In this month's installment of The Tikisa Series, we hold a powerful conversation with one of Hollywood's newest names, Makiah Green. Makiah, a recent graduate from USC's Master in Professional Writing program and one of the newest creatives at Charles King's Macro Ventures, is already making her mark in the entertainment industry.
In this interview, Makiah discusses the climate of Hollywood, its issues with diversity, the #BlackLivesMatter movement and its influence on her ambitions to change the face of Hollywood. Check it out below:
...What is the current climate in Hollywood?
We’re living in a very interesting and contradictory time. In the same year where we have more Black people on TV than we’ve seen in decades, major Hollywood publications are still publishing covers full of white women (and justifying it).
Due to the success of Empire, Straight Outta Compton, and a host of other minority-driven projects, diversity has become a buzzword in Hollywood. Not because it is reflective of the world we live in, but because executives have deemed it beneficial for business.
So while it may seem that this is the golden age for minorities in Hollywood, we are still operating in a system that is largely dominated by white men. Although we are being invited into the room more frequently, once we’re in the room, we still have to pitch to white executives and appeal to white audiences in order to sell our content.
Until we are able to obtain real power (i.e. senior executive positions at studios and networks) and financial resources to create our own studios, we are simply benefiting from a marketing scheme disguised as “diversity.” We saw a very similar push for Black content in the 1990s, but as soon as networks, namely FOX, managed to turn their ratings around, they ditched the folks who made it all possible—Black people. It’s never been about a genuine commitment to diversity. In Hollywood, it’s always about the bottom dollar.
...What factors play a role in preventing Hollywood from becoming more diverse?
When you consider how Hollywood was formed, it’s no surprise that, in 2014, 73% of characters in the top 100 films were white. Hollywood is simply a microcosm of America, and so we must consult history in search of solutions.
I am a firm believer in affirmative action and believe that the conditions in Hollywood will not permanently improve unless certain changes are mandated. In addition to diversity programs and initiatives, we need to cement clear pathways for people of color to secure positions of power. For example, I would love to see a program that replaced white male studio executives with women of color. Most people in the industry would probably deem that as too radical, but a radical shift is precisely what Hollywood needs right now.
...What role does the Internet play in leveling the playing field for Black & Brown people to participate in cinema and media?
The internet is everything! Without it, we wouldn’t have Awkward Black Girl, Black&Sexy TV, Broad City, or Orange Is the New Black. Not to mention the millions of shows and online channels that are being created as we speak. The internet truly is our ticket out. But it’s important that we don’t only view it as a gateway to mainstream media.We now have the power and the resources to create our own infrastructures and revenue streams. In a few years, we won’t have to rely on mainstream media outlets for breaking news and creative content. We’ll be relying solely on each other, which is scary, but powerful!
...Do you believe that your advocacy in Hollywood is a form of social justice?
Absolutely. My Hollywood ambitions are 100% rooted in the movement for Black lives. I recognize the way that media shapes public thought and perception, and I have made it my mission to contribute to that narrative in the best ways that I can. If I ever reach a point where I feel like my time and energy is better spent within a different branch of the movement, I will make the necessary adjustments. But no matter what industry I find myself in, Black liberation is the ultimate goal.
...Can you explain the ways in which your passion for social justice and Hollywood intersect?
Similar to how I will not be at peace until my people aren’t being killed by the police every 21 hours, I will not rest until I’m able to turn on the television and see a range of fully developed characters of color on every channel and in every movie theater. Our children deserve that. We deserve that.
...How do you disrupt Hollywood?
I disrupt Hollywood by prioritizing Black lives over profit. In reviewing scripts and discussing potential projects, I am always considering whether the content is working for or against us. I always ask myself: Is this advancing our narrative or is it reinforcing destructive tropes and stereotypes? To me, a review isn’t complete unless it considers the social implications of a particular project.
...As a Black millennial, what are your feelings about the movement for Black Lives and its depictions on film and screen?
Young people are reclaiming what is rightfully theirs and I am absolutely here for it. Mainstream media has never treated us or our stories with the respect that we deserve. The difference now is that we have the tools to correct them. With social media on our side, literally anything is possible and it’s been beautiful to watch my generation mobilize so effectively. We are leading and sustaining national conversations on race in America. That is a huge deal.
...What does #BlackLivesMatter mean to you?
Black Lives Matter is a declaration of our individual and collective humanity. From the inception of this country, Black people have been deemed as less than human, somehow deserving of our own demise. The phrase “Black Lives Matter” counters that deeply racist logic. And though dismantling centuries of white supremacy is a lofty goal, I believe that we will win. We’re already winning just by being here.
Ase! We salute you and wish you nothing the best. #Tikisa
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The Tikisa series is TyreeBP.com's monthly highlight of Black millennials who creatively use their talents to upset the status qou. They do so byways of political activism, advocacy in media, and performance arts to bring about social change across the country!