Nick Cannon recently complained that he is tired of slave movies. This is a man that has enjoyed success in Hollywoods film and TV industry for many years as a writer, producer and director. According to IMDB his first writing credit is for a show called Cousin Skeeter. I have vague memories of the show, if my memory serves me correctly; I think it featured a black puppet of some sort.
According to online magazine Clutch, he posted a picture of his great great grandmother, adding:
“They called this lady a slave, I call her my Grandmothers Grandmother. Why don’t they make movies about our African Kings & Queens? Our History? I would love to see a film about Akhenaton and his beautiful wife Queen Nefertiti, or Cetewayo, a King who was a war hero. I’m about to drive to my office RIGHT NOW and start the development! New Hollywood Trend, Black King and Queen films! Starring BLACK PEOPLE!! No disrespect to Elizabeth Taylor.”
A quick Google search to the IMDB database shows Cannon’s official list of credits. He has a total of 18 writing credits since 1998. He latest credit is dated in 2013.
Hollywood caters to an audience. It is apparent that there is no interest in producing films that represent a full account of black history. One could ask, where are the black directors? There is the now notorious YouTube clip showing a discussion of film directors where Steve McQueen asked ’Why are there so few black directors?’ ‘It’s shameful’, he stated. None of the directors had an answer. One remarked ‘ I don’t want to step into that’.
You can watch the interview here
These discussions are always welcome and it is good to have open debates, as long as they eventually translate into real action. Otherwise they are nothing more than good entertainment for viewers, or YouTube up loaders seeking to gain hits on their channels. It would have been better for Nick Cannon to channel his dismay for the lack of films by producing one. The latter part of his quote suggests this is a possibility. We wait with anticipation for what he brings to the table.
Hollywood does not have a vested interest in showcasing a full representation of our history, so why should they make films about Hannibal or Queen Tiye and her husband Amenhotep? It is in our interest, so if he wants to see it, he should produce one. It is that simple.
However, it appears that many people still believe we must ask and demand that the industry give us wider representation in TV and filmmaking.
Shadow and Act blog recently reported from the Broadcast and Screen International Diversify conference, at a panel titled ”Flight of the Black Actor”. Black actors including Lenny Henry and Kwame Kwei-Armah called for broadcasters to implement quotas to increase racial diversity on UK screens.
Specifically, they called for an initiative similar to The Rooney Rule – a racial quota system implemented by the NFL in the USA, which requires that football clubs interview ethnic minority coaches for vacant jobs.
“In high-end drama, there’s no faces that look like me. We need to lobby the government. Maybe quotas isn’t the right language, maybe we should call them shared targets,” said star of stage and screen Lenny Henry.
Kwei-Armah, now artistic director of theatre company Center Stage in Baltimore, added, “The US set quotas. They did that thing that we’re so scared to do here […]In the UK, there’s very little diversity of the roles for men or women of color, but in the US there’s a diversity of opportunity […] I’m in a permanent state of maudlin that one has to go to the States,” referring to actors like Idris Elba, David Harewood and others who had to move to the USA to work consistently.
Asked by session chair Lorraine Heggessey, executive of Boom Pictures, why the situation had gone backwards for non-white talent on both sides of the screen, Henry replied: “We had a good 1970s. That was because of patronage… Whatever minority you come from there’s often a bloke, generally white, male, middle-class and Oxbridge-educated who says, ‘I like you. I’m going to take you under my wing and look after you. The problem is when they go, you go too – or you have to realign or find another mentor.”
Kwame Kwei-Armah, who moved to Baltimore two and a half years ago following a celebrated career in the UK as an actor, writer and director, told the Diversify conference that, while there has been a rise in roles for young black actors in “underclass” narratives, such as Channel 4’s Top Boy, the depiction of adult, middle-class non-whites on UK screens is virtually non-existent.
Kwei-Armah said: “While we’re all doing so well in America, here we’re punching the glass ceiling that is possibly lower than it used to be. “
Now for some figures regarding the UK.
Creative Skillset’s recent census on the Film and TV industry show that ‘Across the last decade, the representation of Black and minority ethnic men and women has fallen by 2%. That might not sound like much, but when this takes the figure to just 5.4% it is clear that even a small decline needs to be stopped. In 2009, the representation of women in the sector dropped by 9% to 27%. Although this has since risen to 36%, the figure remains lower than seven years ago.’
How long will people continue to expect more representation when there is no vested interest in doing so? There comes a time when you have to use your own resources, form a team and do it for yourself.
The AllKnightz have recognised this and have decided to invest in their own creativity and create a variety of comics. Wayne Riley and David Riley co-wrote one of the comics currently in production. The Hardwired: Rebel Alliance series. The comic’s lead character Nathaniel Nuke, is based on Nat Turner. He was an African American who was executed after one of the many rebellions against enslavers in Virginia. How many ‘slave stories’ include a rebellion that is not supported by an American enslaver ?
Here are a few of the latest images of some works currently in production.
The AllKnightz are committed to their work. It is a team effort that is not purely UK based. It is a worldwide effort.
Jason Simuyuni (UK) is storyboarding and has been creating background images. Tobe Max Spectre Ezeogu (NIGERIA) and Jonathan A. Price (USA) create the colour and tone for the backgrounds and characters and Wayne Riley (UK) who designs and creates the characters.
Black people worldwide are creating and producing their own work independently of Hollywood’s narrow and unrepresentative remit.
Interestingly, Wesley Snipes, who starred in Blade, had invested in his own films and began production until his was jailed for tax evasion. Snipes, has a company called Amen-Ra films, and together with Black Dot Media has produced a host of films.
According to starpulse.com, on Black Dot Media, he served as executive producer and narrator of the documentary “John Henrik Clarke: A Long and Mighty Walk,” about the acclaimed author, historian, and civil rights activist. Snipes later served as executive producer on projects as varied as “Down in the Delta,” a 1998 TV drama directed by Maya Angelou (in which he also co-starred), and “The Big Hit” (1998), a perversely eccentric action-comedy about professional killers with Mark Walhberg. Snipes also produced the highly rated “Futuresport” (1998), a sci-fi/action project for ABC, and presented the documentary “Masters of the Martial Arts” (1998), which focused on the foremost cinematic practitioners, including Jackie Chan.
The Long and Mighty Walk is an excellent documentary by the late John Henrik Clark who is a historian.
There are many black writers and producers in UK and worldwide, who are creating their own media, widening the representation of black people across all genres. Today’s technology has afforded us more vehicles to create and promote our own media.
Check out the following online web series’/films/comedies:
The Fade (a documentary)
And there are many more! Search and you shall find!! Naturally, as they increase in their popularity, they will get bigger and better.
We must document and tell our own stories. We cannot rely on anyone but ourselves. Nick Cannon should remember this African proverb. ‘Until the Lion tells its tale, the story will always glorify the hunter.
Look out for more news as we move into the New Year when we will be releasing our own comics and we will be present at London’s Comic Con.
Keep a look out for The Hardwired: Rebel Alliance series and Red Tempo for our younger audience next year!