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Black History Month: A Call For More Representation in Hollywood

Black History Month has been celebrated every February since 1976. Unfortunately, in the entertainment world, representation of Black narratives has been relatively new. As visual storytellers in Hollywood, it is our responsibility to tell diverse stories and make sure everyone is represented. Hollywood would not be what it is today if it weren’t for ideas, accomplishments, and achievements of Black artists. It’s only fair that we continue to diligently work towards more Black representation in film.  

How a Hashtag started a movement in Hollywood

In 2015, the viral hashtag #OscarsSoWhite sparked a movement and conversation around the lack of representation in Hollywood. That year, the Oscars awarded all 20 acting nominations to white actors. This was definitely a breaking point in the entertainment industry. 

April Reign, the creator of the hashtag, logged onto Twitter and saw the 2015 Oscar nominations. It struck her that once again, no people of color were nominated. She decided to pick up her phone and tweet about it. 

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When April checked her phone a few hours later, the hashtag was trending around the world. The director of Selma, Ava DuVernay called #OscarsSoWhite acatalyst for a conversation about what had really been a decades-long absence of diversity and inclusion.”

In the past couple of years, Black representation in film has grown and we’ve seen a difference on-screen. In 2019 the Oscars saw a record number of winners of color. There’s been a shift where Hollywood is not only diversifying, but meaningfully diversifying and representing Black characters, as opposed to filling a quota. 


According to a study done by Variety, since the pandemic, there has been a spike in representation of Black and Non-Binary characters in film and television. 

The study states that, “During the pandemic period, 70.5% of series released during had a Black series regular, up notably 65.8% pre-pandemic. The number of films released with Black talent also increased (58.7% vs. 56.1%).” 

But our question is – is this enough? We think Hollywood can do better. 

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We’re optimistic about continuing to diversify the film and television industry, but how can we make sure to stay vigilant in these efforts? Let’s listen to the voices of some of our favorite Black artists for some inspiration on how we can continue to push for change in Hollywood.

Hollywood Speaks Out 

In 2017, Lena Waithe became the first queer Black screenwriter to win an Emmy, for an episode she wrote in the series Master on None. Lena has consistently used her platform to call out the lack of diversity in Hollywood, and often says that change in Hollywood must be mandated, not just requested. 

In a 2020 article written for Variety, Lena Waithe wrote:

“We need mandates for inclusion. The studios, networks and streamers all need to live by new rules, and if they don’t live by them, there need to be financial repercussions. The studios need to greenlight a certain number of projects from Black people, brown people, people with disabilities, people who identify as LGBTQIA+ and other marginalized communities. Hollywood is nothing if not a mirror of America.”

Lena Waithe has even started her own production company with Rishi Rajani called Hillman Grad Productions. The company prides itself on going against the status quo and providing a platform for diverse voices across all mediums. 

 

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Our favorite funny fan turned director Jordan Peele says he will only cast people of color as leads for his movies. In a 2019 interview with Deadline, he stated:

“I don’t see myself casting a white dude as the lead of a movie — it’s not because I don’t like white dudes. It’s because I’ve seen that movie… We are in this time when there are so many great Black directors right now… The renaissance that has happened has proven myths of representation in the industry are false.”

Jordan Peele uses his platform and resources to be a voice for marginalized communities so that they feel represented. In his horror masterpiece, Get Out, he uses the “sunken place” as a metaphor for systemic racism.

Euphoria actress Storm Reid thinks representation in Hollywood can go further than just on-screen. In a recent interview with People, she said there needs to be more stylists on set that know Black hair. Storm told the magazine:

“It has been a struggle for me specifically on sets when it comes to the hair disparity and people not knowing how to deal with Black hair. And, in a way, it feels dehumanizing . . . when it’s the time for your hair to look nice and there’s nobody on set to be able to help you achieve that. They really just don’t understand Black hair care. It’s disheartening and it’s heartbreaking.”