LOS ANGELES (September 30, 2009)—Newly minted Screen Actors Guild National President Ken Howard made his first public appearance in his official capacity Monday night. The event was a SAG American Indian membership caucus hosted by SAG National President’s Task Force on American Indians, and SAG Affirmative Action & Diversity.
Howard’s remarks demonstrated his strong, personal commitment to diversity within the entertainment industry, which also has been an ongoing historical mission of Screen Actors Guild.
“We all know the media does not accurately reflect the full range of the American Scene,” Howard said. "And we all know we have not reached our goals for diverse portrayals or diverse casting.”
The president’s appearance served as a commencement of a wide variety of programs and initiatives honoring Screen Actors Guild’s Diversity Awareness Month in October. (Click here for a complete calendar of events.)
“By pulling together we can achieve a greater awareness and commitment to fair employment practices on the part of industry decision-makers and ultimately we will see expanded casting and hiring,” Howard told members.
But he noted that making strides is never easy.
From left to right: Jaisey Bates, Vice-Chair, DeLanna Studi, National Chair, Ken Howard and Brian Wescott, Membership Caucus Subcommittee Chair
Howard related his own experiences in pitching The White Shadow to network television in the 1970s. The story chronicled the efforts of a white high school basketball coach working with a predominantly African American inner-city team. While the show was ultimately produced, achieving critical acclaim and syndication, there were initial concerns that audiences might not respond to a drama featuring so many non-Caucasian actors in major roles.
While views on diversity have evolved, there is more work to do and Screen Actors Guild members can help change attitudes, Howard said.
The audience, which included about a half dozen Writers Guild of America, West cardholders, also were empowered by a screening of a segment from the PBS miniseries We Shall Remain and subsequent panel discussion with casting director Rene Haynes, actor Russell Means, actor Tonantzin Carmelo, President’s National Task Force Chair Delanna Studi and SAG Affirmative Action Diversity National Director Rebecca Yee.
For more information about upcoming Diversity and Affirmative Action Events, check the Diversity page of SAG.org, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with questions.