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Is Broadway Any Different Than Hollywood? Viola Davis & Sanaa Lathan Talk Marginalization

Jazmine Harper-Davis

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Viola Davis and Sanaa Lathan both recently touched on the subject of the marginalization of Black actors in Hollywood, which led us here at Broadway Black to think, is Broadway any different from Hollywood? I’d say close, but no cigar.

I automatically think back to the #OscarsSoWhite movement started earlier this year by our Managing Editor, April Reign. Since then, executives have been scrambling to figure out ways to include more people of color. Whether they want to, or feel obligated to do, so is another story. Where film is lacking, television and Broadway have made up for it, slightly. Empire has become the most watched television show of the season and features a predominately Black cast. Viola Davis and Taraji P. Henson are made history by being the first two Black actresses to be nominated for the coveted Emmy for a lead actress at the same time (seriously!). Davis took home the award, altering history yet again history by being the first black woman to win the Emmy in the Drama series category. Broadway is bringing us The Color Purple, The Gin Game, Shuffle Along, and Hamilton all in the same season. So what’s the film’s industry’s problem?

In promoting her new film “The Perfect Guy,” co-starring Morris Chestnut and Michael Ealy, Sanaa Lathan says,

I think Hollywood has a ways to go. Certainly in the last couple of years with ‘Think Like A Man’ and even recently with ‘Straight Outta Compton’ doing well,” says Lathan during an interview with The Huffington Post. “But I think the language needs to change, the language about ‘Oh, this is an urban film or this is a niche film.’ No, these are Hollywood films. And it’s to marginalize us because it’s like some kind of a freak thing that we’ve made all this money off this movie. That’s a problem for me.

We’ve heard that before in the Broadway community. Hamilton anyone? A show that, on paper, shouldn’t be doing as well as it is, simply based on casting choices alone, is singlehandedly crushing the box office. Why? Because time and time again it’s proven if a show is good people will see it, regardless of skin color, even though the fact that the cast is mostly people of color is an amazing addition. So whay can’t we have it more often, across all media?

Viola Davis covers the latest issue of EW Magazine, where she speaks on the same issues as well:

There were a lot of things that people did not allow me to be until I got [the role of] Annalise Keating. I was not able to be sexualized. Ever. In my entire career. And here’s the thing that’s even more potent: I’ve never seen anyone who even looks like me be sexualized on television or in film. Ever. When people say they’re tired of hearing that, I always say, ‘Okay, well, you give me an example and then I’ll stop talking about it. But I’m gonna talk about it until you hear it.’

And she has surely given them something to talk about. Even within the marginalization of the Black actor, there lies another issue of colorism that people seem to forget. Sure, a show can say they have their token Black character, but are they aware Black people come in various shades and hues? Everyone has the right to see themselves somewhere, whether it be in TV or film or print or stage, so why is it so hard for the powers that be to make it happen? Look at the demographics of the United States. We are one of the most diverse countries in the world. Why don’t our films, magazines, shows, and productions represent all that we are?

Lathan believes that Hollywood should have an accurate representation of all cultures, and the same can be said for what Broadway should and can do for the theatre community.

“I think we need to come into the 21st century. And films should represent the world that we live in,” she said. “And right now when you look at Hollywood it’s not an accurate representation of the diversity of the world that we live in.”

 

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Get Your War Clothes On: Billy Porter Energizes in GLAAD Acceptance Speech

Jerrica White

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billy porter

So, I have a question.

In the same line of thought as “innocent until proven guilty,” do we grant the assumption of positive intent in our expectations of our brothers and sister in regards to woke-ness, à la woke until proven problematic?

Now don’t get me wrong, there was no doubt in my heart that Tony and Grammy Award-winner, Billy Porter, was woke. Nope, none. What I wasn’t ready for, was the way he fixed his fingers to pen one of the greatest acceptance speeches of my lifetime, and how he turned the Gospel classic “I Don’t Feel No Ways Tired” into a battle song.

The 28th Annual GLAAD Media Awards honored Billy Porter with the Vito Russo Award, presented to an openly LGBTQ media professional who has made a significant difference in promoting equality and acceptance.

He started by affirming the room full of members of marginalized communities, with my personal daily mantra: “You are enough. we are enough.”

Since the beginning of time artists are the folks who engage critically and encourage those who think they are powerless to question the status quo.

Brothers and sisters across the room leaned in.

The days of shut up and sing are over.

Alliteration informed and illustrated as Porter preached on remaining “vigilantly visual” as we tell our stories. Acknowledging the reality of our times, he spoke on Number 45:

Where they slipped up this time is in that declaration of war. It’s not only against Black and Brown people and Queer people anymore, it’s against ALL of us. And as a result, the good news is: white folk, and straight folk, and all those fierce women folk, are mad now. And NOW maybe something might get done!

Get. Your. War. Clothes. On.

From slavery to emancipation, to the 13th Amendment, to Jim Crow, to the Civil Rights Movement. From Stonewall to AIDS, to marriage equality— we gotta remember the shoulders who we stand on—the ones who fought and died for those freedoms that we hold so dear. Let’s use these historical strides we’ve made as a nation to empower us as warriors on this battlefield of equality.

Amen.

Until we can figure out how to love one another unconditionally, no one wins. Freedom. Equality. Justice. Have always come at a cost and evidently the always will.

If that’s not the truth.

Stay strong. Stay vigilante. Stay visible. Stay hopeful. Stay focused. Be brave. Be fierce.

Resist.

RESIST.

RESIST.

RESIST.

For a full list of this year’s winners, honorees, and guests, visit GLAAD.

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How Do We Feel

Jazmine Sullivan: The Next Singer-Songwriter To Write A Broadway Musical?

Jerrica White

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jazmine sullivan

We recently caught up with Jazmine Sullivan at The HeLa Project, a multimedia exhibition inspired by the HBO film, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

Like the rest of us, Jazmine is in awe of the under-told story of Henrietta Lacks and her instrumental role in modern medicine. We further asked about why she got involved with the project and she said: “Anyway I can give light to an extraordinary woman like that, I’m there.”

Some of the integral women in bringing this story to light have their roots in Broadway: Tony Award-winning producer Oprah Winfrey, who not only stars in the film, but also credited as executive producer, and Tony Award winner Renée Elise Goldsberry, who portrays the title character.

We wouldn’t be Broadway Black if we didn’t keep it real.

Let’s be honest, we can’t get enough of 11-year-old Jazmine singing “Home” like she wrote the piece, so we got to asking, and it turns out Jazmine wouldn’t mind putting her pen to paper to create a musical for the Broadway stage.

She said performing on Broadway isn’t in the plans for the near future but, “You never know! I love writing and creating characters!”

God!? Oprah!?!? Stephen Byrd & Alia Jones-Harvey?!?! Who’s going to snatch this up?

Until then, it sounds like we have some new music to expect. What kind of musical would you like to see from Ms. Sullivan? Sound off below in the comments!

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