Spring 2011

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SAG National Executive Director David White, second from left, and Secretary-Treasurer Amy Aquino, right, pose with, from left, event subcommittee member Wanda Dorn, SAG National Ethnic Employment Opportunities Committee co-chair Vivicca Whitsett, Wayne Brady, Taraji P. Henson, Chemin Sylvia Bernard, Don Cheadle, Marla Gibbs, SAG National EEOC co-chair Bertila Damas, Dawnn Lewis, John Singleton and event subcommittee member Shyla La’Sha; Right, At the New York event, SAG New York Division President Mike Hodge, second from right, stands with, from left, panelists Lisa Collins, Sharon Washington, Warrington Hudlin, Ellyn Long Marshall and Maria E. Nelson, and moderator Nancy Giles. Far right, Taraji P. Henson, left, poses with Marla Gibbs. Celebrate BLACK HISTORY MONTH T HOLLYWOOD, NEW YORK wo cities, thousands of miles apart. Two Black History Month events with two different panels of accomplished African Americans from the entertainment industry. But the message was the same: If you want to be a successful actor, believe in yourself, focus on your craſt and just do it. Capacity crowds filled the venues in New York and Los Angeles on February 23 to hear top talent discuss the black Hollywood experience and draw inspiration. The panels were organized by the SAG National Ethnic Employment Opportunities Committee, headed by co- chairs Vivicca Whitsett and Hollywood Division Board member Bertila Damas, and SAG Affirmative Action and Diversity. “These distinguished members of the entertainment community demonstrate that a never-say-die attitude is perhaps the most important tool to achieving success,” said Whitsett. “As artists — in particular as African- American artists — the panelists have faced many obstacles,” added Damas. 26 SCREEN ACTOR - Spring 2011 “But their persistence and ability to overcome challenges is admirable, and an inspiration to people of all ethnicities.” The Black Hollywood Experience: Our History Our Future, held at Screen Actors Guild in Los Angeles, featured Don Cheadle (Iron Man 2, Crash, Hotel Rwanda), John Singleton (Boyz in the Hood, Shaſt, Four Brothers), Marla Gibbs (The Jeffersons, 227, The Hughleys), Taraji P. Henson (The Karate Kid, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) and casting director Chemin Sylvia Bernard (Fat Albert, Cool Runnings), and was moderated by Wayne Brady (Let’s Make a Deal). The evening also featured a special performance by Grammy Award-winning singer and National Board member Dawnn Lewis. The panelists discussed strategies for overcoming adversity. What worked for Henson was staying focused; if she wasn’t getting roles in movies or television, she worked in theater. “If you’re passionate about the craſt, you do it no matter what,” she said. “Every time I went back to the theater with pure intentions, I booked something big.” Gibbs credited her success to her persistence and her faith — in herself and in a higher power. She poked fun at those who are quick to give up because they don’t think they have the proper connections. “We think other people are in charge. They say you’ve got to know somebody, but do you know God?” she said. Cheadle encouraged the audience to make their own opportunities, whether it was writing, producing or buying an $800 camera and making their own movies. “You have to be multifaceted,” he said. In New York, African Americans On-Screen: Our History…Our Future featured Mike Hodge, SAG New York Division president (Law & Order, Arthur); Sharon Washington, SAG National Board member (Michael Clayton); Warrington Hudlin, producer and founder of; and Ellyn Long Marshall and Maria E. Nelson, founders of Orpheus Group Casting; and was moderated by Nancy Giles, actor, writer and contributor on CBS News’ Sunday Morning. Toby Canham/Getty Images

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