A Panel of Empowerment and Inspiration
When you surround yourself with people that inspire you and encourage you to do great things you have a higher chance of chasing and achieving your dreams. The environment of Denton Black Film Festival's Women in Entertainment panel embodied this sentiment in every way possible. Even before the discussion began the space was full of people exchanging ideas and chattering excitedly.
The panel included people from all areas of the entertainment industry from producing, managing, and even one recording artist. All provided meaningful insight into the nuances of being a person of color in the industry and the unique challenges and opportunities they've had.
CEO of WEEN (Women in Entertainment Empowerment Network) and DBFF National Chair Valeshia Butterfield-Jones gave multiple outstanding pieces of advice that both reminded us of the progress that’s been made for women of color in the industry while highlighting the issues that are still faced by newcomers. Among that advice she also encouraged for us to “Stay ahead of the curve, you have to be in the now and the next” reminding the audience that getting into the industry is only half the battle.
Kerri Navarro (producer and owner of Black Irish Girl Productions) and Ashleigh Smith (Concord Recording artist) also touched on this point but despite the difficulty that each understood is a part of the entertainment industry the conversation was always full of hope. The discussion also managed to never get too serious and when audience members were invited to ask questions there was laughter, banter, and meaningful words of help all rolled into one.
Carina M. Craft (CEO and Founder of Craft Entertainment) and Ward White IV (Entertainment lawyer and CEO of ESQ media) were an excellent addition to the panel and made a lot of great pints on the business side of the industry. “It’s not what you make it’s what you keep” was a line from White that resonated with me personally and I feel like the room as a whole. He discussed the way that in order for people to stay in the industry they have to be educated in all aspects of it. Sybil Wilkes (Co-host of the Tom Joyner Morning Show) acted as a great moderator and asked incredibly pertinent and relevant questions throughout while keeping the atmosphere open and enjoyable.
There was outstanding support from the community, University of North Texas and Texas Woman's University staff, as well as student organizations from both institutions. The panelists discussions revolved a lot around community action and getting involved. The event itself stood as a testament to this as many audience members were directors, producers, and writers involved in a lot of the films showcased in the festival. It was exciting to see this level of involvement from everyone included in the festival and the desire for everyone to grow and learn from one another.
The panel discussion was incredibly informative and the sense of community, the exchanging of ideas that happened after the event was a great learning and networking experience. The biggest takeaway is the incredibly importance of supporting others in your community and field, being there in times of trouble, and celebrating the accomplishments of all.