If we knew better, would we really do better? Many times, we say we want to make a difference and help the cause, but we are not always willing to leave our comfort zone to do it. Recently I participated in the California Black Women’s Collective zoom meeting, where close to 50 women came together to discuss pertinent issues affecting our community. Our topics range from political, health, economic, and education as well as everyday issues facing Black women not only in California but across the globe. In this meeting, one of our special guests was Sandra Evers-Manly, Founder of Black Hollywood Education and Research Center (BHERC). She shared with us the importance of supporting and attending Black films, especially on their opening weekends. Hollywood has used the excuse of not making more Black movies because they do not do well at the box office, and they feel there is no market for them overseas. If we want to continue to see movies for us and about us, we must support them and support them in a big way.
Ms. Evers-Manly shared with us the significance of the movie, The Woman King, starring Viola Davis, and an almost Black cast and crew, including people in front of and behind the camera. The movie is a true story about the Agojie, an all-female warrior team that protected the West African kingdom of Dahomey during the 17th to 19th centuries. The movie is set in the 1820s and was filmed in South Africa. The lead actor, a Black woman, Viola Davis, plays the role of a general who trains the next generation of warriors to fight their enemies. The film is directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood, and Viola Davis is one of the Producers. Scheduled to be released nationwide on Friday, September 16th.
The key is for us to share the importance of this amazing movie and to encourage our friends, family, church members, and organizations to get out in numbers to push sales. We also must make sure when we go to the movie that our ticket stubs say, “The Woman King,” so that it gets the proper credit. We have the power to make this movie, and others like it a success. Just like we did Black Panther in 2018.
The history of Black actors, producers, directors, and filmmakers that have the power to let their voices be heard has been short-lived and even shorter for Black women. Hollywood can be a small, closed community and it is difficult to break down the walls that keep us out. Typically, stories about us or with us have either been comedies or we are the brunt of the joke. Seeing us in positive, strong, and bold roles is rare. We must support the arts, because sadly for many, movies create their reality. Some people judge us or create perceptions about us based on what they see on television and in films. It is important for us to put our money, power, and resources behind helping to make sure positive, healthy films are made about our people.
Gina Prince-Bythewood shared that BHERC has been a part of her consciousness since she was a film student at UCLA. BHERC and Sandra Evers-Manly helped provide her with an audience. It allowed her to share her work and share her experience with others. It helped her grow as a filmmaker. She will forever be grateful for such a safe, supportive outlet early in her career. It was invaluable. Together, let us keep that door open for future generations of Black actors and filmmakers. Let our stories live on. #thewomanking #violadavis #ginaprince-bythewood #bherc
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