Martin Luther King Jr. once said, ”In a multiracial society, no group can make it alone.” Two weeks ago, as testament to those words, more than 6,000 journalists descended upon Dr. King’s hometown of Atlanta for Unity ‘94, the first joint conference of the National Association of Black Journalists, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, the Asian American Journalists Association, and the Native American Journalists Association. For five days, convention-goers talked, argued, and educated each other about the need for a greater diversity of voices in the news media.
Entertainment Weekly was among the hundreds of news organizations represented. We also sponsored a workshop entitled ”Cultural Sensitivity: Who Needs It When Covering the Arts?,” organized by EW senior editor Jeannie Park and moderated by Wendy Hanamura, a reporter for San Francisco’s KPIX-TV. Four panelists — movie critic Gene Siskel, director-writer-actor Keenen Ivory Wayans, filmmaker Rose Troche, and Village Voice features editor Lisa Kennedy — engaged the crowd of 350 in a discussion of the role of ethnicity and culture in arts criticism and reporting.
At times the exchanges became quite pointed. When Siskel tried to praise Troche for Go Fish, her groundbreaking romantic comedy about lesbians, by saying, ”The most important thing is that it exists,” Troche bristled. ”I’m tired of being marginalized,” she said. ”You’re saying, ‘You made it this far and that’s good enough.’ ” Wayans picked up this thread of differing standards for minority entertainers. ”White artists are allowed to speak as individuals, not as representatives of their race,” said Wayans. ”I went from being a comedian to being the president of the black race overnight.”
Ultimately, the panelists agreed there were no easy solutions, but that workshops like this one were an admirable start. ”Do we want to be color-blind?” said Kennedy. ”No, we’re looking for complexity. And it’s going to be a bumpy road.”
We at EW trust that it’s a road we can all take together.
Michael J. Klingensmith, Publisher