ATLANTA – More than 300 people attended a star-studded luncheon at Atlanta’s downtown Marriott Marquis hotel, to commemorate the achievements of African-American women working in front of, and behind, the camera.
The Black Women Film Network’s annual Untold Stories Luncheon held on Friday, March 9, paid tribute to women of color in film, television, and the entertainment industries. The ticketed event, which was sold out, also helps fund scholarships for students trying to break into the industry.
The festivities began with a glitzy red carpet, with celebs like actress Demetria Dyan McKinney, comedian Myra J and reality TV stars like Evelyn Braxton, as well as model Cynthia Bailey attending the lunch. Guests tucked into tomato soup, salmon with new potatoes, and salad as the ceremony got underway.
The luncheon was hosted by Tyler Perry’s longtime executive vice president, Roger Bobb, who has recently set up his own company, Bobbcat Films, and WXIA-TV news anchor Karyn Greer.
This year’s recipients were actresses Tasha Smith of Why Did I Get Married? and other films, Wendy Raquel Robinson of The Steve Harvey Show and The Game, as well as television executive Traci Lynn Blackwell, philanthropist Judy Mauldin and 135th Street Agency managing partner Saptosa Foster.
All the honorees gave emotional, moving speeches that highlighted the importance of never giving up on dreams. “I am inspired by women who look like me and are out in the trenches doing great work,” said actress Wendy Raquel Robinson.
For Judy Mauldin, being honored “through the lens of a black women network” is an important recognition of her work. “I am humbled and excited, particularly because of the platform” said Mauldin, co-founder of R&B Hip Hop 4 Humanity, a nonprofit educational and health initiative for at-risk youth.
Traci Lynn Blackwell, vice president of current programs at The CW Network, told theGrio that, in spite of progress, “there is always further to go” to increase diversity in the industry. “It’s not just the right thing to do; it’s good business, because we live in a multicultural society.”
Speaking to theGrio, actress Wendy Raquel Robinson said that despite Viola Davis missing out on a best actress Oscar at the Academy Awards, she is a phenomenal actress. “But can I say she was robbed? No,” she says. “It’s an unpredictable business. She did receive a lot of recognition and hopefully that will open a lot of more doors for her.”
Board Chair Tomika DePriest said, “BWFN has cultivated and celebrated women filmmakers — aspiring, emerging and seasoned — as well as professionals in the industry who have a niche in telling untold stories about diverse communities.”
“As the business continues to boom, especially in Atlanta where we are based, we will continue to serve as an anchor and pipeline for connecting members and supporters to real opportunities.”
Follow Kunbi Tinuoye on Twitter at @Kunbiti