When social media users used the hashtag #BlackoutTuesday on June 2 to protest racism and police brutality, the Instagram account for Gold House posted an image of a hybrid tiger-panther with the words “Black Lives Matter,” followed by links to social-justice causes.
It was a show of support by the nonprofit, which aims to increase representation of Asian Americans and other minority groups in everything from film to digital startups. In the past, it has promoted films like “Crazy Rich Asians” and “Just Mercy” through theater buyouts.
A refocused lens on the systemic issues regarding race in Hollywood has galvanized organizations like Gold House to express solidarity with the African American community. They are asking deeper questions about how they can further coalition-build with their Black counterparts — and whether they have done enough thus far.
For Gold House chairman Bing Chen, it hasn’t been enough. “The answer’s no,” he says, “and the answer is no for all of us until, to be clear, racism is entirely curbed for any community, not just the Black community.”
For some organizations, this moment is a chance to emphasize a shared history and — in some cases — heritage with the African American community. It’s also an opportunity to confront anti-Black racism.
Jose Antonio Vargas is the founder of Define American, a nonprofit that has advised the writers’ rooms of shows like “Roswell” and “Superstore” on stories involving immigration. A former Washington Post reporter, Vargas is an undocumented immigrant from the Philippines.
To help those who come from non-Black immigrant families engage their communities, Define American published the “Guide to Difficult Conversations About Anti-Blackness.”
“It’s important, I think, to kind of meet people where they are,” says Vargas. “Most of our family members would not refer to themselves as quote-unquote woke.”
Latinx-led organizations like the National Hispanic Media Coalition see this juncture as an opportunity to highlight the shared heritage between members of the Latinx and Black communities, specifically Afro-Latinos. On June 13, NHMC organized a Black Lives Matter demonstration in Whittier, Calif., outside that city’s police station, at which Afro-Latino activists and speakers (Whittier is almost 68% Hispanic or Latino) were featured.
“It’s going to take the whole Latinx village to destroy the anti-Blackness,” says NHMC president Brenda Victoria Castillo.
Ben Lopez, executive director of the National Assn. of Latino Independent Producers, cites the organization’s Women of Color TV Pilot Incubator program and its partnership with the African American Film Critics Assn. as examples of effective coalition-building. Lopez says NALIP is also working with The Black List.
“We decided to make sure that we prioritized the recruitment of Afro-Latinx [writers]. There’s an overlap between the Black and Latinx experience that’s very complex,” he says.
For many groups, this coalition-building is based on the idea that a rising tide lifts all boats: Greater representation for one group means more opportunities for others.
“The challenge is when we, as those diverse and underrepresented groups, are placed in a corner and told to fight amongst ourselves for the crown,” says Brickson Diamond, founder of Blackhouse, a nonprofit that promotes Black filmmakers on the festival circuit. “[We] shouldn’t consider ourselves to only have a finite piece of the pie that we have to divide, while the mainstream takes the rest.”
In the meantime, cross-cultural collaborations continue to take a decidedly educational approach. To commemorate Juneteenth this year, Gold House partnered with the Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment and NALIP to promote a slate of films (including Ava DuVernay’s “13th”), curated by Color of Change, that illuminate the Black experience.
As Castillo observes, meaningful coalition-building is an ongoing process. “There’s always more work to be done,” she says. “We’re going to continue to figure out ways that we can support BLM in the Black community. Absolutely, we can always do more.”