Posts Tagged ‘Hattie McDaniel’

October 14th was a typical Friday night in Harlem, a little windy but relatively calm until you reached 135th & Lenox.  As we walked by the Schomburg Center for Research In Black Culture  we could smell the food trucks, see the flowing gowns and bowties, but the most intriguing sense was hearing the plethora of voices speaking about the rise of women in Film and TV!  This was the night African Voices hosted the Reel Sisters of the Diaspora Film Festival & Lecture Series event.  Kim Coles, the lively and forever funny mistress of ceremonies, presented Cathy Hughes (Radio One & TV One) with the Reel Sisters Hattie McDaniel Award and Naturi Naughton (from Power) with the Trailblazer Award.  This one event is a part of a two week celebration of women of color in film and media held in various venues throughout New York City.

Before all the awards went out, my associate, Juanita Miller and myself had the opportunity to walk the red carpet and speak with a few of the participants, the award winners, and Carolyn A. Butts, founder of Reel Sisters. Butts was clearly proud of the hard work that her and her team put in to coordinate such a successful event.  “I am very proud of my team for putting this together. This is our way of congratulating these pioneering women for the tremendous roles they play in promoting progress in film and media for women of color!” Butts excitedly stated.

Butts’ gratitude and excitement was contagious as Kim Coles also expressed her feelings towards the event and the progress of women of color in general. When asked if she was excited to host the awards, Coles said “I am honored to be a part of this event, let alone host it, and I am very excited to see Naturi Naughton & Cathy Hughes.  I’ve worked for Cathy for years and can’t wait to see her receive this prestigious award. And Naturi is doing a fantastic job for herself and paving the way for many more to come.”  Coles also mentioned that she is “all about lifting women of color’s voices and an advocate for women. I am also an advocate for men, just not at the expense of women.”  

Phyllis Stickney (The Inkwell & New Jack City actress) talked about her own involvement with uplifting women of color when she discussed her relatively new program designed to assist young women in transition called “Get Wit It.”  The program is filled with workshops to teach young women independence, life skills, and job preparation.  Stickney spoke intensely about the advancement of women of color stating “the support system has changed and we need to give these women an opportunity to have their right of passage!”

On that note, the red carpet was rolled up and we all proceeded to the show.  Kimberly Nichole’s (The Voice) fresh and powerful voice opened up the ceremony. Then Coles vibrantly took the stage and hosted with passion. The audience was very receptive to her boisterous personality and gave an abundant amount of applause when she expressed her view on the progress of women of color in media.  Coles talked about how important it is to stay relative in a world of fast growing technology and for all of us to empower and educate the young women of today.

After a brief video about the history of Hattie McDaniel who had the first black syndicated radio show, Hughes was presented the Hattie McDaniel Award by Kevin John Goff, McDaniel’s great grand-nephew. Hughes although having back pain at the time,  graciously got on stage as the crowd gave her a standing ovation and showed their gratefulness for her hard work.  She spoke eloquently, thanking Reel Sisters for the award and reminded the crowd that hard work does pay off.   She brought to light that her dedication to making it happen was not painless or easy.  Hughes stated, “I remember awhile back I was working day and night on Radio One, I thought I had the first black syndicated radio show and I was so happy!  Then someone told me about Hattie’s. I thought to myself: well then, I will have the first television station!” She gave many accolades to her mother who was “kind and gave everything she could to make someone’s day better ” and how she incorporates that mentality into her work.  Hughes then expressed her gratefulness to the organization for having the ceremony and the importance of women encouraging and helping each other in order to stay progressive.  

Meli’sa Morgan brought down the house with a halftime performance of her hit “Good Love.”  Shortly afterwards, the next announcement was for Naturi Naughton to accept her Trailblazer Award.  From 3LW to being a main character, Tasha on Power, Naughton has fought tooth and nail to make her presence known in the world of music and film. She gracefully took the stage and stood in shock as the crowd rose to give her applause.  In her acceptance speech Naughton mentioned she felt like she “was still blazing the trail” and gave a huge shout out to her parents for believing in her dream.  She represented East Orange, New Jersey giving “thanks to New Hope Union Baptist Church for inspiring her to have this dream and to all the fans making this dream a reality.” Naughton finished with thanking Hughes for opening doors. She added, “who knows if I’d be where I am at right now.”

When all was said and done, Coles wrapped up the ceremony giving thanks to Carolyn Butts, Film Festival Curator Lisa Durden and Council Members Jumaane Williams and Laurie Cumbo for their hard work and dedication to Reel Sisters.  Group photos of everyone involved were taken and then the celebrities took time to take selfies with their fans.  Once everyone dispersed, the attendees took pleasure in taking photos in front of the step and repeat and paid tribute to Reel Sisters for having the event.  As a women of color who is involved in the world of media, attending the ceremony was truly a delightful and eye opening experience.  The amount of support that the men and women have towards the education and empowerment of women of color made the Reel Sisters of the Diaspora Film Festival & Lecture Series Award Ceremony irrefutably necessary. There is no doubt in my mind that the future of Reel Sisters is bright and many women of color will have the opportunities to make their dream a reality because of its efforts.

*Michelle Zattoni is the Director of Public Relations for Lehigh Valley Faces in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

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