DAY 5 IN CALIFORNIA: Our Best Is Yet To Come!

January 30, 2013 in Jim's Journal


Hollywood Bureau Symposium at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Los Angeles

The 9th Annual NAACP Hollywood Bureau Symposium at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Los Angeles

I beat my 5:00 am wake-up call this morning. Yes, that meant tossing and turning for less than five hours. My delayed flight and late arrival the night before might have turned me into a Thriller video look-a-like zombie (just ask the hotel check-in guy who tried, unsuccessfully, to engage me in a conversation about his growing up in Philadelphia), but my body was STILL on east coast time. Upon waking up, I finished my blog, worked out and met my client in the hotel lobby at 7:10 am. We had breakfast, caught up on work and family, then headed to the training site. I was ecstatic about working with Medtronic for the first time. Nevertheless, although my body and my intense focus were in Santa Rosa, my heart was still in LA, yearning to get back to the NAACP activities.

The session went extremely well. The attendees enjoyed my high-energy and enthusiastic approach to team building and presentation skills. I pushed them to play BIG and they responded well. The second day of training is going to be memorable, I predict. After the session I went back to my hotel room and crashed. Stick the fork in me; I was done. Unfortunately, my nap didn’t last long. My Droid didn’t get the memo to let Jim get some rest.

Hollywood Bureau Symposium at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Los Angeles

Marena Ariffin, JIMPACT Enterprises Director of Project Development, with actress Jurnee Smollett-Bell

After several deal-closing calls, I walked over to the Mexican restaurant across the driveway. Chips and salsa, a fish taco, and a shrimp burrito that was bigger than any of the footballs they’ll be using in New Orleans for Super Bowl Sunday, sent me right back to bed to take a power nap. Before I left the restaurant though, I touched bases with Marena to see if she was all set to represent the JIMPACT team solo tonight. She assured me that she had everything under control. I walked back to the hotel, relaxed in the bed thinking that, in a little more than 24 hours, I would be landing in LAX, on my way to another NAACP Image Award event.

Marena called me later that night to tell me about the powerful 9th Annual Hollywood Bureau Symposium that she attended. Here’s her recap:

The night started with many eager people waiting in line outside in the chilly evening to get into the sold out event. The evening began with an hour of networking in the lobby area and light appetizers including cheese/crudite platters, and desserts were served along with beverages. I got a good seat close to the stage behind the VIPs but many people were unable to be seated because it was a full house. The media was in the house as well. Some celebrities were in attendance including Niecey Nash, Jurnee Smollet-Bell (I got a pic with her, yeah!) and I was told that one of Malcolm X’s daughters was there, too, but I missed her.

Hollywood Bureau Symposium at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Los Angeles

Opening Remarks by Pamela Alexander and Vic Bullock

The opening remarks and welcome were by Pamela Alexander, Director of Ford Motor Company, and session moderator Vicangelo “Vic” Bulluck,  Executive Director of the NAACP’s Hollywood Bureau. Vic made civil rights history when he opened the Hollywood Bureau office for the NAACP in 2002 and became its first Executive Director. The Hollywood Bureau serves as the Association’s main office for addressing issues of minority representation and employment in front of and behind the camera. He is a regular speaker and panelist on diversity issues in the entertainment field and he has key contacts and industry relationships throughout the entertainment arena.

The panelists were:

Debra Martin Chase – Two-time Emmy-nominated motion picture and television producer and former lawyer, and the first African American woman to have a solo producing deal at a major studio. Her company, Martin Chase Productions, is affiliated with the Walt Disney Company and ABC Studios.

Neema Barnette – The first African American woman sitcom director and the first African American woman to get a three picture deal with Sony. Her work includes a mixture of film and television sitcoms, such as ‘A Different World’, ‘The Cosby Show’, ‘Gilmore Girls’, and ‘7th Heaven’.”

Madeline Di Nonno – Executive Director of The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media and its programming arm. Founded in 2004, the institute is the only organization working to improve gender diversity for children among entertainment and media companies through research.

Towanda Braxton – Actress, starring in ‘Braxton Family Values’ on We TV including her famous sister, Toni Braxton.

Sil Lai Abrams – Founder of, a grassroots media advocacy organization whose mission is to change the way women and interpersonal violence are portrayed on reality television. She is also a National Association of Black Journalists award-winning New York City based writer, anti-domestic violence activist, relationship expert for EBONY magazine online, and a regular contributor to

9th Annual NAACP Hollywood Bureau Symposium

Panelists for the 9th Annual NAACP Hollywood Bureau Symposium (click for closeup)

The discussion was compelling and extremely informative. The topics ranged from women and African Americans on TV, to shaping how women of color are viewed, to the lack of women represented on TV in scientific occupations, and lastly to the lack of international and niche African-American movies.

Other key thoughts that made me pause to think were:

  • “It’s difficult to get funding for black films unless you have white directors.”
  • “Always put your community first and provide support. We need to decode images of stereotypes.”
  • “Watching negative reality shows causes more harm to women and young girls. Youth need to be educated about media literacy. Encourage people to not watch negative shows so that they don’t get ratings.”
  • “Social media is powerful in that we now can voice our opinions openly.”
  • “Since all art is political we need to change the master narrative.”
  • “If we support our actors at the movie theater, Hollywood will pay attention. There is power in numbers.”
  • “Cable networks need to be more responsible and accountable for their programming.”
  • “There needs to be more hiring and mentoring more women of color in the industry to help create better representation in film.”
  • “We all need to monitor what our children watch and help them realize that what they see on television is not always real.”
Hollywood Bureau Symposium at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Los Angeles

A lively panel discussion at the NAACP Hollywood Bureau Symposium

Sounds like Marena had a powerful evening. The symposium was an excellent example of the NAACP’s mission and everything that it stands for. It served to remind us that in addition to this week of awards, networking, excitement and picture taking, there is also a lot of educational work that remains to be done. I believe we’re not where we used to be and we’re still not where we want to be. Our best is yet to come!


  • SEE DAY 1: On My Way to the NAACP Image Awards
  • SEE DAY 2: Red Carpet 101 at the Nominees Luncheon
  • SEE DAY 3: A Day of Reflection
  • SEE DAY 4: When You Do What You Love Magical Things Happen
  • SEE DAY 5: Our Best Is Yet To Come!
  • SEE DAY 6: Dream Week Continues With CAA Screening Party
  • SEE DAY 7: Runways and Red Carpets Amp Up the Excitement
  • SEE DAY 8: My Night At The 44th Annual NAACP Image Awards Show
  • WATCH VIDEO: My personal thank-you note for all of your support and love this week
  • MORE PHOTOS: See the Photo Gallery from my Awards Week in LA