February 20, 2006 (Los Angeles) --- Commemorating Black History Month, Screen Actors Guild and U.S. Representative Diane E. Watson (D-Los Angeles), chair of the Congressional Entertainment Caucus, today joined together to host a reception at Guild Headquarters in Hollywood celebrating the many contributions African-American performers have made to the entertainment industry.
Representing the Guild were 1st National Vice President Anne-Marie Johnson and Sumi Haru, chair of the Guild’s Ethnic Employment Opportunity Committee. Together with Congresswoman Watson and Calif. State Assemblyman Mark Ridley-Thomas (D-Los Angeles), they welcomed more than 100 Guild members and other guests. The event comes a month after the Guild took part in the U.S. Postal Service's dedication of a new stamp honoring Oscar-winner Hattie McDaniel (Gone with the Wind) as part of its Black Heritage series and just weeks after Guild members selected the multi-ethnic film Crash as the recipient of the SAG Award for "Best Ensemble."
"In celebration of Black History Month, I am honored to participate in Screen Actors Guild's tribute to the contributions of blacks in the entertainment industry,” Watson said. “From the early days of filmmaking until the present, blacks have played a significant role, both in front of and behind the camera."
Serving as reminders of the Guild’s rich and diverse history, the James Cagney Boardroom was decorated on Monday with pictures of such SAG Award recipients as Jamie Foxx, Halle Berry, Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman, as well as past SAG Life Achievement Award honorees Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee and Sydney Pottier.
"It is always important to take a step back and re-assess where we have been, where we are, and where we are going as Americans,” 1st National Vice President Johnson said. “And for African-Americans, with our varied experience, challenges and triumphs, it is especially important to take a moment to reflect and to plan. I hope we stay on the right path of improving opportunities for artists of color. I especially want to thank Congresswoman Diane Watson for her continued support of the entertainment industry and the hard work it takes to ensure that the true American Scene is depicted in all areas of the entertainment industry."
Haru, chair of the Guild’s Ethnic Employment Opportunity Committee, said: "The achievements and contributions by African-Americans to the entertainment industry are never given enough acknowledgement, and today was a chance for us to salute them. But for Screen Actors Guild, this was not only one day out of the year. This is a constant mission for us. African-American performers are a vital part of the Guild membership and should be seen in every form of Guild work in proportions that represent their presence in the American population."
Part of Screen Actors Guild’s effort to ensure a true depiction of the American Scene occurs every day inside the Guild’s Affirmative Action/Diversity Department-headed by National Director Angel Rivera, who also attended the event. Along with maintaining a database designed exclusively for actors of color, the department continues to host groundbreaking casting workshops with network producers as well as progressive seminars with key decision makers within the industry.