August 13, 2013

Retrospective on Sonny Skyhawk

I still write an occasional article, including this one:

Sonny Skyhawk: Three Decades of Fighting the Power in HollywoodIn the ’90s, Dances with Wolves and Disney’s Pocahontas made a case for more Native authenticity and participation. Things seemed to be looking up. But a surprising development was about to highlight Hollywood’s resistance to change.

“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.”
Skyhawk's response to my article:I would like to thank Rob Schmidt, and all of those who have helped me through-out the years. Dan Jones, Chief Apesanahkwat, and the sister organizations. Alex Nogales, Jason Gavin, and the countless Native and non-native organizations that have been instrumental in the process of opening doors and enlightening Hollywood and the film & television industry in general. Change is coming, but we as Native people need to be assertive, we need to stand up to the status quo, but most importantly, we need to define ourselves, and not allow someone else or Hollywood to do it. We need to tell our stories ourselves, we need to become Directors, Writers and Actors. Bottom line, WE NEED TO CARE ABOUT THE IMAGE OF THE AMERICAN INDIAN PEOPLE. and how it is presented.Comment:  For more on Sonny Skyhawk, see Skyhawk: Depp Dishonored Indians and What's Wrong with Del Toro and Depp?

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