In Conversation: Regina Hall on Race, Hollywood
and Other Stories, and Pamela Newkirk’s Diversity, Inc.
(Hachett Book Group, 2019)
Friday, November 15th
6 - 8 pm
Silver Center-NYU, Hemmerdinger / Jurow
Lecture Hall, 100 Washington Square East, Room 101a, 1st Floor
In 2015 #Oscarssowhite trended on Twitter after, for the second year in a row, no actors of color were nominated for acting Oscars. In 2019 veteran actress and NYU alumna Regina Hall became the first African American in the eighty-year history of the New York Film Critics Circle to win its coveted Best Actress Award. Hall will discuss race in Hollywood with NYU Journalism Professor Pamela Newkirk, author of the recently published book Diversity, Inc.: The Failed Promise of a Billion-Dollar Business. In Diversity, Inc., Newkirk shines a bright light on the diversity industry, asking the tough questions about what has worked and why progress has been so slow. As she argues, despite decades of handwringing, costly initiatives, and uncomfortable conversations, organizations have, apart from a few exceptions, fallen far short of their goals. Newkirk highlights the rare success stories, sharing valuable lessons about how other industries can match those gains. The program will be introduced by Chanel Ward, Assistant Dean of Diversity, Tisch School of the Arts-NYU. Co-sponsored by NYU Center for the Humanities; Tisch School of the Arts Office of the Dean.
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A native of Washington, D.C., Regina Hall began her career in New York City where she studied English at Fordham University and received a Master’s degree from NYU in Journalism. She then studied at William Esper Studios in New York for two years, eventually landing her breakout role as Candy in Malcolm Lee’s debut film The Best Man. She would go on to reprise this role 14 years later in The Best Man Holiday.
Hall spent the next couple of years appearing in cult classics such as Love & Basketball, Paid In Full, and Malibu’s Most Wanted. In 2000, she filmed the first of four of the Scary Movie films and quickly became a fan favorite playing the outspoken and brazen Brenda Meeks opposite Ana Farris and the Wayans brothers. It was under the direction of Keenan Wayans that Hall was able to fine tune her skills as an improvisor that would later allow her to go toe-to-toe with comedians like Chris Rock, Tracy Morgan, Mike Epps, Cedric the Entertainer, Kevin Hart and more.
After playing in several ensembles together, Hall and Hart finally starred opposite each other in a reimagining of the 1998 movie About Last Night, based on the David Mamet play Sexual Perversity in Chicago. They also appeared together in Think Like a Man and its sequel and the Hart produced and created BET series Real Husbands of Hollywood.
In 2017, Hall was joined by legends Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith, and breakout star Tiffany Haddish in the raucous, blockbuster comedy Girls Trip. The story centers around four best friends who reunite at the Essence Music Festival in New Orleans. The summer hit grossed more than 140 million dollars becoming the first comedy of the year to surpass the 100 million dollar mark. It also became the first movie in history that was produced, written, directed, and starring African Americans to reach that milestone.
Next up was Andrew Bujalski's 2018 indie hit Support the Girls, which premiered at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, TX. Hall played Lisa, the general manager of a struggling Texas-based sports bar. Gaining the attention of film critics, her touching performance would earn her Gotham and Independent Spirit Award nominations as well as a spot on President Obama’s list of favorites for the year. In 2019, Hall became the first African American actress to ever win a New York Film Critics Circle award for Best Actress for this role.
Most recently, Hall starred in The Hate U Give, a film adaptation of Angie Thomas' best-selling novel, as the mother of a burgeoning #blacklivesmatter activist. She was in the film Little, which she also executive-produced, starring Marsai Martin and Issa Rae. She currently stars opposite Don Cheadle and Andrew Rannells, on the Showtime dramedy "Black Monday," executive-produced by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. The show is now entering its second season. She was most recently seen on screen this summer, opposite, icon Samuel L. Jackson in the Warner Bros film reboot, Shaft.
When not acting, Hall lends her support to various charitable organizations, including Smiles For Speech, Just Like My Child and The Solutions Project, an organization that is at the forefront of making clean and renewable energy available and accessible to everyone.
Author, journalist, and professor Pamela Newkirk is a multifaceted scholar who has published a variety of works that present multidimensional portraits of African American life. Her first book, Within the Veil: Black Journalists, White Media explores the historical and contemporary struggles of African American journalists integrating mainstream newsrooms, while her later collections A Love No Less and Letters from Black America present more than two-hundred letters written by African Americans over the past three centuries. Newkirk’s Spectacle: The Astonishing Life of Ota Benga traces the journey of Ota Benga from the Congo to the United States where, at the turn of the century, he was exhibited at the St. Louis World’s Fair and later the Bronx Zoo Monkey House. Using primary historical documents, Newkirk traces Benga’s footsteps from the Congo, to St. Louis, New York and finally Lynchburg, Virginia where he spent the final years of his short life. She exposes the true circumstances of his capture and captivity which have been sanitized in contemporary accounts, and illuminates why, a century later, the man most responsible for his exploitation has been widely depicted as his friend and savior. Spectacle casts a spotlight on race, science, and elite men and institutions during the early years of the 20th century.
Growing up in New York City, Newkirk was surrounded by black memorabilia from her father, an antique dealer who collected posters, letters, books, and photographs depicting African American life. This ephemera became a life-long source of inspiration for Newkirk who developed a keen interest in the unexplored history of the African Diaspora.
Newkirk began her journalism career writing for various African American newspapers and eventually landed her first job as a daily reporter for The Knickerbocker News in Albany, New York where she eventually covered the New York State Legislature. From there she went to Washington, D.C. as a Capitol Hill correspondent for Gannett News Service. Later she worked for newspapers in New York City. Among her assignments was the coverage of the election of David Dinkins, the city’s first African American mayor. She also traveled to South Africa and witnessed Nelson Mandela’s release from prison. Her series of articles was awarded the International Reporting Award from the New York Association of Black Journalists. Two years later, in 1992, Newkirk was on the New York Newsday reporting team awarded a Pulitzer Prize for Spot News for coverage of a fatal subway crash. In 1993 Newkirk joined the faculty at New York University and continued contributing articles to numerous publications including The New York Times, The Washington Post, Columbia Journalism Review, The Nation, Artnews, Essence, and civil rights blog, The Defenders Online.
Newkirk holds a B.A. in journalism from New York University and later received her master’s degree in journalism and a Ph.D. in Comparative and International Education from Columbia University. She is Professor of Journalism and former Director of Undergraduate Studies at NYU’s Carter Journalism Institute. Her Diversity, Inc. analyzes the diversity industry, exploring what has been effective while raising vital questions about the rate of progress in a number of influential realms, including Hollywood. In the book, Newkirk posits that after decades of costly initiatives and uneasy conversations, organizations have generally fallen far short of their diversity goals.
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