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Black Film Festival Shifts Focus to Web as Options Expand

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In this Sept. 7, 2011 file photo, producer, director and writer Issa Rae, creator of the YouTube series "The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl," poses for a photo at her home in Los Angeles.  As scrutiny continues over diversity in film and opportunities for African Americans in Hollywood, some black actors and producers are looking to another avenue where they see growth, the Web. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

In this Sept. 7, 2011 file photo, producer, director and writer Issa Rae, creator of the YouTube series “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl,” poses for a photo at her home in Los Angeles. As scrutiny continues over diversity in film and opportunities for African Americans in Hollywood, some black actors and producers are looking to another avenue where they see growth, the Web. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

LUQMAN ADENIYI, Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — As scrutiny continues over diversity in film and opportunities for African Americans in Hollywood, some black actors and producers are looking to another avenue where they see growth — the Web.

Success stories like Issa Rae, whose “Awkward Black Girl” Internet comedy series was so successful she received a development deal with HBO, have opened the door for others who may have found more traditional avenues in Hollywood closed. So as the American Black Film Festival opened in New York this week for its 19th year, it has turned its focus to the Web.

“Degrassi” star Andrea Lewis is among those finding more exposure on the Internet. Used to being the only black person on set, when Lewis was not getting the roles she wanted, she decided not going to wait.

“Instead of wondering where the next opportunity can come, I said, ‘I am going to come up with it and do it myself,'” Lewis said.

She took to the Web with her comedy series “Black Actress,” sharing the narrative of black women trying to make it in the industry. The 10- to 20-minute episodes include the storyline of a young women going on auditions, woven in with real-life interviews from actresses such as Tatyana Ali and “Power” Naturi Naughton. They discuss the lack of significant roles offered, and the struggle to live creatively.

Lewis said she created “Black Actress” after she was introduced as the “urban one” by a cast member.

“I was seen as the black one on the set, not as a peer or another actor who is trying to work,” she said. “It was an uncomfortable experience for me and also for the others who were there.”

Now Lewis is writing, producing and acting on her own terms. She is working on three other Web series and a feature film with Jungle Wild Productions.

For her, the Internet offers “creative freedom and there is no gatekeeper on what you can put out with your team.”

Her show is featured as a part of the festival’s “2015 Web Originals” panel. Other events at ABFF, which runs until Sunday, include the New York premiere of “Dope” and a conversation with ABFF ambassador and “Empire” star Taraji P. Henson.

Jeff Friday, co-founder of the ABFF, said using the Internet and social media is an easy way for young actors and producers to get themselves out there and create content.

“You’ve got to try to take your own destiny in your own hands and there is no excuse now,” he said.

Rae, the creator and star of “Awkward Black Girl” and the HBO-ordered pilot “Insecure,” is joining Andrea Lewis and the creators of website BlackandSexy.tv, Numa Perrier and Dennis Dortch, for the panel “How to Create and Monetize a Successful Web Series.”

Rae said events like these are important at ABFF because “a lot of people don’t know how to get started and how to make money.”

Rae’s success comes after creating multiple web series and producing other projects with her company, Color Creative.

“I got into this industry initially as a fan and to be able to use my platform to support other up-and-coming artists that I am a fan of. That’s an ideal situation for me,” she said.

When she created her first Web series in 2007, her main concern was creating more roles for black women and creating content for the type of humor she enjoyed.

“I never thought that anyone would really pay to see my work online,” Rae said.

BuzzFeed actress and comedian Quinta Brunson, known as Quinta B., started with posting funny self-made videos on Vine and Instagram. Now she is making videos for a major media company on topics such as the perks of being short, the struggle to gain weight and the best free bread at restaurants.

She said she is able to express herself as a writer and comedian that she would not be able to do anywhere else.

“The thing I like the most about BuzzFeed is I do the kind of video where it’s just me being a person,” Brunson said, “especially as a black women, I appreciate the freedom to decide who I’ll be rather than being told who I will be.”

Friday said with ABFF’s focus on writing courses and producer panels, they are trying to create a close-knit African-American film and television community, so that successful black artists can share their secrets and make those coming up feel like they can make it.

“Ultimately we just want the people who are working in Hollywood to be more reflective of our audience,” Friday said.

By using the Internet and Web series, “once you have an audience Hollywood will come knocking.” Friday said.

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Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Art

Richmond Art Center Announces Trio of Winter Exhibitions

Community members can check out Art of the African Diaspora Jan. 18 through March 18 in the RAC’s Main Gallery, with the opening reception being held Saturday, Jan. 21 from 2 – 4 p.m. The exhibition will spotlight the work of more than 120 artists of African descent “through representation, professional development and building a creative community,” per the RAC.

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The Remembrance Project (left). Caption 2: Amanda Ayala Ancestor Wheel 2020 (center). Fulfillment by Cynthia Brannvall, 2021 (right). Images courtesy of the Richmond Art Center.
The Remembrance Project (left). Caption 2: Amanda Ayala Ancestor Wheel 2020 (center). Fulfillment by Cynthia Brannvall, 2021 (right). Images courtesy of the Richmond Art Center.

 

By Kathy Chouteau | Richmond Standard

The Richmond Art Center (RAC) has announced its lineup of three winter exhibitions, including Art of the African DiasporaConnected Always and The Remembrance Project, on display at its galleries Jan. 18 through March 18, 2023.

Community members can check out Art of the African Diaspora Jan. 18 through March 18 in the RAC’s Main Gallery, with the opening reception being held Saturday, Jan. 21 from 2 – 4 p.m. The exhibition will spotlight the work of more than 120 artists of African descent “through representation, professional development and building a creative community,” per the RAC.

Artists Derrick Bell, Cynthia Brannvall, and Pryce Jones will be featured in the exhibition and community members can find the Art of the African Diaspora print catalog at the center for info about open studios and satellite exhibitions off-shooting from the RAC event. Learn more about the exhibition https://richmondartcenter.org/exhibitions/art-of-the-african-diaspora-2023

Amanda Ayala’s exhibition, Connected Always, will take place in the RAC’s South Gallery Jan. 20 through March 11, 2023. An opening reception is set for Saturday, Jan. 21 from 2 – 4 p.m., while a free Ancestor Wheel Workshop and artist talk open to everyone will be held by the artist Saturday, Feb. 18, 12 – 2 p.m.

Connected Always will see Ayala — who identifies as a Xicana indigenous visual artist — explore our ancestral connections through her latest works. The interdisciplinary Santa Rosa artist runs workshops “that combine artist liberation and social justice for people of all ages,” per the RAC, and will have one as part of her continuing Ancestor Wheel project during her RAC exhibition. Find out more about Ayala’s exhibition at: https://richmondartcenter.org/exhibitions/connected-always/.

The third winter exhibition, The Remembrance Project, will be shown in the Community Gallery Jan. 18 to March 18, with the opening reception being hosted Saturday, Jan. 21 from 2 – 4 p.m. The Remembrance Project Workshop will be held Saturday, Jan. 28 from 2-4 p.m. and a book talk with Sara Trail will happen on Saturday, March 4, from 1-2:30 p.m.

The Remembrance Project is not only “a cloth memorial of activist art banners commemorating the many people who have lost their lives to systems of inequity and racist structures,” per the RAC, but also two special events for community members — the aforementioned workshop and book talk.

The Social Justice Sewing Academy is presenting the cloth memorial, which has been created by volunteers nationwide “to help educate and inform communities about the human impact of systemic violence,” said the RAC.

The community can coalesce with others fighting for social justice and remember those lost to violence, while also learning about the academy’s work, through two related special events. A workshop on Saturday, Jan. 28 will blend craft, art and activism, while the founder of the academy, Sara Trail, will give a talk and book signing of her work Stitching Stolen Lives on Saturday, March 4. The events are free and available to community members of all ages. Learn more about The Remembrance Project at https://richmondartcenter.org/exhibitions/the-remembrance-project

The RAC is located at 2540 Barrett Ave. in Richmond. Gallery hours are Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; the exhibitions and events are free and open to the community.

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Bay Area

Parade Planned to Honor Historic Pinole Valley High School Football Season

The Spartans football team captured its first ever state title last fall, defeating Mendota High 34-21 in the Division 7-AA California State Championship. The victory marks the first time a West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD) school has earned a high school state football title.

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Photos courtesy of Pinole Valley High School.
Photos courtesy of Pinole Valley High School.

By Mike Kinney

A parade is being planned to celebrate the Pinole Valley High School football team’s historic championship season, Principal Kibby Kleiman said. School officials are considering holding the parade on Feb. 4, 2023, although an official date has not yet been confirmed.

Photos courtesy of Pinole Valley High School.

Photos courtesy of Pinole Valley High School.

The parade will start at the Pinole Valley Park and will proceed to the Pinole Valley High School football field. The high school’s marching band, cheerleading squad and color guard will participate, along with clubs and service organizations connected to the school.

“It will almost be like a mini homecoming event,” Kleiman said.

The Spartans football team captured its first ever state title last fall, defeating Mendota High 34-21 in the Division 7-AA California State Championship. The victory marks the first time a West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD) school has earned a high school state football title.

Photos courtesy of Pinole Valley High School.

Photos courtesy of Pinole Valley High School.

The Spartans earned their bid to play in the state championship after defeating Justin-Siena (Napa) 7-0 on Nov. 25, 2022, capturing their first North Coast Section title in 43 years.

Kleiman noted the team will also be recognized in a ceremony at Pinole City Council in February.

“We could not be prouder of the level of support coming from the community and the school,” he said. “It is wonderful to feel valued and honored. We are extremely proud of our Spartan football team!”

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Activism

PRESS ROOM: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Set for Jan. 16 in San Leandro

The event commemorates the birthday of this great American leader and his lifelong work toward equality and peace. This year’s event will be held at the Marina Community Center, located at 15301 Wicks Blvd., and includes live entertainment and student performances for the oratorical contest. Light refreshments and crafts for kids will also be provided with free admission for all those who wish to attend.

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The event commemorates the birthday of this great American leader and his lifelong work toward equality and peace.
The event commemorates the birthday of this great American leader and his lifelong work toward equality and peace.

SAN LEANDRO, CA —Mayor Juan Gonzalez and the San Leandro City Council are pleased to invite the community to attend the City of San Leandro’s annual celebration in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on Monday, Jan. 16, 2023, beginning at 10:30 a.m. The event commemorates the birthday of this great American leader and his lifelong work toward equality and peace. This year’s event will be held at the Marina Community Center, located at 15301 Wicks Blvd., and includes live entertainment and student performances for the oratorical contest. Light refreshments and crafts for kids will also be provided with free admission for all those who wish to attend.

San Leandro students in 3rd through 12th grades are invited to participate in the oratorical festival and poetry slam. Students can win gift card prizes in their grade category ($100 first place, $50 second place). Prizes are made possible by the San Leandro Optimist Club.

For more information, contact Liz Hodgins at 510-577-3473 or ehodgins@sanleandro.org.

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