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NAACP issues call to change

Saying that repeated reports about discrimination in Hollywood have done little to change the industry’s hiring or promoting practices, the Beverly Hills/Hollywood Chapter of the NAACP Wednesday issued a challenge for change–a challenge that came with the veiled threat of economic boycotts against companies who refuse.

“There are only three African-American creative executives at the vice president level in feature films and two in television,” said Sandra J. Evers-Manly, chapter president. “The average budget that an African-American can approve is a mere $ 1,000 … unlike their white counterparts. Black producers are told (by the studios), ‘We already have one black project in development.’

“This vicious cycle runs from the studios, networks, talent agencies and independent companies,” she said. “The African-American film renaissance that we heard about is no more.”

In response, the NAACP sent out 75 invitations to executives from the major studios, networks and the independent production companies to attend a morning session Wednesday to discuss future changes. Of those invites, 23 people showed representing six major studios, two networks and some of the guilds. No representatives from the indies attended.

What they received was a five-page report that asked employers to do things such as auditing their current employment records, developing strategies to integrate blacks, women and people of color into the work place and conducting sensitivity programs for those involved in hiring, casting and greenlighting projects.

“African-American images on television are centered in comedy and are often one-dimensional,” Evers-Manly said. “After 9 p.m. on TV, African-Americans and others of color are non-existent. African-American dramas have yet to be seen as extensively, in film or television, as they should. The plight of African-American women has remained unchanged. Positive roles for women of color are too few.”

With the issuance of the report, Evers-Manly said that the NAACP has done comprehensive studies of who the top advertisers are in TV.

“We will begin looking at who is supporting those companies that don’t have African-Americans in their top ranks,” she said. “We’re going to start training sessions on how to do letter-writing campaigns.”

Additionally, the NAACP will approach the various guilds, asking them to consider to begin enforcing equal employment opportunities, possibly by instituting fines for companies who violate such codes.

“People are tired of what they are seeing,” she said. “The lesson to be learned from the recent civil unrest is that there is a serious need to empower people.”

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