thousand words. This video is a powerful monologue of someone who isn’t as blind as people may think he is.
There are plenty more admirable Black leaders working in the film industry who haven’t kept quiet with their strong opinions, liked or not. And it’s all worth listening to and weighing out when thinking about how we should approach race in America.
Click here to read Hollywood Insider’s CEO Pritan Ambroase’s love letter to Black Lives Matter, in which he tackles more than just police reform, press freedom and more – click here.
An excerpt from the love letter: Hollywood Insider’s CEO/editor-in-chief Pritan Ambroase affirms, “Hollywood Insider fully supports the much-needed Black Lives Matter movement. We are actively, physically and digitally a part of this global movement. We will continue reporting on this major issue of police brutality and legal murders of Black people to hold the system accountable. We will continue reporting on this major issue with kindness and respect to all Black people, as each and every one of them are seen and heard. Just a reminder, that the Black Lives Matter movement is about more than just police brutality and extends into banking, housing, education, medical, infrastructure, etc. We have the space and time for all your stories. We believe in peaceful/non-violent protests and I would like to request the rest of media to focus on 95% of the protests that are peaceful and working effectively with positive changes happening daily. Media has a responsibility to better the world and Hollywood Insider will continue to do so.”
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