A group of state legislators representing the California Legislative Black Caucus are calling on film studios to meet with them regarding the sudden removal of Black female executives over the past few weeks.
A mass exodus of Black women from senior leadership posts — Vernā Myers (Netflix), LaTondra Newton (Disney), Jeanell English (Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) and Karen Horne and Terra Potts (Warner Bros. Discovery) — has raised questions about the depth of the film and television industry’s commitment to diversifying the top ranks of the entertainment industry.
The CLBC held a press conference on Thursday, citing the executives’ resignations and removals after the State Legislature approved the $1.6 billion Film Tax Credit initiative to provide tax incentives for the film studios.
“One executive removal could be a fluke,” said Senator Lola Smallwood-Cuevas during the press conference. “But four more? And we’re hearing more are to come. This is a troubling pattern. A pattern that suggests diversity, equity and inclusion is no longer a priority at the highest levels of the film industry, where decisions are made and institutional change happens.”
The legislators who spoke at the press conference were Assemblymember Mike Gipson (D-Carson), Senator Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach), Assemblymember Ash Kalra (D-San Jose), Assemblymember Tina McKinnor (D-Inglewood), Senator Dave Min (D-Orange County), Assemblymember Luz Rivas (D-San Fernando Valley), Senator Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), Senator Lola Smallwood-Cuevas (D-Los Angeles), and Assemblymember Phil Tin (D-San Francisco).
“As Vice Chair of the Asian and Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus, I am proud to stand in solidarity with my colleagues in the California Legislative Black Caucus to denounce the recent dismissals of leading African Americans in the entertainment industry,” said Senator Min. “At a time when too many marginalized communities are feeling under attack in our country, Hollywood is sending the wrong message — that responding to craven political attacks is more important than fairness or actual results.”
Across the industry, precious few Black executives hold C-suite positions. Among them are Pearlena Igbokwe, chairman of Universal Studio Group; Channing Dungey, chairman and CEO of WBTV and Nicole Brown, president of TriStar Pictures. Multiple industry sources tell Variety that more BIPOC executives are expected to join them in the coming weeks, especially in the aftermath of the SAG-AFTRA strikes that began on Thursday.