As if SAG prexy Melissa Gilbert didn’t have enough headaches, she now has to contend with a controversy over her appointment of board member Aki Aleong as chair of the guild’s key minority committee.
The SAG national board approved Aleong to head the Ethnic Employment Opportunities Committee on a 48-26 vote April 20, despite a protest over his having called previous chair Anne-Marie Johnson “a house nigger” last year.
More than a dozen board members have signed a statement of no confidence in Aleong, board member Sumi Haru said. Haru, who authored the statement, said Gilbert has failed to respond to her request for a meeting.
“The head of the EEOC needs to be very diplomatic,” said Haru, who co-founded the committee in 1971.
Aleong, who reps Hollywood, refused to comment, while Gilbert said she had not heard of the allegations until April 20, adding that the matter was being investigated. She also promised she will meet with Haru.
“I would have preferred for this to be handled internally, because it’s a difficult situation,” Gilbert said. “I’m dismayed that it’s been made public.”
Johnson, who is African-American, told Daily Variety Aleong had resigned last year from the EEOC and had written a letter of apology to Johnson about the incident.
“He freely admitted what he had done and defended his use of the terminology by saying his mother was half-black,” Johnson added. “His comments to me were completely inappropriate. This appointment is extremely wrong.”
Johnson, a thesp whose credits include “JAG” and “In the Heat of the Night,” resigned from the national board last month for personal reasons. She was the running mate with Valerie Harper for 1st VP last fall but lost to Mike Farrell.
Hollywood board member Gordon Drake, who spoke against Aleong’s appointment at the April 20 meeting, said Aleong made no attempt to defend his conduct at the gathering.
Hollywood board member DeWayne Williams, who is African-American, contended the April 20 vote in support of Aleong appeared to be motivated by the ongoing split between Hollywood board members and reps from New York and the regional branches on such issues as SAG’s deal to revamp its master franchise agreement. “This appointment smacks of retribution against Hollywood,” he added.