African Americans in Hollywood: A Black-on-Black Shame

By Molden, David | Black Issues in Higher Education, January 11, 1996 | Go to article overview

African Americans in Hollywood: A Black-on-Black Shame


Molden, David, Black Issues in Higher Education


It's Friday night in Chicago. Ice and snow blanket the surrounding landscape. Chicago's frigid winds reinforces its nickname "Windy City." But despite the sub-zero winds, a long line of shivering Chicagoans fight off the bone chilling cold and huddle tightly together, anticipating the first showing of the movie "Jason's Lyric." A voice bellows from behind the ticket window, announcing the 9:30 p.m. show is sold out. The next Showing is scheduled for 10:45 p.m. But ignoring the cold, not a single person moves. With such loyalty from African-American filmgoers, the question begs asking: "Why do so many Black filmmakers in Hollywood seem to take this level of dedication for granted?"

In every movie magazine, newspaper article and television show that I encounter, Blacks in Hollywood are persistently crying the blues, constantly belly-aching about what they don't have and what they can't do because they never learned to use what they have to accomplish what they can.

But what are they trying to accomplish? The right to produce the same average stories? The right to produce films about violence, killings, drugs, hip hop gansta rap and the broken African-American family?

Regardless of who is in control, we can define our own destiny. When is the last time that we searched our souls for a story and not simply a script for money? When has a successful Black filmmaker truly opened his or her arms to provide a new, talented Black filmmaker fast-track access to the inner circle?

What we need is a coming together of African-Americans in filmmaking so that we can deal with corporate Hollywood as it is today. When we come to terms with what it is we want in this business and what level we want to play, then we will have the respect and attention that we deserve.

The real story behind what is on the movie screen is not about race but about money, and we all know Hollywood is not in the business of losing money.

Should we expect corporate Hollywood to hand over control of a $5 billion dollar industry? No. This is where the problem in Hollywood exists -- job security, plain and simple. Hollywood traditionally has been a business of dog eat dog ... swim with the sharks or be eaten alive ... either you make it or you don't.

It is not only artists who affect the content of film but the executives, who fill positions of wealth and fame. Some of these executives were raised in environments sheltered from Blacks. The only image they have of African-Americans are what they see on the news or read in newspapers and magazines. Therefore, this is the only picture they have to portray on the big screen. …

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