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Best Picture Nod for ‘Selma’ Caps Big Year for Black Women

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Ava DuVernay, director of the film “Selma.” (Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Ava DuVernay, director of the film “Selma.” (Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Sandy Cohen, ASSOCIATED PRESS

 

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Three black women released movies in 2014, more than ever before in a single year. And one of them is a contender for the motion picture academy’s top prize.

But that’s just three films in one year — out of the 373 that came out in theaters.

Black female filmmakers are one of Hollywood’s greatest rarities. In the past seven years, only three were connected to the top 700 movies, according to recent research by the University of Southern California’s Media, Diversity & Social Change Initiative.

“The ecosystem of filmmaking is problematic for women and people of color,” said initiative director Stacy L. Smith. More than 95 percent of the directors of top-grossing films during the past decade have been men, she said. Looking at the top 700 films over a recent seven-year period, almost 90 percent of them were white.

So while there’s been a lot of talk about the lack of diversity among this year’s Oscar acting nominees, the larger issue may be the overwhelming lack of diversity among those telling the stories on the big screen.

“Selma” director Ava DuVernay, as a black woman, defied incredible odds with her film’s best-picture bid at next Sunday’s Academy Awards. But was it merely an exception?

“The push for me is that it doesn’t stay an anomaly,” said Gina Prince-Bythewood, writer and director of “Beyond the Lights,” which earned an Oscar nod this year for its original song, “Grateful.”

“The Oscars are not the problem,” said Prince-Bythewood, whose credits include 2008’s “The Secret Life of Bees” and her 2000 breakthrough, “Love & Basketball.” ”It’s more so Hollywood and the films that are being greenlit.”

She finds the dearth of stories about women equally disheartening. “Belle” director Amma Asante agreed, noting that all of this year’s eight best-picture contenders are about men. And DuVernay is the only female director behind any best-picture nominee.

Asante, DuVernay and Prince-Bythewood credit coincidental timing and continued hard work for their accomplishments in 2014.

Asante suggests the success of “12 Years A Slave,” ”The Butler” and “Mandela” in 2013 may have contributed to their films being financed the same year.

“We were lucky that they all got greenlit at a time when the films that came before us were showing that these films were important and they were attracting audiences,” she said.

But there’s no momentum if the number of women and people of color behind the camera don’t continue to increase, DuVernay said.

“Three is not enough. While we celebrate the three, we’re talking three in the hundreds of films that came out last year between the U.K. and the United States,” she said. “Unless (our success) equals more women being able to do the same thing next year — which legacy says is probably not going to happen — then we’re still at the same place.”

So how can non-white, non-male voices speak more loudly in Hollywood?

Financing is often the first obstacle. Smith’s research finds a general perception in Hollywood that stories by or about women are more niche than mainstream, and therefore less profitable. Asante laughs at that.

“We’re half the population!” she said. Recent blockbusters like “Gone Girl” and “The Hunger Games” franchise show large audiences will come see female-led films.

The frustrating truth, DuVernay and the other directors said, is that the number of female filmmakers of any ethnicity working in Hollywood has remained essentially unchanged for the past two decades, hovering around five percent.

But they insist women have to keep making movies, despite the odds.

“Stop waiting for someone to say it’s OK to move forward,” DuVernay said. “You just have to find a way to make the work. … You have to make it with what you have and by any means necessary.”

Be sure to make them good movies, added Prince-Bythewood, since quality, heartfelt stories speak to everyone.

“People do not go to the theater out of guilt,” she said. “A film should not be medicine. … I want people to go to my films because they’re good.”

Even films with wide appeal across ethnicity and gender can be impeded by marginalized marketing based on the women-as-niche perspective, she said. “Beyond the Lights,” her contemporary story about a pop star who finds love outside the spotlight, was marketed almost exclusively to women, she lamented, even though early screenings were well received by both genders.

“Let’s not assume that an audience is not going to respond to a film,” she said. “Put it out there and make it enticing for men and women.”

It just makes good business sense, Asante and DuVernay said. Today’s broadening TV landscape — which has been quicker to embrace women and people of color — gives viewers hundreds of good reasons to skip the theater and stay home.

“When you allow a variety of people to look through their lens and tell a story through their lens,” Asante said, “what you get is a more interesting variety of films at your local cinema.”

Audiences want to see movies that reflect the world around them, DuVernay said.

“If you are a person … that has a human spirit looking to be enlarged, you cannot do that staying in the same room with the same people,” she said. “It’s not about diversity. It’s not about even inclusion or representation. It’s about reality.”

___

Follow AP Entertainment Writer Sandy Cohen at http://www.twitter.com/APSandy.
Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

###

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Black History

COMMENTARY: New Las Vegas Raiders President is Female, Black, AND Asian

We have never been comfortable with mixed-race kids and what to call them. But since 2010, the multiracial population has grown from 9 million to 33.8 million people, a 276% increase according to the 2020 Census.

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Sandra Douglass Morgan is the new president of the Las Vegas Raiders. Twitter photo.
Sandra Douglass Morgan is the new president of the Las Vegas Raiders. Twitter photo.

By Emil Guillermo

I confess to being a Raiders fan from a very early age.

Even though I was born and raised in San Francisco, as a young boy I cheered Clem Daniels at Frank Youell Field. Old School. Then Daryl Lamonica. Then Kenny Stabler. Warren Wells. Gene Upshaw. Hewritt Dixon. George Atkinson. George Blanda. I loved them all. When they left Oakland the first time, they broke my heart. When they came back, I bought season tickets and broke my bank. And then they left again and broke my heart for good.

I started rooting for the 49ers. I know, blasphemy.

But I always keep an eye on the Las Vegas Raiders. And on July 7, 2022, when they announced a new president, I took a double take.

She looked like a Filipina. To me, she clearly had some Asian blood.

But then they announced her, Sandra Douglas Morgan, and all the stories had some variation of this line: “Morgan becomes the first Black woman in NFL history to ascend to the title of team president.”

Almost every story I found heralded her Blackness. Hooray.

Only it was partially true. From what I found, only NBC News with California homeboy Lester Holt had the story with all the facts.

Morgan was Black. But as my Asian radar suggested, she was also Asian. Not Filipino, but Korean. NBC showed a picture of her mother.

We’ve been here before.

When something great happens to a mixed-race person, why do we ignore the mix?

The Raiders in Las Vegas are trying so hard to be modern and “progressive” (for the NFL). You’ll recall the team gave Colin Kaepernick a tryout.

So why doesn’t a forward-thinking team in Las Vegas, one of the most diverse cities in the nation, just come out and announce that Morgan is both Black and Asian?

Is it because we don’t want to see the Asian parts? Is it the wrong suit in a game where Black trumps?

As I’ve said, we’ve been here before. Kamala Harris is from the East Bay. Her Black father was mostly absent from her life, and her mother, an Asian-Indian UC cancer researcher, was dominant in her upbringing. Still, Harris publicly identified as Black most of her life.

Through her time as a politico in San Francisco, to her rise as attorney general for the state, to her announcement in Oakland seeking the nomination for president, Harris was always Black first. I always noticed. And wrote about it in the Asian American media.

When did things change? When she was selected as the vice-presidential running mate of Joe Biden. And then, of course, when they won and were inaugurated.

How many times did you see the phrase, “First African American, first Asian American, first woman to be vice president of the United States.”

It was American diversity history. Reporters stumbled over how to get it right.

And now, because human nature is what it is, most people have stumbled back to convention. Kamala? Oh, she’s Black.

But it’s not just Kamala. Tiger Woods has always had this problem. When he came on the scene with his first Masters victory in 1997, stories hailed him as the “Black man in a green jacket,” or “the Black man in a white man’s game.”

The column I wrote, published later in my book “Amok,” pointed out calling Tiger “Black” is once again, just half right. His mom is from Thailand. Tiger described his mix as “Cablanasian.” That made people smile but never stuck.

And now as he slumps back from missing the cut at the British Open, Tiger is back to Black.

Why is this all important? There’s accuracy of course, but it shows we have never been comfortable with mixed-race kids and what to call them. But since 2010, the multiracial population has grown from 9 million to 33.8 million people, a 276% increase according to the 2020 Census.

I know mixed-race kids. I made a few of them. I prefer they say they are Asian because they are. But their mom is white. But that doesn’t show. They get passed over and face both subtle and not so subtle discrimination all the time.

The Jewish faith offers a guide. It believes that what defines you passes by way of your mother. Hence Kamala, Tiger, and yes Saundra Douglas Morgan would be Asian.

But in America, the Census uses a “you are what you say you are” basis. Is it just easier to say Black and leave it at that? And ignore Asian? Maybe until someone points it out.

Here’s a vote for being accurate and fair. When Saundra Douglas Morgan made history, we all should honor our diverse America where we can be Black and Asian and anything else. Proudly.

Especially when we make history together.

Emil Guillermo is a veteran journalist and commentator. His work is on www.amok.com

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Advice

A Wedding and Evening Sail on the Matthew Turner

This mock wedding shows “how sometimes we are so caught up in the celebration, and full of elation that we don’t make sure this partnership will contribute to our elevation,” said Gregory. The event heightened “the awareness of the right-Ship, relation-Ship, and friend-Ships so you won’t be emotionally Ship-wrecked and can sail together to your destination of purpose.”

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By Godfrey Lee

Sharika Gregory hosted an evening program on July 9, 2022, encouraging adults to develop healthy relationships. The program took place on the tall ship Matthew Turner owned and operated by Call of the Sea, the nonprofit that also contributed to the cost of the event.

Sailing on the ship becomes an analogy of how a husband and wife can make a marriage work. The captain and his first mate on a ship are like a husband and his wife in a marriage, Gregory said.

The single man and woman need to know if they are the best fit for each other before they get married. The couple will also need to know how a marriage works, like how the captain, his mate, (and the crew) need to know how the ship works in order to safely sail it. The married couple needs to trust each other, like the captain and the mate need to trust each other in order to sail their ship.

Top: Sharika Gregory, Neferttiti and Bronchè (Photo by Sierre Salin); Neferttiti and Bronchè arguing; Kee-Beez, Sierre Salin, Diamond, Chase Banks, Aleta Toure, Chris Ragland. Oshalla Diana Marcus, Johnetta Newton, Trevor Palacio, Raul Cedeno III. Bottom: The Matthew Turner ship (From modelshipworld.com).

Top: Sharika Gregory, Neferttiti and Bronchè (Photo by Sierre Salin); Neferttiti and Bronchè arguing; Kee-Beez, Sierre Salin, Diamond, Chase Banks, Aleta Toure, Chris Ragland. Oshalla Diana Marcus, Johnetta Newton, Trevor Palacio, Raul Cedeno III. Bottom: The Matthew Turner ship (From modelshipworld.com.

The event started in front of the Bay Model Visitor Center with a mock wedding between Nefertiti and Bronchè Steward, where Bronchè suddenly realized that he needs to be committed to his wife. The second half of the program began on the ship with Nefertiti and Bronchè arguing, and Nefertiti runs away to the front of the ship.

This mock wedding shows “how sometimes we are so caught up in the celebration, and full of elation that we don’t make sure this partnership will contribute to our elevation,” said Gregory. The event heightened “the awareness of the right-Ship, relation-Ship, and friend-Ships so you won’t be emotionally Ship-wrecked and can sail together to your destination of purpose.”

Around 40 people attended and enjoyed the event, which offered food and drinks donated by the Strawberry Village Safeway. The ship sailed to the middle of the Bay with its engines and then the crew hauled up two of the sails. But there was not enough wind to sail the ship.

The Matthew Turner, a brigantine, is a tall ship owned and operated by the Call of the Seas. She will be used to help the crew on her sister ship, the Seaward, teach sailing and marine environmental programs to adults and middle school-aged youth. The Matthew Turner was designed after the ship Galilee, which was built in the late 1800s by the ship designer and builder Matthew Turner. The length of her deck is 100 feet long, and has a total of 7,200 square feet of sails. She is docked at the Bay Model Visitor Center’s Pier in Sausalito.

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Bay Area

County Fair Sees Over 25 Percent Jump in Revenues Compared to Last Year Pre-Pandemic

The fair wasn’t entirely back to “normal” in that competitions usually held in the exhibit hall were done remotely, which meant no food was judged, but hobbies, crafts, creative writing and art were all judged and given ribbons.

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The Marin County Fair Sees Over 25 Percent Jump in Revenues Compared to Last Year Pre-Pandemic
The Marin County Fair Sees Over 25 Percent Jump in Revenues Compared to Last Year Pre-Pandemic

By Bay City News

The results are in: People in Marin County were ready to have fun at the fair after taking a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19. Revenues for this year’s Marin County Fair increased by over 25% over 2019’s numbers, according to the county.

The fair, which ran from Thursday, June 30 through Monday, July 4, generated nearly $1.9 million compared to 2019’s numbers of $1.5 million.

This year’s theme was “So Happy Together,” with live performances from Pablo Cruise, Sheila E., Sons of Champlin, and Digable Planets.

The fair wasn’t entirely back to “normal” in that competitions usually held in the exhibit hall were done remotely, which meant no food was judged, but hobbies, crafts, creative writing and art were all judged and given ribbons.

It wouldn’t be a county fair without amateur entertainment, and the county noted that four drag queens, 18 folklorico dancers, 22 ukulele players and 34 bagpipers performed on the community stage.

Proof of COVID-19 and masking were not required. If the event shows an increase in infections, the numbers could show up in Marin’s case data, which is released every Tuesday and Friday. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has rated Marin County as “high” for community COVID-19 levels, according to a June 30 report.

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Photos courtesy of Ella Baker Center, photography by Brooke Anderson
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