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A few weeks have passed since the REVOLT Summit hit the black Mecca — Atlanta — by storm. During the three-day event, loads of valuable information was given by awesome panelists for the next generation of creators, musicians, and eventual moguls to succeed. One panel in particular, “AT&T Presents Black Hollywood,” certainly took us to church with the outstanding advice that it shared for achieving certain goals within Black Hollywood.
The panel included CEO of Monami Entertainment and entrepreneur, Mona Scott-Young; executive producer of “Surviving R. Kelly,” Tamra Simmons; actors Nafessa Williams and Marvin Jones III of CW’s “Black Lightning,” and actor/singer/songwriter Mack Wilds. Attorney Eboni Williams, who is also the newest host of “State of the Culture,” moderated the panel.
In recent years, Atlanta has been deemed “Black Hollywood” because of its inclusion and cultivation of black creatives in the entertainment industry. Scott-Young began the conversation with a historical preface recognizing how far the city has come from its humble beginnings. “People from all over the country were coming and forming communities. Once TV executives saw what was occurring, it became the place — more than any place else — for black people to come to. Black content creators, actors, directors, and musicians came to create.”
As the evening progressed, Eboni positively highlighted Nafessa as a history maker. Her character “Thunder” is the first black lesbian superhero on TV. The actress spoke on her appreciation for the role and the ability to play such a “unapologetic character.” She thanked the creators and writing staff for being able to portray a character many don’t get to see on prime-time TV. ”As a black woman in Hollywood, there are times we feel underrepresented. To be that in this time and to fill those voids with this TV show — like you said our TV show is the first of many to do this — it’s to pass the baton and be able to do this for many generations to come,” Nafessa expressed. Additionally, she spoke on the necessity to “fill gaps and voids,” where stigmas and skepticism may have existed within the industry, allowing for more LGBTQ characters to exist in Hollywood.
Wilds continued the panel by discussing a life-changing moment that started with added confidence in pursing his dreams. From his time on HBO’s “The Wire” as a child actor, Wilds dreamed of adding music to his budding career. It wasn’t until after his fourth season on “90210” that he fully committed to music. Starting out with ghostwriting and jumping from different music sessions with his favorite artists, he was inspired to take this part in his career, seriously. In his moment of realization, it was a conversation with JAY-Z that truly helped him leap. “Do you love it?” Hov asked. “Of course, I love it,” Wilds responded to him. Hov continued: “Then what’s stopping you? You can’t let people project their own fears onto you. What’s the worst that can happen?” Wilds continued discussing that in strengthening his skills, he strengthened his career, as well. “In my entire career, this is the first year I’ve taken acting classes because I really want to learn more about the craft,” he added.
Scott-Young would chime in and agree with the star, stating that by practicing your craft, it leaves no room for “skepticism about your legitimacy.” Wilds even admitted that among peers in the industry, his switch between acting and singing would raise judgement.
Shortly after, Jones chimed in and also agreed that he’s had to empathize on both sides as an actor and musician. He explained “having to feel like I have to prove myself even ten times more as an actor.” Additionally, he added, “Art is art and creativity is creativity, and we use those same energies and same frequencies in both. We have to keep ourselves centered with a creativity mind.” As Jones discussed his journey as an albino man in entertainment, he focused on the importance of having a faith based relationship to keep you grounded.
“Focus on your individual power and notice it’s a vertical relationship, and responsibility between you and the Father God or whoever your God is,“ he added.
Next up to discuss the rise of their career was Simmons. She discusses her need to get the show out to the public because many accusations and court cases kept occurring with the R&B artist. Simmons also discussed the lack of black women visibility in the Me Too Movement and wanting to create a platform for our voices to be heard. “I knew that it was important to create a platform for this because it continued to happen in 2008 and then in 2017. What can I do as a creator to provide a platform and allow these women to share their stories?” Simmons expressed.
As the panel began to wrap up, Eboni asked each panelist to leave words of advice for the audience. Check out the top quotes from each of them below:
“Don’t take no for an answer, never give up.” - Tamra Simmons
“We have two voices we listen to: The voice in our head and the voice of God. Start to know the difference between the voice in your head and the voice of God.” - Marvin Jones III
“Stay Persistent. It sounds so cliche and the same thing all our parents would say. Stay persistent because enough water droplets can go through steel. Understand [that] if you keep it in the same place and it’s persistent enough, it will go through steel.” - Mack Wilds
“Find out your God given purpose. If God blessed you with dream and vision, he’s already made a way for it to be manifested. Surround yourself with like-minded [people], so they can sharpen your instruments.” - Nafessa Williams
“Quantify your worth, and make sure all the work and effort you’ve put into being the best at what it is you want to do, you are fairly and equitably compensated for that because in life, we do not get what we deserve. We get what we negotiate.” - Mona Scott-Young
Moderator Eboni shared some gems, as well:
“Not taking no for an answer, I need just one yes. The singular yes is a whole game changer.” - Eboni K. Williams
“Not one of us is above the process. I’ve spent wasted energy fighting the process thinking all my gifts, credentials would put me on the right track. Embrace the process, buckle up, let the no’s bounce off like teflon.” - Eboni K. Williams