By Samantha Ofole-Prince
In commemoration of Black History Month, SAG held an event to celebrate the accomplishments of African Americans in film and television.
Billed as “The Black Hollywood Experience,” the event featured a powerful lineup of black actors, which included Don Cheadle, Taraji P. Henson, Marla Gibbs and director John Singleton, who all shared their humble beginnings in the movie industry.
Moderated by Emmy Award winner Wayne Brady, the event was held at the Screen Actors Guild National Headquarters in Los Angeles.
Grammy winner Dawnn Lewis (“Dreamgirls”, “A Different World”) kicked off the proceedings with a performance of the song “Lift Every Voice and Sing” (often referred to as “The Black National Anthem”).
The prestigious group of panelists, which also included casting director Chemin Sylvia Bernard, who cast actor Jamie Foxx on “In Living Color,” encouraged black actors to persevere in Hollywood.
“You have to do it all. Act, write, direct and get in workshops, so people can see what you do.” stressed actress Marla Gibbs, who is best remembered for her role as Florence Johnston on the television sitcom “The Jeffersons.”
Actor Don Cheadle, who garnered both a Golden Globe and an Academy Award nomination for “Hotel Rwanda” and is currently working on a Miles Davis biopic, also encouraged the actors in attendance to write and be multifaceted. “Do you want to be an actor? Or do you want to be famous?” asked Cheadle, “because there is a difference.”
“You will have highs and you will have lows, no matter what level you are. Be clear on what you want from this industry,” stated Oscar nominated actress Taraji P. Henson, who shared her own career-building stories and strategies with audience members. “This is a business where you constantly have to prove yourself.”
An event which celebrated the history and accomplishments of African Americans in film and television, its purpose was not only to celebrate Black History Month, but to leave all actors in attendance inspired.
“It has been a long and often difficult journey for African-American performers throughout the history of this industry. In many ways, they now have more opportunity than ever before, but there is still much more to accomplish,” said SAG National Executive Director David White. “Black History Month is a time to reflect on the achievements of the trailblazers of yesterday, honor the efforts of today’s African-American actors and prepare for tomorrow’s challenges.”
he Screen Actors Guild is the nation’s largest labor union representing working actors. With 20 Branches nationwide, SAG represents more than 125,000 actors, who work in film, digital motion pictures, television, internet and all new media formats.