Last week in Los Angeles, the Writers Guild West hosted a panel discussion on homophobia in black Hollywood and the state of black gay imagery in entertainment. "Flipping The Script: Beyond Homophobia in Black Hollywood" was moderated by actress, singer and HIV/AIDS activist Sheryl Lee Ralph to a standing room only crowd. The panel was a who's who of black gay directors and producers: Emmy winning producer-director Paris Barclay, Maurice Jamal (Dirty Laundry), Quincy LeNear and Deondray Gossett (The DL Chronicles), writers Demetrius Bady and Jasmine Love, Tim McNeal (VP of Talent Development and Diversity/Disney) and actor Wilson Cruz.. GLAAD's Tajamika Paxton was also on hand.
The discussion apparently went better than expected. "Often in Hollywood, its difficult to get sizeable crowds for events that deal with controversial topics," Maurice Jamal tells Rod 2.0. "And Black homophobia certainly fits that category. But there were people spilled over into the aisles, sitting on the floor, listening in the hallway and lobby. I think people recognize that is time for a paradigm shift."
The two-hour discussion started a conversation on homophobia on screen and off-screen, as well as offered reasons why it's never discussed in black Hollywood. Deondray Gosseett tells Rod 2.0 that black LGBTs should adopt the Tyler Perry model: Do it yourself. "We've cowered from this topic way too long in the hopes of not rocking the boat and maintaining our ability to secure employment," Gossett tells R20. "So it's time for a shift, where we wouldn't have to worry about losing opportunity solely based on sexual orientation."
The panel noted out black lesbian comedienne Wanda Sykes has her own talk show and Nelsan Ellis' 'Lafayette Reynolds' is one of the central characters in True Blood. OTOH: Logo unceremoniously canceled Noah's Arc, television's first black gay specific television show. And a similar story at here!, which dropped the critically-acclaimed DL Chronicles without little explanation.
And on the lack of black LGBT characters on the screen and even fewer black-LGBT specific projects, Jamal says it's absurd "to say that white Americans can elect a Black man to the presidency" but Blacks in Hollywood don't support other Blacks based on sexuality. "That's bullsh_t," Jamal tells Rod 2.0. "It's cowardice to say its all about money. There are far too many examples of queer media, roles and images that are successful across the board." Jamal adds: "I have far more respect for someone who doesn't greenlight a project because they just don't like gays, than to hide their prejudice behind other excuses."
Mediaweek's Alan Frutkin spoke with several of the panelists after the discussion. Watch the interviews AFTER THE JUMP ...