Sonny Skyhawk: Three Decades of Fighting the Power in Hollywood
“Thirteen years ago,” notes the NAACP on its website, “the television networks unveiled their 1999-2000 fall television season. The lineup of 26 new shows did not feature a single actor of color in a starring or leading role.”
“We said, enough is enough,” says Skyhawk. “You’re gonna have to do something about it.
The coalition members asked network executives to meet with them. They got a response from the human resources departments instead, saying they thought they were doing a good job. Therefore, the networks didn’t feel any need for meetings.
“What happened shortly thereafter,” says Skyhawk, “is we put out another press release, where we talked about boycotting the networks. We used the word ‘boycott’ for the first time. And, boy, everyone listened all of a sudden. It was like black and white.”
The diversity coalition met with the network CEOs and negotiated memorandums of understanding (MOUs). In the following months, he says, “they actually hired senior vice president positions for each network. And that’s one of the things that we asked for.
“By holding them accountable, they now have full-blown diversity departments,” he adds. “When you go into their offices today, you see a variety of different ethnicities at work. I would venture to say it went literally from all white to black, brown, yellow and a smattering of Natives.”