“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead
NEW YORK –Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith, one of entertainment’s power couples are changing the world (or at least a small segment of it) with the launch of Careers in Entertainment (CIE).
According to Will Smith, the Sept. 21 launch was a simple case of following his grandmother’s advice to “put your money where your mouth is.” The initiative that carries the Twitter name of @MyCIEStory is designed to introduce inner city, underserved youth the skills and knowledge needed to have a successful career in the entertainment industry.
This project of the Will & Jada Smith Family Foundation (www.wjsff.org) follows on the heels of Pinkett Smith’s decision to boycott the 2016 Oscars in a call for greater diversity in the entertainment industry following the notable absence of any nominees of color. Notwithstanding the criticism Pinkett Smith received, she has stood firm in her own power, as she has advised all of us to do, and kept it moving.
Since 1958, when Noah Cullen (“The Defiant Ones”) became the first African-American to be nominated for an Academy Award, up until 2016, only 36 Black people have won awards across all categories. According to Wikipedia, many have been nominated, but very few chosen. Certainly racial segregation can account for this paucity of numbers, but since integration and the Civil Rights Movement, we would expect more. However, access to the entertainment industry is not easily gained by those who do not come from famous families or do not have ties to the individuals and their families who control the entertainment industry.
Thus, the decision by the Smith’s to use their privilege and power to create opportunities for those youth on the outside is one way to change the entertainment game and not just make it more diverse, but establish a more inclusive environment where outsiders acquire insiders’ knowledge of what makes the entertainment industry tick and are mentored in how to navigate it. Careers in Entertainment will be a game changer, and history will remember the Smith family (parents and children) as individuals who cared, took notice and took the extraordinary action of leveraging their own money, power and privilege to change the landscape of Hollywood and the entertainment industry. Asé/Ashe (so be it).
Irma McClaurin is an award winning columnist and the Culture and Education Editor for Insight News. In 2015, she received the Black Press of America’s Emory O. Jackson Column Writing Award from the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA). She is an activist anthropologist, writer and motivational speaker and founder of the Irma McClaurin Black Feminist Archive at the University of Massachusetts – Amherst.