Wednesday, March 24, 2010
PANEL TACKLES GAY DISCRIMINATION AND MANY'S REFUSAL TO SPEAK UP IN BLACK HOLLYWOOD
Actress Sheryl Lee Ralph
Here is a very informative article I came across while doing my daily research for the blog. The following article comes courtesy www.edgenewengland.com. Read the article and pass it around or refer everyone you can to this story to leave a comment:
While at times it’s easy to see how far the LGBT community has come in many areas in the world, there is also a reason why the word ’homophobia’ is not an obsolete term. At the same time we hear about another state passing same-sex marriage laws, there are still acts of violence and discrimination against homosexuals occurring everyday.
What keeps homophobia alive in the year 2010? And is it different for different races? This week, one segment of the LGBT community - the gay black community - is taking steps to talk about homophobia within the supposed progressive and forward thinking world that exists in the entertainment mecca that is Hollywood.
The panel, entitled Flipping the Script: Beyond Homophobia in Black Hollywood is taking place Tuesday night at the Writers Guild of America West offices located in Los Angeles. Co-sponsored by the WGAw’s Gay & Lesbian Writers Committee and the Committee of Black Writers, the goal of the program is to spark a dialogue on the key issues that face gay and lesbian black characters in both film and television and how homophobia influences those portrayals.
Award-winning stage and screen actress Sheryl Lee Ralph (Dreamgirls, Moesha) will serve as moderator for a panel that includes Paris Barclay (producer/director of CBS’s The Good Wife), Quincy LeNear and Deondray Gossett (writers/producers/directors of The DL Chronicles), Jasmine Love (writer, The District), Maurice Jamal (writer/producer/director of Chappelle’s Show), Tim McNeal (VP, Talent Development and Diversity, Disney/ABC Television), Brian White (actor, Men of a Certain Age) and Tajamika Paxton (GLAAD Director of Entertainment Media).
Some reluctant to participate
The goal of the panel is to spark a dialogue that, according to writer Demetrius Bady, one of the event’s organizers, is not a thing that everyone is excited about, as he told EDGE’s Jim Halterman during a recent phone interview. While panelists like Barclay and McNeal didn’t hesitate to agree to be a part of the panel, Bady said, "Where I got resistance from was from the lesbian African American writers. They were much more reluctant... to be visible. Some of them felt as if there were African Americans (on the panel) it would make their ability to work much more difficult. So I got lots of support on the phone and privately, but there were several people who could not be on this panel."
While Bady didn’t expect a unanimous agreement from everyone he approached, he "was surprised at the consistencies in the women who said no... I thought, ’Okay, that’s one person who said ’no,’ but by the fourth person I began to understand how the experience of gay men and lesbians may have the same oppression but they experienced it differently."
Bady also heard from those who weren’t against talking about the homophobia issue but thought it should be done in a more private environment. "I did get a couple of negative reactions from African Americans telling me that I had erred and I should not be having a panel. Ir would have been much better if I had just not done this so publicly."
Quincy LeNear and Deondray Gossett (writers/producers/directors of The DL Chronicles)
Root of the problem
Barclay’s response to hearing that Bady had received some resistance to some people’s participation on the panel addressed, perhaps, the root of the problem with homophobia in the first place - silence.
"My reaction is I feel bad for them. In this day and age if there’s one thing we’ve learned it’s we get nowhere by not talking about it. If we’re just going to continue to not talk about HIV in the community and homophobia in Hollywood, all the pressing, touchy issues that surround us, we’re never going to progress the dialogue at all. So, if people really think this is something we don’t want I say to them that without conversation there will never be any clean laundry."
The impetus for the panel in the first place came from Bady’s own experience writing on the popular situation comedy Moesha, which ran on the now-defunct UPN network from 1996-2001. "I was out and just doing my thing but it was really, really stressful a lot of times and there was a lot of homophobia but I never really talked about it or complained about it."
During his time working on Moesha, Bady was surprised at the ironic anti-gay sentiment that was present in Hollywood. "We were proud to be working on the show and that African Americans had made the kind of strides where they were running shows, starring on shows and yet we were all troubled by the seeming ease that homophobia was accepted. We were often in situations where the same people who were complaining about the lack of diversity and lack of respect would turn around and make the most homophobic and disrespectful comments so I was surprised that other people felt so strongly about this and that there were so many wounded by the experience. I was surprised by that."
Once Bady realized that others had experienced similar homophobic environments as he did he began to think that stopping the silence and talking openly about the issue with other gay black men and women in Hollywood was necessary. "I began to ask others what their stories might be like," Bady explained, "and so I started making some phone calls and I thought ’This might be an interesting conversation.’ So I started the documentary (Nothing Personal) about the topic, but I felt we really should talk this out in a more official way."
With the panel specifically focusing on black gay and lesbians in Hollywood, how different is the black experience from other races? Barclay explained that while he has been a part of more generalized panels that discuss homophobia, he expects the emphasis to be more specific with this one.
Actor Brian White
Can Hollywood be blamed?
"I think the focus that Demetrius and Sheryl Lee want to bring to this is more specifically about how it’s a little different in our community and how many people feel, and I’m one of them, that there’s actually greater homophobia in the black community than there is in the community at large, if you can imagine such a thing. You’d think there would be greater acceptance but what I’ve found is that homophobia is stronger."
While Barclay wasn’t sure whether Hollywood itself could be blamed for the present homophobia, he did talk about the differences of gay black men and women working in the very different worlds of television and feature films as being significant. "I actually believe there’s greater homophobia on the feature side than there is in television," the producer/director offered.
"Why is that, do you think?," he continued. "I don’t know but if you look at television behind the scenes I think there are many more African Americans involved and succeeding in television more than film. I think there are more gay characters in general that people can support than feature films where every once in a while you get a gay sidekick and that’s about it. I never encountered homophobia in my eighteen years working in television but when I have worked in films and other medias I have."
What is Bady expecting to occur at Tuesday’s panel?
"What I hope to accomplish in the dialogue is I really think it’s very important and I think there’s fear on both straight sides and gay and lesbian sides and I think that we are dealing with a lot of leftover politics from a different era and so I really hope that what we do is talk about how we can heal this divide and begin to understand."
The dialogue has already begun on the comments section to the panel’s announcement on the WGA website. From snarky comments as to the whereabouts of Tyler Perry and Isaiah Washington to more pointed comments on both sides of the issue.
A post by Sean got the dialogue going:
"All I can say is, as a straight black man, I can attest to the absolutely ridiculous level of homophobia in the black community. I mean, it’s an obsession, it really is. If you happen to wear the wrong shirt, or strike the wrong pose when you’re out somewhere, you’re suspect. say the wrong thing, make the wrong joke, you’re on the DL. I hate to say it, but my people are beyond dysfunctional on so many levels, and this is just one of ’em. I’ll try to make this. I’m sure just walking in the door will make someone think I’m gay/bi/DL/suspect/closeted/in denial or something, but I’ll go anyway..we need to grow the hell up."
In their response, SelfHateIsAMotha took Sean to task: "
Sean you don’t know all of the 40+ million African-Americans that live in America so how you decided to type such foolishness can only be explained by your willingness to believe the worst about Black people. I think you are the one who needs to grow up."
But a comment from NCFBM found value in Sean’s missive:
"Sean above is right. A straight man in LA is one comment away from being suspect because no one cam tell the players without a scorecard anymore.
"What is needed are openly gay black personalities in the business and not these closeted, half-in, don’t-ask-don’t-tell celebrities we have."
And what did GLAAD have to say about this? A representative from that organization --Tajamika Paxton - had initially expressed interest in participating in this article during a preliminary phone call. but, citing the need for GLAAD approvals, ultimately did not return phone calls or emails before deadline.
Flipping the Script: Beyond Homophobia in Black Hollywood is taking place Tuesday night at the Writers Guild of America West offices, 7000 W. Third St., Los Angeles, CA. For more information visit the Writers Guild of America’s website.
Jim Halterman lives in Los Angeles and also covers the television scene for www.FutonCritic.com and, of course, www.jimhalterman.com. He is also a regular Tweeter and has a group site on Facebook.
Writer/producer/director Maurice Jamal
I think what the problem is for blacks is that they don't have a clear voice that speaks out for them, like you have with white gay media such as Michaelangelo Signorile, Rachel Maddow, and many other openly gay white people who speak on their issues within the LGBT community. We don't have these people with their own shows on CNN, HSN, or dare I say it, Fox news. I think the only way things will change is if someone has the balls to stand up for what they believe in and present the issues that need to be addressed.
I think for far too long, people of color have lived by this don't ask, don't tell mentality and believe that keeping silent will make it go away. I feel those who continue to stay quiet and allow homophobia to continue in black Hollywood only contribute to the problem instead of solving it. Keeping silent will not help you get a job either. i think for far too long black folks continue to wait for the white man to give them a handout. Here's the truth served to you on a diamond-encrusted plate: They don't give a shit about you. They're gettting their films mad with the only black people they want to give jobs to in the mainstream media (i.e., Halle Berry, Will Smith and Tyler Perry). So if you think by keeping silent a Speilberg, a Soderberg, or anyone else who isn't black will give you that $20 million lead role, you're sadly mistaken. Strength in numbers.
If blacks in the media knew how to take their coins, started their own production companies, or like Perry a movie studio, then maybe the types of stories that you want told without a handout from the mainstream media will get made. You just have to put in the work. For far too long blacks have always wanted something for nothing without having to work hard for it. Life doesn't work that way. We still have to go out there and get what we want or create it if it isn't already there. it's one of the many reasons why I went to film school. i got tired of waiting for the stories I wanted told to be told by someone else. If you feel comfortable keeping silent and want to wait for a handout, then be my guest. I, on the other hand, amd willing to step up to the plate and be that out and proud personality who will not hide behind closed doors like Tyler Perry. Closets were meant for clothes not people. How many more are willing to stand up and join the black gay revolution?
- 5 Deadly Venoms
- Another Gay Movie
- Blade Runner
- Boy Culture
- Brokeback Mountain
- Die Hard
- Eating Out
- Enter the Dragon
- First Blood
- Friday the 13th (1980)
- Kill Bill
- Mysterious Skin
- Night of the Living Dead
- Raiders of the Lost Ark
- Spider Man 2
- The Bourne Trilogy
- The Circuit
- The Crazies (2009)
- The Dark Knight
- The Empire Strikes Back
- The Fluffer
- The Goonies
- The Lost Boys
- The Matrix
- The Monster Squad
- The Road
- The Road Warrior
- The Terminator
- True Lies