Cheryl Boone Isaacs Makes History

Last month Cheryl Boone Isaacs made history by becoming the first black president of the The Academy. Yes, the same Academy who votes on Oscar winners every year.

Considering the dearth of diversity in Hollywood and the lack of recognition black actors and actresses have received in regards to Oscar recognition, this news is significant indeed. Boone Isaacs has been working in the entertainment industry for a number of years now and has certainly paid her dues. Kudos to her. For more info about Cheryl Boone Isaacs you can check out this Entertianment Weekly article.

President Obama Speaks on Race and Trayvon Martin

Last Saturday a Florida jury determined that George Zimmerman was not guilty in the death of Trayvon Martin. For those of you reading this who may not be aware, in February of 2012, Trayvon Martin was walking home from the store when he was approached by Mr. Zimmerman. A fight ensues and Trayvon is left dead. It turns out George Zimmerman had been following Trayvon in his vehicle, and when he asked a 911 operator whether or not he should go after Trayvon, he was told, “we don’t need you to do that.” Despite this, he ignored the operator and pursued him anyway. So what exactly was that suspicious looking man in the neighborhood armed with that Zimmerman decided to pursue? A pack of Skittles and an Arizona Ice Tea. I gave my thoughts about this case last year.

In the following days across the United States there were protests in cities from New York to L.A. In New York’s Time Square, protesters halted traffic dead in its tracks with the streets swelling with thousands of hurt, angry and disappointed people. It wasn’t just the fact that George Zimmerman was found not guilty, but that he wasn’t even initially arrested until people started protesting. Many talking heads on the news networks stated their opinions on the verdict, but it seemed everyone (well, many black folks at least) was waiting on the thoughts of one man in particular.

On Friday President Obama gave his thoughts and the nation listened.

Speaking from the deeply personal perspective as a black man in America, Obama spoke of black men being followed in stores, women clutching their purses while in the presence of black men and car doors locking as black men walked by. How does he know these things? Because they’ve all happened to him. Perhaps his most powerful statement was identifying that Trayvon Martin could have been him 35 years ago. To hear a sitting American President speak to the nation in those terms is unlike anything we’ve see before in our nation’s history. I encourage everyone to watch the speech at least once, but more importantly, listen.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/video/videoEmbed.html?uuid=1bd5fa26-f09b-11e2-9008-61e94a7ea20d&noheadline=0

From Full-Time to Freelance: Saying Goodbye to the American Photojournalist

It’s somewhat ironic that as cameras become more ubiquitous within our society, the role of the photojournalist is becoming more rare throughout newsrooms every year.

On May 30th the Chicago Sun-Times laid off their entire photography staff, including distinguished photographer and Pulitzer Prize winner, John H. White. Yes, a Pulitzer Prize winner laid off. That’s like you being recognized nationally within your industry as ‘Employee of the Year,’ and being let go the following year. Chances are you’d be stunned. So too were the photography staff at the Sun-Times when they were given their pink-slips less then three weeks ago.

John H. White had been with the Sun-Times for more then 40 years before he was relieved of his duty last month. Neither his tenure nor his work was enough to save his job, and his firing — along with that of the entire photo department — is an ominous sign for photojournalists across America.

The rise of iPhones and DSLR cameras have given way to the perception that photojournalists aren’t all that important and that anyone can do it. Add in all the tools you can use in any standard Photoshop Suite and all the sudden you have a belief that photography is rather simple. This belief has sadly and seemingly seeped into the newsroom culture where more and more photojournalists are having to resort to freelance type work.

I think of photography much in the same way I do poetry. Both are easy to dabble in, but hard to truly master. There’s a certain nuance that a photojournalist possess about their craft that can really only be developed through time, skill and the capturing of countless photos. Let us hope that newsrooms across this country come to their senses and once again see the importance of photography as the lens through which we see the world. For the actual article and a collage of John H. White’s photography of 1970s Chicago, click here.