Screen Actors Guild Commemorates Black History Month with Celebrations of African-American Actors in Los Angeles and New York

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Screen Actors Guild Commemorates Black History Month with Celebrations of African-American Actors in Los Angeles and New York

Los Angeles (February 23, 2011) — In commemoration of Black History Month, Screen Actors Guild National Ethnic Employment Opportunities Committee and SAG Affirmative Action & Diversity will present events today in Los Angeles and New York celebrating the history and accomplishments of African Americans in film and television.

"It's important to learn from actors whose journeys have paved the way for all performers of diverse racial and cultural backgrounds," said Vivicca Whitsett, co-chair of the SAG National EEO Committee. "We are honored to highlight the challenges we have overcome and the ones that lie ahead so that we may insure opportunities for the future of all performers of color."

"At this critical juncture for the American labor movement, it is paramount that the vastness of the real American scene be represented on screen," added Bertila Damas, co-chair of the SAG National EEO Committee. "We hope these national events will inspire Screen Actors Guild members toward new and bold actions that will forward their careers and enhance their experience as artists."

“It has been a long and often difficult journey for African-American performers throughout the history of this industry. In many ways, they now have more opportunity than ever before, but there is still much more to accomplish," said SAG National Executive Director David White. "Black History Month is a time to reflect on the achievements of the trailblazers of yesterday, honor the efforts of today’s African-American actors and prepare for tomorrow’s challenges.”

In Los Angeles, the event, titled "The Black Hollywood Experience: Our History…Our Future," will be moderated by Emmy® winner Wayne Brady (Let’s Make A Deal) and feature panelists Oscar™ nominees Don Cheadle (Iron Man 2, Crash, Hotel Rwanda), John Singleton (Four Brothers, Boyz in the Hood, Shaft), Taraji P. Henson (The Karate Kid, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), Emmy® nominee Marla Gibbs (The Jeffersons, The Hughleys, 227) and casting director Chemin Silvia Bernard, CSA (Fat Albert, Moesha, Martin, Just Jordan). Held at Screen Actors Guild National Headquarters, the event will begin with a performance of the song “Lift Every Voice and Sing” (often referred to as "The Black National Anthem") by Grammy winner Dawnn Lewis (Dreamgirls, A Different World, One Tree Hill, The Secret Life of an American Teenager).

At the New York Screen Actors Guild office, "African Americans On-Screen: Our History…Our Future" will be moderated by actor/writer Nancy Giles and feature a panel including Mike Hodge (SAG New York Division president; Law & Order; upcoming Arthur), filmmaker and Internet producer  Warrington Hudlin, Ellyn Long Marshall (co-founder, Orpheus Group Casting) and Sharon Washington (SAG New York Division EEO Committee chair; Michael Clayton). The evening will begin with a screening of the still-in-progress documentary Oscar’s Comeback, about the legendary filmmaker Oscar Micheaux.

At both events, the prestigious group of panelists will reflect upon the history of African-American images on the screen and address their own career-building stories and strategies.

About SAG
Screen Actors Guild is the nation's largest labor union representing working actors. Established in 1933, SAG has a rich history in the American labor movement, from standing up to studios to break long-term engagement contracts in the 1940s to fighting for artists' rights amid the digital revolution sweeping the entertainment industry in the 21st century. With 20 Branches nationwide, SAG represents more than 125,000 actors who work in film and digital motion pictures and television programs, commercials, video games, industrials, Internet and all new media formats. The Guild exists to enhance actors' working conditions, compensation and benefits and to be a powerful, unified voice on behalf of artists' rights. SAG is a proud affiliate of the AFL-CIO. Headquartered in Los Angeles, you can visit SAG online at

Contact: Pamela Greenwalt                         
SAG, Communications Executive Director
(323) 440-2892