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Preview: Big Talk on Race, Gender and Hollywood

Courtesy of the Jack J. Valenti School of Communication

Next Monday’s Big Talk on Race, Gender and Hollywood will feature presentations examining race and the film industry from the writers of Empire, the award-winning TV show, JaSheika James and JaNeika James, with assistant professor of African American and Afro-Carribean literature from the University of Texas at Austin, Kinitra Brooks.

Big Talk will be hosted by the Jack J. Valenti School of Communication. Topics of conversation include the lack of minority and female writers in Hollywood, black women as content creators, the visibility of people of color and Beyonce’s recent album, Lemonade, which Brooks teaches a course on at UT.

“It is hard for students, and in particular students of color and female students, to picture themselves as successful in Hollywood or in the creative industry,” said Temple Northup, associate professor and director of Valenti. “The reality is it’s a field dominated by white men. So I really think it’s important to bring people to campus who reflect the diversity of our student body to show all of our students that literally anyone can make it, and there are people there who are fantastic role models.”

In addition to their work on Empire, JaNeika and JaSheika James worked on hit series including Desperate Housewives, Dexter and Revenge. Brooks has an upcoming publication examining black female horror writers.

“Regardless of what kind of media we’re talking about, really thinking about it critically is a good skill to develop, and these three are all experts on that,” said Northup. “I hope students will walk away with a different perspective of the creative process and what goes into making what they see.”

With Big Talk series, Valenti aims to address important topics going on in the country, paying special focus to ones that stand to impact students. Fall 2016 was the first semester to feature Big Talk.

In an article recapping the first series, Valenti’s Communication Manager LaRahia Smith said the inspiration came from helpful discussions following events such as the Orlando club shooting.

“Having that conversation with students and faculty made me realize that in being silent and not actively encouraging these types of conversations, the Valenti School of Communication would be doing a disservice to the members of our school,” Smith said. “There seemed to be a hunger to participate in these types of open discussions.”

The event is open to the public and will take place from 12-1:30 p.m. in the UH Student Center Theater.

“I think this discussion is very important to the students of Valenti, because these are things that we as students may go into,” said UH alum Malcolm Farrell, who will be moderating the discussion. “Race right now is definitely a big topic in this country, and it shows just because people are celebrities and have shows doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen on those terms as well.”

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