Lena Waithe on Inclusive Storytelling: ‘There’s Still a Long Way to Go’

Lena Waithe is also rooting for everybody black.

The first African-American woman to be nominated (and later win) for an Emmy Award in the outstanding writing for a comedy series category said that in so many words at the third annual Holiday Soul Party on Tuesday night, held at the United Talent Agency in Beverly Hills.

“Yes, I might have been the first, but my mission is to make sure I won’t be the last,” Waithe said while accepting the inaugural soul of voices award at the event.

After listing a long line of black writers before her — including James Baldwin, Yvette Lee Bowser, Spike Lee, and John Singleton — the “Master of None” standout and creator of Showtime’s upcoming series “The Chi” highlighted the importance of storytelling, black stories in particular.

“When we aren’t seen in an accurate and human way, people will be found desensitized to our deaths,” Waithe continued. “It is my mission that people can watch ‘The Chi’ and they see these characters — these young boys on the south side of Chicago being human — that when they hear a news story about a young boy on the south side of Chicago being killed, it won’t just be background noise. They’ll wonder what he had for breakfast that morning. They’ll wonder what his nickname was. They’ll wonder what his favorite subject was in school.”

The actress and writer lamented that while the industry has made strides in recent years, it has yet to reflect the real America.

“Don’t just be on somebody’s show,” she told the room of writers, directors, agents, and execs. “Make sure that you’re making your own shows because I still don’t think the television landscape represents this society. Yes, we’ve made some progress, but there’s still a long way to go.”

Waithe was feted for promoting diversity in entertainment alongside fellow honorees: UTA partner Mickey BermanDaraiha Greene, Google’s head of multicultural engagement; and Julie Ann Crommett, VP of multicultural engagement at Walt Disney Studios. The event was presented by the Writers Guild of America West’s Committee of Black Writers, the African-American Film Critics Association, and the Directors Guild of America’s African-American Steering Committee.

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