Variety and the African American Film Critics Association closed out the second edition of the Micheaux Project educational program with LAUSD’s Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies (LACES) by hosting a virtual red carpet that drew comedian and “Let’s Make a Deal” host Wayne Brady, “Black Lighting” star Jordan Calloway and other actors, filmmakers and industry figures.
Now in its second year, the Micheaux Project is an eight-week extracurricular seminar for high school students from underrepresented communities. Eight students from LACES, the LAUSD magnet school in Mid-City Los Angeles, took part in the course, which is designed to introduce students to an array of job opportunities in entertainment journalism, film criticism and the industry at large.
During the virtual red carpet held April 14, students had the experience of conducting brief red carpet-style interviews with a steady stream of industry players. Rising stars including actors Sherry Cola and Zuri Adele from Freeform’s “Good Trouble” and Laya DeLeon Hayes from CBS’ “The Equalizer” shared advice with students and fielded questions about their professional lives. A handful of Micheaux Project student alumni from last year’s inaugural program also stopped by to support their fellow students.
Bethany Cervantes, a 12-grade Micheaux participant, said Micheaux course gave her “new perspective” on working in the entertainment industry.
“The red carpet was nothing like I’ve ever experienced,” said Cervantes. “I was nervous, excited and scared. I had to learn to put aside my insecurities and go for it, but it was worth it.”
Other notables who joined the Micheaux finale were Oscar-nominated screenwriter Kemp Powers (“One Night in Miami”), writer-producers David Talbert and Lyn Talbert, actor-director Ian Quinlan, documentary filmmaker Elegance Bratton and actor Esther Chae (“Soul”).
Variety and AAFCA joined forces with educators last year to develop a curriculum for an outreach project designed to reach students from the wide swath of underrepresented communities that exist in Hollywood’s home town.
“The Micheaux Project keeps getting better and better,” said Gil Robertson, co-founder and president of AAFCA. “Our second cohort was supported by AAFCA members from around the country who joined forces with their peers at Penske Media to expose the students to the various career opportunities available via journalism. The benefit of watching the students gaining confidence and finding their voice and purpose is priceless. AAFCA members are proud to be a part of this worthy endeavor.”
Kimberly Lesure, principal of LACES, called the Micheaux Project “a very unique partnership” that is distinct from other offerings at the highly regarded school serving middle and high school students.
“The Micheaux Project has helped build students’ confidence and increased their interest in a field they may not have considered,” Lesure said.
Adult leaders for the spring workshops included staffers from PMC outlets Variety, Deadline, Hollywood Reporter, IndieWire, Rolling Stone, Billboard and WWD, as well as AAFCA members from outlets around the country.
Micheaux Project is named for the pioneering Black filmmaker Oscar Micheaux.
(Pictured from top left: Troi-Lyn and Trinity Moore, both Micheaux Project alumni from 2020; Variety’s Angelique Jackson; actor Zuri Adele and Micheaux Project participant Jayta Chakraborty)