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Soul Food: Nothing lost in translation

The view of the world from the African American cultural context examined by the hit Show Time television series Soul Food, mirrors day to day life experiences of Black people everywhere, according the Vanessa Williams, award-winning star of the program. The view of the world from the African American cultural context examined by the hit Show Time television series Soul Food, mirrors day to day life experiences of Black people everywhere, according the Vanessa Williams, award-winning star of the program.

Williams said the show’s strengths included the fact the production engages Black talent both on screen and behind the camera. “I love the fact the people just like us –Black people – are the executives, writers, are running the show at Paramount Studios, which is our producer. Nothing is lost in translation. And it has meant that there were no limits to what we could explore,” she said.

Williams joined the Public Policy Forum at Lucille’s Kitchen from Los Angeles, CA by videoconference. She discussed her personal community service work, the upcoming Show Time season for Soul Food, and served as a spokesperson for Time Warner Cable and Show Time new service, Show Time on Demand. Time Warner Cable is the title sponsor for the program.

Williams and the Soul Food cast and crew in Toronto, Canada recently completed taping shows for the program’s fifth season. The new shows air weekly beginning next February. The program moves into syndication on Black Entertainment Television (BET) next year. Shows from the first four seasons will appear weekly on BET. While the Show Time programming is offered as a premium service on cable television systems, the BET channel is now part of most standard packages, Williams said, explaining the syndication will put the program before even millions more viewers and households.

“It has been and honor and a pleasure to be in Soul Food,” Williams said. “We are family. We were from the word go. We mirror our community. We reflect our community.”

We lost power to our videoconference equipment during the Williams interview. While the connection was being re-established, I invited Mary Johnson, who has created a program called From Death the Life Health Group, to talk about the prayer walks her organization was organizing to call attention to gun violence. She issued a call to “all Moms for a Prayer Walk,” September 13 in South Minneapolis and 9:45 am Saturday, September 20 at Lyndale and 26th in North Minneapolis.

Johnson said her son was murdered 10 years ago. He went to an after party and got into a confrontation. He was 20. A 16-year old killed him. He was shot in the chest three times. The gun jammed momentarily. Then a last shot struck his head, she said.

For more information about the Prayer Walk, contact Johnson at 612-821-5151 ext. 191.

Reconnected, Williams expressed sadness for the Johnson family and families similarly affected across the country. She said Johnson’s testimony brought to mind that Soul Food last season tackled the tough issue of handguns and Black children. “We had an episode where my character “Maxine’s” son is involved in gunplay. Maxine and the husband character Kenny have to deal with it.”

She said the television medium is so powerful it is important that our people are involved in all aspect of the industry. Next season, she said, “Maxine will work doing community outreach in a health center. We reflect ourselves. We reflect you.”

Williams volunteers, among other things, as celebrity spokesperson for the national March of Dimes campaign. For the past two years she has help the organization focus on premature births. “Our community is hardest hit by premature births. We spread the word teaching how to care for oneself and prevent the premature births.”

“All children are near and dear to my heart. We have to take responsibility to make things right. Foster care systems need major overhaul. It is our responsibility to know what is happening in foster care and to make things happen. I am disheartened to see moms looking for resources for their families and moms having their children

September 15, 2003
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