Entertainers urge continuance of DEI and Black storytelling in Hollywood at the NAACP Image Awards

As DEI initiatives and Black stories remain under attack, stars spoke with theGrio about Hollywood's unfulfilled promises.

The attacks on diversity, equity and inclusion and Black storytelling continue to raise public concern, especially within Hollywood’s film and TV industry.

Queen Latifah, theGrio.com
Queen Latifah hosted the NAACP Image Awards on Saturday, and many entertainers there spoke up for diversity, equity and inclusion. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

“It’s frustrating because we have to still keep fighting and recognizing ourselves,” actor Malcolm Barrett, a star of “Average Joe,”  told theGrio. “When we try to be included, there’s such a pushback, and it doesn’t need to be. The idea behind diversity, equity, and inclusion is about being equal and inclusive. It’s not about excluding anybody…It means we matter, which doesn’t mean nobody else does.”

In addition to more diverse leadership being pushed out of studios, the number of canceled Black shows is trending upward. 

The cancellation of Issa Rae’s series “Rap Sh!t” made headlines at the start of this year, and many fans were upset that the show wouldn’t return for future seasons. In 2022 and 2023, shows such as “Love Life,” “Ziwe,” “Legendary,” “South Side” and others featuring Black people were axed as well.

The stark shift in the TV landscape, with reduced diversity on-screen and behind the scenes, sheds light on the fact that Hollywood is not prioritizing its DEI pledges made in 2020.

That year, with its “summer of racial reckoning” following the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, sparked a boom of companies promising DEI initiatives and increased efforts of hiring more Black individuals and people of color. While there has been an uptick in diversity since 2020 across the film/TV industry, the numbers are decreasing.

Despite the decline in prioritizing diverse storytelling, industry game changers remain hopeful that Black creatives will keep making headway in the overwhelmingly white spaces.

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June Ambrose, who received the Vanguard Award at the NAACP Image Awards, spoke with theGrio about her perspective on the recent attacks on Black storytelling and DEI initiatives.

“Our AI will be our biggest superpower,” Ambrose said. “Our Authentic Intelligence will move us into the next chapter. No one will be able to take that away from us because it’s so authentically connected to who you are because of how you deliver it — with intention. I encourage people… not to compromise and waiver because it will show through.”

On the red carpet at the Image Awards, “Zatima” and “Sistas” actor and former NFL player Devale Ellis emphasized Hollywood’s long-overdue recognition of Black creatives and people of color in the industry.

“We are here, and we’re not going anywhere,” Ellis told theGrio. “We command a space and can occupy all spaces, not just ‘Black’ ones. We, as creatives, can occupy any space.” 

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