Congressman Hank Johnson

Representing the 4th District of Georgia

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Why the Caucus for the Advancement of Studio Talent and Film Diversity is Relevant Today

December 19, 2017
Editorial

Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life – Oscar Wilde 1889

Given the events of Charlottesville and an administration that continues its us-versus-them mentality, what America needs now more than ever is inclusion and celebration of our great diversity.

This summer, I along with two of my colleagues – Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-CA) – formed the Caucus for the Advancement of Studio, Talent (CAST) and Film Diversity, a bipartisan effort that focuses on diversity in the film industry -- in front of and behind the camera.

The caucus is home of debate and dialogue about identifying the context, quality and quantity of the roles available to actors of color. It addresses issues ranging from pay equity issues, carriage of diverse programming, pipeline and roles to directors and producers, financing and entrepreneurship.

In every aspect, diversity of race, faith, sexual orientation, male-female, will be paramount in the discussion, and it is our hope that ideas and potential solutions will develop from the issue discussions and forums.

Times are tough in America right now, racial tensions are boiling over and our country’s relations in the global community are fraying.

CAST provides a way to focus on what makes us American: our diversity. Culture unifies. American culture is an amalgam of race, sexual orientation, religious beliefs. It should be a place where others can feel welcome and invited.

Now more than ever, we should focus on what unifies us not what drives us apart. CAST allows us to focus on these important goals. It also provides an economic pathway for success and economic self-sufficiency.

In 2017, there are still places in this great country where our fellow citizens may never see an African American, Latino, or any other minority. Television and film might be the sole avenue where many Americans meet these communities.

It is imperative that all communities be reflected in film and TV and that it reflects the makeup of America. Even when there are roles for minority communities, they are often portrayed on the fringes of society as pimps, drug dealers, terrorists, womanizers, illegal immigrants, and other negative images. These communities provide so much more to America and actors should be afforded the opportunity to play positive, uplifting roles.

Exposure to positive role portrayal will go a long way in breaking down barriers, fears, and even hatred. Media can provide a means to unwrap our ignorance and begin healing.

Because Atlanta is the Hollywood of the South where many films are produced, it is important that Atlanta play a role in diversifying the film industry.

That’s why I feel my voice is needed.

Culture is the highest expression of our civilization. As a civilized nation, we should celebrate all of our constituents. CAST can provide a means for healing, reconciliation, understanding, exposure, and allow others the chance to be successful and live the American dream.

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