HELLO AMERICA!—This has been quite a year, 2017, one drama after another, politically, entertainment as well, on a social level. Everything has impacted film productions, story-telling, how we watch and even what we believe about our nation when it comes to the rights of all our citizens and who would reform the rules of survival in America! It was a throwback to the 50s and 60s when there was obviously a great divide between the races, people of color and those from other countries hoping they finally after coming here, they might finally receive the respect as human beings.
Hollywood production studios hired more people from Mexico and those from Latin nations because they would be easier to control and work for much less. This instantly affected personal relationships between Black Americans and immigrants, legal as well as temporary persons. Whatever decided, Washington took advantage of it and strived in making it or shaping it to their own personal objectives. Suddenly, the resurfacing of the KKK and other restrictive political organizations surfaced to respond to President Trump’s cry, “Let’s make America Great Again” or “ Let us return to the America of and those of yesterday!” Those of us who witnessed the struggle for civil rights, the marches, the murders and all the other horrors, the assassinations and all the rest of it during that period in our nation experienced many nightmares being threatened a return.
Hollywood writers, producers, and even some major film stars were seen joining the cry of some of these new “hate” groups emerging in the nation. Sadly, many gifted Black writers, producers, actors who refused to see the reality of their involvement on any of these creative levels would be serving the interests of those who desired to maintain the old images of minorities which has existed since “Birth of a Nation” in the film industry. Many fine, well-educated film actors were relegated to playing stereotype characters, no matter which era the story represented. A few actors and musicians refused to be used to denigrate their people; Paul Robeson, Ethel Waters, Lena Horne, Herb Jeffries (first Black cowboy in films), and a few others who had the clout to make a stand against this kind of writing and casting.
Ethel Water, an actress, and star I was fortunate enough to have a co-starring role in “Member of the Wedding” explained to me that she made it very clear concerning the kind of characters she would accept whether it be film or theatre. Because of her determination to represent a clear level of dignity in whatever she did as a singer or actress, Hollywood never gave her a difficult time when she suggested changes or a different view of the story. Of course, Lena Horne, who was a major star at MGM, the first Black female at that studio, made it very clear how she felt and even Louis B. Meyer at times was seriously upset with Lena’s outbursts, he realized that she had the respect of millions of film-goers around the world and quietly gave in to her demands.
One has to admit there have been some positive changes in story concept, actors and the introduction of persons of color that projects all types of personalities i.e., hosting of shows, co-hosts, lead featured characters involving running series; yes, these changes have largely taken place on Cable, or the general networks. However, in film production, there seem to be “old hat” productions that are stuck in the old ways of Hollywood story when it comes to minorities.
However, I have faith and really believe this will change as well. It simply takes people, especially younger people who have not been tainted by some of those who still exist mentally in a world or way of life where minority artists are forced to be seated in the back seats of society. Many of us believe that 2018 will explode with a new feeling of excitement, generating a fresh sense of freedom and love for each other.