Harry Belafonte, Tatyana Ali Speak Up on Negative Black Imagery in Hollywood

by Ayvaunn Penn, Your Black World

Harry Belafonte, the famed entertainer who is now 84, is concerned about the image of black America in Hollywood films, and he says the industry will “never ever yield to the needs of people of color.” He made these comments on the artists and activism panel at the 102nd annual NAACP Convention that ended yesterday. The Associated Press reports:

“Actor Louis Gossett Jr., actress-singer Tatyana Ali, actor-authorHill Harper and members of the Black Stuntmen’s Association appeared alongside Belafonte at the panel discussion. He urged theNAACP to form a group of artists and thinkers to inspire the kind of ‘radical thought’ necessary for change, and he called on black actors and filmmakers to ‘come together and create some institutional base that’s ours.’”

Belafonte proceeded to share, “It seems to me that long ago we could have put together black studios, put together a black distribution center. Maybe we couldn’t reach 100 million, but we could reach 100,000, and have 100,000 exposed to a great truth. I’d rather have that than 100 million exposed to something vacuous and inaccurate.” He says that part of the reason the image of blacks in Hollywood is distorted is because too many people of our people are chasing big bucks. Ali added to this stating that it is often hard for her to find roles that she would be proud to play as an African-American woman — that many roles portraying black women are so limited in scope. The 32-year-old actress specifically states, “The archetypes for black women, specifically, have not fully been explored.” TheAssociated Press reports that although Belafonte “was the most outspoken of the panelists, the other actors agreed that black artists and consumers are responsible for changing the way the entertainment industry represents people of color. ” They also said that activism and education are vital in making progress on this matter in Hollywood.

Ayvaunn Penn is the founder of Your Black Poets and an award winning writer completing her degree in English and philosophy. To inquire about her freelance editing services, click here. To like Ayvaunn on Facebook, click here.


  • Anonymous

    Good article.  However, nothing is going to change.  Movies and television is nothing but trash for black and  white audiences and the actors are just doing what appeals to the  audiences who watch these shows and go to to movies to see this trash.  Personally, I cannot tell you the last time I have been to a movie and really really enjoyed what I watched.  I just do not watch this stuff and if more people would stop supporting these movies and television shows then perhaps then these producers and writers would get the message.


    • Mr. Time

      “if more people would stop supporting these movies and television shows then perhaps then these producers and writers would get the message.”

      I am in agreement.  One of the most powerful weapons that has been shown to produce change is boycott.  It was the boycotting of public buses, under the leadership of Dr. Martin Luthe King Jr. that caused the bus companies to change their view of having black folks sit at the back of the bus.  Let’s think about this.  Though Black people needed to use the bus to transport them to work, they instead CHOSE to walk miles and miles everyday to make sure change would happen.  They chose to endure hurt feet and tired bodies, yet still having to work when they reached their place of business.  The bus companies probably felt that the boycott would only last for about a few days because after all, “who would want to walk 5 to 10 miles to work when they can simply use the bus, when all that is required is that they sit at the back of the bus?”  these strong men and women did not give into temptation, but stuck to their conviction, again, to make sure that change would take place, and even saved loads of money as well.  Soon it became apparent that the bus companies were losing money, which entail showed and proved that a large chunck of their revenue was coming from the black communities, whom they hated (a clear sign that hypocrisy just does not work).  Thus they gave into the demands that they (the black community) desired.  This was under the leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who was also a Baptist Minister and Preacher of the Word/Gospel of Jesus Christ (God).

      Now if these strong black men and women endured weeks and weeks of hurt feet and tired bodies by walking miles and miles and miles to work, why can’t black folks today simply endure not watching the programs that depict black america as imbeciles, as loud, as promiscuous, as criminals, as not even existing, etc.?  Their bodies were hurting; what it is going to hurt not watching certain programs? 

      • Rayhe29

        Amen Mr. Time. I am so with u. Their are so many shows I don’t watch because of the nonsense. They do not get my ratings.

  • Mr. Time

    Also, if I may say this…is Tayana Ali being honest?  Wasn’t her show, “Love That Girl,” the same type of show that this article is against?  Isn’t it still on the air?  Wasn’t that her show?  It had her fitting the stereotype of black women wearing tight clothing, and always revealing their body, while her brother was fitting the stereotype of black men being promiscuous, and buffoons with no sense of responsibility.

    • WizardG

      @b29c2cc7680d7bec9dc3ac3c2817097c:disqus We are caught between a rock and a hard place with many of our people unable to comprehend the depth of our predicament and all of the twists and turns in which we are entangled. It appears that we all see things in so many different ways. We can be turned against each other as easily as flipping a light switch and the Anglo-elite know every trick in the book. They wrote the book. They accuse us of things like playing “The Race Card” when they invented the cards and the game.
      You mentioned Tayana Ali in her show. She may have some inkling of what’s going on but just like most of us, she cannot see the whole thing. Few can see the big picture and few can understand everything that is linked together to keep us all in the same boat while keeping us divided at the same time.

      This elaborate structure the Euro-Americans have created is kept in perfect working order with them constantly making adjustments as they go along. Most of us cannot get out from under something we cannot comprehend. We are so entangled in this ‘Americanized’ web that we are stuck on stupid and blinded by the glare of hope and ignorance.

  • WizardG

    Harry Belafonte is a very brave social activist. I can compare him to the great Paul Robeson, and today’s Danny Glover. He is very intelligent and very proactive and outspoken about our treatment in this country. He is the opposite of Bill Cosby. He understands that we are still being heavily persecuted in many ways. The Anglo-Elite/Jewish owned media is using our people to represent us in negative ways and in many cases to help distort our image in the eyes of anyone and everyone who watches the media.
    It won’t help us to ignore the media because people around the world are watching the movies, and other media venues as a learning / entertainment tool.

    What is being done to the African-American ‘black’ character in the media is mostly negative and on purpose! What is worse is that most of us do not properly interpret what is being shown to us on TV etc. If we are able to recognize the negative and demeaning traits that the elite intend to exploit through media we can at least fix our minds to correct the psychological brainwashing applied consciously and unconsciously. The situation is so bad that those of us who are unable to see or interpret the ‘crap’ clearly, are subject to use it against ourselves.
    When we watched the tragedy of hurricane Katrina unfold in New Orleans the media immediately showed the ‘blacks’ trying to carry away a flat screen or some other items and just as quickly people were damning those ‘blacks’, but when the media finally showed some whites taking things it was portrayed and thought of as something less damning.
    I heard some black people angrily attacking the black people the media portrayed as thieves, before they could understand the enormity of suffering and great losses blacks suffered there.

    We would be wise to find some way to unify our people and get everyone on the same page as to our state of affairs in this country, but as I’ve said before the Anglo-Elite are going to great lengths to not only keep us scatterbrained and divided, but to paint us as vile undeserving, unintelligent scoundrels every chance they get. They will do everything in their power to keep us in a bad place. They have thus far managed to kill or destroy all of our powerful leadership and they are continuing to make us suffer in ways many cannot comprehend and some neither care to comprehend. 

    Just try to unify the black people in this country and watch how quickly the Anglo-Elite flip the script to created division and havoc! They wouldn’t hesitate to dump greater amounts of drugs into our neighborhoods if they thought it would affect our chances of unification.

    The bottom line is we’re screwed! Our ancestors were screwed and we are kept in a position of ignorance and constant abusive screwing.

    • black_dynamite

      I can’t stand by and let you trash Bill Cosby like this. The message Mr. Cosby is delivering needs to be heard. The truth will set you free.

      • David2001

        @ black_dynamite. Then Bill should have told the truth about allegedly drugging, sexually assaulting and then paying off 13 white women. Not to mention his serial cheating and fathering a child out of wedlock old hypocritical Bill was preaching a lifestyle he never lived himself.  Anyone with common sense would agree with a message of personal responsibility. But what Bill was doing was saving his own azz by bashing the poor in a way to appease whites.
        The white media rewarded Cosby for sounding like a black self hating bigot by not asking any more question about his own bad behavior. Bill Cosby was in the middle of  sex scandal when he went around the county supposedly calling out black people. He had no credibility. Cosby in his rants spoke more to white racist America than to poor blacks.

        • black_dynamite

          Hmmmm……….very interesting. I knew Mr. Cosby had fathered a child out of wedlock and I had heard that he was accused of some hanky panky; but then that kind of went away.

          I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop; but it never did. I will do a little research. Maybe you can point me to some sites.

          Dr. Frances Welsing–who I geatly respect–has the same opinion of Mr. Cosby as you. I am open to changing my opinion on Bill.

          However, he truly seems to be heartbroken (as am I) about how far we have regressed. If that gives comfort to the enemy, it should because it is a damn shame and we are the laughing stock of the whole world and are about to be exterminated because the image we present to the world is of a pitiful people who cannot take care of their own and are using up valuable resources.

          • David2001

            You say that black people are the laughing stock of the whole world. Frankly black people have never comanded any respect from the white masses. Especially white Americans who came to this country as pathatic cowardly immigrants. But they knew once they steped foot on American soil they were better than us. Not because of any bad behavior on our part but due to racium. These are the people Cosby spoke to. Bill Cosby in many ways did exactly what he was calling out the black poor of doing..not having any respect for themselves or their race. 

             “the image we present to the world is of a pitiful people who cannot take care of their own and are using up valuable resources”……….
            “we are the laughing stock of the whole world and are about to be exterminated” Really? I’m not accquainted with the entire world population and I highly doubt you are either.  Sounds like the same sweeping bigoted generalizations Cosby makes. But I will say 
            that many opressed people around the world credit the black American civil rights movement as the blueprint for overcoming all forms of oppression.As far as any lack of respect from whites in America, no matter what we accomplish they will never have any respect for us due to their own racism. Whites have shown with their open contempt of the first black president that black peoples accomplishments or lack of have nothing to do with their low view of us as a people.  President Obama and the first family is neither poor, pitiful or using up valuable resources but they command little respect in America. But Bill Cosby who’s bad behavior and possible criminal acts (sexually abusing women) they will turn a blind eye to. Many whites and some bigoted blacks show respect for him because he will reinforce every racist stereotype of the black poor.I don’t know if you are black or white but either way you seem to have a low opinion of black Americans. When you to make such statements as black people “using up valuable resources”. That sounds like something the Klan (or teabbagers) would say and probably have. Who exactly are black people using up valuable resources from??? And FYI WHITES use up most of the valuable resources NOT blacks. You pretty much proved my point that all Cosby did was fuel the worst kind of bigotry and hatred of the black poor.

          • black_dynamite

            I am black; and I travel regularly outside of the United States. You ought to do it sometimes.

            Better yet, check out what the enemy is saying about black people on sites like chimpout dot com or even mainstream sites like yahoo.

            Better yet, go back to school and stop trying to put words into my mouth.

            Obama is selling us out. The only reason we have a black president is so he can take the blame for the downfall of the world economy and he is going to be reelected so he can preside over the takeover of Africa.

            I am not trying to win an argument with you. The white supremacists will make a believer out of you. I am just on here trying to give a wake up call to the few black people who are capable of independent thought.

            Yes, white people are the cause of all the problems in the world; but if we handle our business that won’t matter. Our major problem is so called educated black people who want to make excuses for all of the things we do that are unproductive or destructive. There are simple things we could decide to do tomorrow that do not cost any money like respecting one another or not throwing trash on the ground in your neighborhood or stop making babies that you cannot take care of or arguing with other black people because they see things differently.

          • Guest

            You say that white people are the cause of all the problems in the world. My God, who is the racist? You can actually sleep at night with such distorted thinking. I believe the black communities have to stop using excuses and get excited and have the incentives that were much more prevalent in 1960s. Sadly, many blacks have merely accepted their environments and are content living with crime, low education etc. What happened to the dreams of the Rev. Martin Luther King? The man had vision and is one of my heroes and I am a half Cherokee Angelo. I am not prejudice in any regard, but feel until some come out of denial and start admitting their own issues, there will be more of the same for years to come. I wish the black communities all the best, but please remember that while you point your finger at others, you will have three pointing back at you. 

  • Anonymous

    Too bad Louis Farrakhan was not on that panel.

    • Mdothewitt

      It saddens me that after such a relevent article the first comments were all about Bill Cosby. Are we getting side tracked here?

  • Pay Attention

    It’s hard for black folk to gain long-term success in telling “our story”, and showing “our images” to the world because black folk get distracted. They let money determine success, rather than maintaining control and remaining independent as determining success.

    Or to put it another way, when black folks reach a certain level of success as an independent, they let non-blacks waive money in their face, saying that you aren’t going to reach the next level of success unless you let us give you this money. Take BET, and now Essence, Ebony and Jet. Success to me meant keeping control of the outlets for black voices. And once you let “others” take away some of your control, the voice begins to get diluted.

    When it comes to reporting issues of importance, and issues that affect, black people, the message has to come from a source that cares about the survival and progression of black people. We are dealing with the survival of our race at this point. And people need to realize the things that are put in place (and are working) that marginalize blacks, and minimize the growth of the black population. Just like the race/population of Native Americans was systematically reduced. Blacks are up now, and Hispanics are up next. 

    • black_dynamite

      Black people in the United States are in the same position as the Native Americans were 200 years ago–useless and in the way. The same fate awaits us.

  • Jrotced02

    I guess Harry has completly forgotten about all the “cooning” and promoting black stereotypes he did in “Buck and the Preacher,” a few decades ago.

  • Larome

    I totally agree with Mr.Belafonte ,I have been advocating through action the same thing,why complain about what white Jewish people  in hollywood not giving us a chance or how their portraying us who care’s we keep running to them so to me its rather hypocritical for BLACK people to keep complaining ,but will not take risk to create there own.I am an independent film maker,I also created a film festival and I am now in the process of creating a distribution outlet and production company.I have worked as many as two job’s to make stuff happen and will do what ever it take’s legally by any mean’s necessary.I seek only permission from GOD and no one else.I love Oscar Micheaux,Black Swan records,C R Patterson , Marcus Garvey,and any one else who has did for self and people independent of other group’s.I also admire The shaw brothers,Akira Kurosawa ,colocine,and any other people of color who have learned not to depend on their oppressor’s for approval…..

  • Anonymous

    With all reaspect to Mr. Belafonte, it seems strange to me that Mr. Belafonte would be making this statement now that he is 84 years old!

    “He urged theNAACP to form a group of artists and thinkers to inspire the kind of ‘radical thought’ necessary for change, and he called on black actors and filmmakers to ‘come together and create some institutional base that’s ours.’”

    In all these years Mr. Belafonte and those of his generation could have done just that, as it is bacially  the same Hollywood now as it was in his day.

  • J Jerrod

    It has been between 40 and 50 years since the civil rights movement, and we still don’t have an vital institution of our own. Mr. Belafonte and other Black Activist of his decade has done their part in our struggle for equality, but it’s time for the younger generation to pick up the torch.

  • TruthAndJustice

    It would be great if there are audio and video archives of the NAACP convention that those that could not attend could watch.  It sounds like there is some great material.