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Good afternoon, everyone.
I'm Molly young from the Miami University Alumni Association, and it's my pleasure to welcome you to this session of Windsor College 2022 for more than 18 years when we're College is the alumni infusions premier alumni.
Nation events.
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Selecting winter College 2022 from the drop-down menu.
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Today.
We are going to talk about talk with Willie, a good class of 1976.
About his newest book, Colorization, One Hundred Years of Black Films in a White World.
Colorization and was recently chosen by the New York Times is one of the best books of 2021 talking with wil today is another Miami alumni, Alex Thai, class of 2011, welcoming.
Inclu you I'm just going to give a little bio on new boats and then I'll kick us off to get the conversation started.
So we'll Are we good as I mentioned, is Class of 1976 and author of Tigerland, which was a finalist for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize Showdown, a finalist for an end of Relay CP Image Award In Black and White.
And The Butler, which was made and through a film directed by Lee Daniel, he is gonna correspond for The Washington Post and The Boston Globe, where he was a Pulitzer finalist.
Haygood is a Guggenheim and National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow and is currently the Boadway Visiting Distinguished Scholar at Miami University.
Among his journalism honors, or the national headline or Award, the New England are fizzy did press Award within a magazine, magazine, editors word, the Paul L.
Meyer single-story Award, the Virginia press Association Award, the National associated Submission of Black Journalists Award for both people are writing and foreign reporting.
Among others.
He received a BA in urban planning from miami University.
Alex tagore is spending his career focusing on the who and how to empower his community to spark Cultural change through.
Storytelling.
Teary is a multipath kid creative with experience behind and in front of the scenes in creative direction, branding, partnerships, music, hosting, and production.
For an instance, Natty and now residing in Brooklyn, the 2011 Miami grad has grown in his creative career over the Past decade in producing several creative ad campaigns with brands like the NBA, Uber, NBC, HVO, try to Black and help them launch partnerships like Quincy Jones and Macy's.
Alex presently helps run Spike Lee's creative boutique, advertising agency.
Spike DDB, where he is creating.
The aid of strategy director.
In addition to his work with the icon, teary was a cultural figure in building hashtag culture con, one of the largest conferences dedicated and produced for creatives of color on a sounder of field of an emergent emerging music community created by creating music.
Re-inspired a deeper feeling of connection to me, whether through community music or words, Terry lives to inspire those around him.
Feel more alive, more you, more free, and more true.
He is an Alumni Ambassador of the Marcus Graham Project, a non-profit with a mission for.
Providing diverse talent the access to breakthrough in marketing, media, and related films.
Alex is, as I mentioned, an alumni and in 2019 honoree of the Alumni Associations, 18 of the last nine Award honoring outstanding when recent graduates.
That was quite an accomplished list of for you both, how fascinating, and we're really lucky to have you.
So I'm just going to kick it over to you to to have a really good conversation about wills.
New book Colorization.
So take it away, gentlemen.
Thanks again.
Thank you.
Thank you.
Thank you, Molly, congratulations on getting through that long list of accomplishments and bios because it takes a lot.
And out of all the things you just said, the one thing I did want to mention is the last thing you just spoke about.
And so I would love to just think Miami the Miami alumni board for the site.
Thank to bring me into this conversation with the amazing, profound writer Wil Haygood.
Because it was when I was nominated in selective for the 18 of the last nine that I wrote.
One of my desires was the meat will.
And so here we are today, we're manifesting what was written about three years ago.
So.
Well, thank you again, for this opportunity, I'm really excited to have this conversation.
Well, thank you, Alex.
I mean, you're very, very busy, man, very, very gifted.
Young man, and I'm mining proud that both UNI have Miami roots.
That's a wonderful thing.
I'm very proud view in which you've done my goodness.
I used to work in Macy's shortly after Miami University in the job didn't last, loans.
I needed you back in the day.
It's fun.
It's funny that you bring that up, you know, thinking about back in the day because one of the things I mentioned to you when we first got to meet before we.
In this conversation, is it feels a little full circle just for even our family connection, right.
So, you know, you knew my great uncle Clifford.
And now I had this opportunity to sort of exchange dialogue with you.
And so it's sort of this thread of generations passing down stories.
We get to talk more and more about that today.
The power, a passing down these stories and you've been such an amazing part of telling stories, haven't been told.
And I kinda wanna really start there.
When you think about all the work that you've done, all the literature that you've written.
All the columns that you've written, you know, one thing that has really stood out is the success of The Butler.
And the success of that.
Obviously, as we talked about, has inspired some things that we're gonna talk about today.
But when I think about the impact of The Butler and, you know.
The actual story and then the film that was adapted from the story that he wrote.
It's so profound because it's just an example of the mini stories of the unsung, unsung heroes within Black History.
And we obviously open a March to you for telling and continuing to tell those stories.
But when you Think about the impact that it's made, how do you, how does that feel to you?
What do you think is an opportunity for us to continue to add to that?
And how does it feel to have received such success with the success of The Butler.
One of the things Alex that I look for as a writer.
I'll go into a bookstore and now look around, you know, strolling around.
Often.
If I don't see a book.
That I want to see, then it sort of start to be in modern mindset.
All right?
There is no Sammy Davis Junior biography in this bookstore.
Maybe I was maybe I was meant to write it.
So idea.
I would say, okay, there is no Sugar Ray Robinson major biography in this bookstore.
So I'm gonna write it.
That's what I did in the great Thurgood Marshall first African-American Supreme Court Justice, had a very contentious, very contentious.
Hearing in front of the Senate Committee.
And nobody had drilled down.
And that whole summer, the summer of 1967, his battles with the Southern senators.
So.
I told my editor, Hey, that's a book that I would like to write.
This Butler at worked in the White House.
For 35 years across 88 US presidents.
He had never been able to tell his story where nobody wanted to know his story.
So I just knew it was a story that needs.
BTO TO that the entire country in the world can look at these people and say, Wow, these are significant figures in this nation's history.
It's such an amazing story to pick up on.
You know.
That film came out in, the film was adapted from what you wrote and the film came out in 2013 and it was I asked cool of just amazing.
I mean, iconic celebrities like Oprah, Mariah Carey and, you know, the list goes on.
Forests were Tucker was the Butler, was Whittaker, of course.
I felt I mentioned him.
Ku sack.
I mean, I'm sure I'm forgetting some people.
Lenny Kravitz, rabbits.
When I was on this set.
Lenny, he wanted to tell me about his music.
In So he did.
Yeah, you know, it's interesting that movie, Alex, when we were filming in New Orleans in 2012, the story came out 2008 finally started filming it.
And 2012.
That was the idea that spawned my new book.
Because I was at a swore re in New Orleans for the cast.
Oprah was there, Jane find linear cravats, David, or yellow?
Oprah.
All you know.
Wonderful people in that cast.
And I was looking around the room at this multi-racial cast.
And I said myself, my goodness, most movements don't have multi-racial cast in this country.
They just don't.
And I said to myself, somebody needs during.
A book about this unique moment, Spike Lee forest, you know, who you were, you know, is one of those few filmmakers who always has multi-racial cast.
You know, but it's not the norm and cinema in this country.
Anyway.
I said that standing in the kitchen at this sw, our ray for The Butler cast and crew.
And Terence Howard, who was also in a movie.
And when I say, my goodness, somebody needs to write about the historical moment of this movie in the history.
Figures Howard walked over to me and he said, You're the writer man.
So you All right.
That book that really is the moment that to see happened to have been planted.
I think about when I hear that story, I think about like, you know, we are the ones we're waiting for a lot of times we're waiting for other people.
Yeah.
You know, our stories.
You've been a great example of taking ownership and taking, seizing the opportunity to tell our story.
And so when you started to pursue this, so did you actually take on that project immediately after that or was there a gap in-between when you have that conversation between Terrence?
Because Alex I went back to your hometown but that went to City where some of your relatives live in Columbus, Ohio.
And I wrote a book about all Black high school.
That one to state championships in 1968 slash 1969.
East High School.
In that book called tiger land.
When you look back at that, Alex, that sort of goes also right to what you had just mentioned.
It was a story that hadn't been told this all Black high school wins to state championships, right in the app.
Your mat of the assassination of Martin Luther King Junior.
Anyone to state championship in basketball.
And then three months later, a state championship.
In baseball.
Amazing.
It's a story that's light.
In this slide.
Friday Night Lights.
And who's your he got game all rolled into one but nobody wanted to tell that story.
If those guys had been white.
athletes they would have been on the cover of a box of Wheaties but they were not the story just vanish and that kept flying back home on business and sometimes run into some of those guys they had to trophies.
Nobody in the state had ever done that.
And to do it at a poor All black segregated high school in 196869, the school shouldn't have been segregated.
I mean, goodness, gracious.
But it was in the fact that they wanted those to state championships to me was worthy book.
So I set off on that journey to say that.
Book came out first 2013 in my little Butler book came out and then didn't I did another book about Thurgood Marshall.
And then 2018, my Tigerland.
Book came out.
And so Alex, you're right or that's another story that nobody TO and I had to sort of look in the mirror and say, Well, if you don't write this story.
It might not get written.
And I can't tell you.
My hometown had a lot of events for the for the book when it came out.
And it also came to Miami University.
So I really think my Alma Mater, because they invited the athletes from that school in one of the coaches.
And we had beautiful events at Miami.
So.
Really have to think Chris Nick Crawford, in the First Lady of the University, because they really Welcome back and welcome members of that team back in really beautiful.
Yeah.
It's powerful to just think about all of the folks that influence and make up what we create.
You know, a lot of sounds we tell these stories in such an isolated separate his way.
And really it is all about the collaboration.
Isn't the connections that come together and you create this confluence of ideas and writing and stories that he told.
And I think about that when I thought about that a lot, when I started reading your book.
Especially beautiful thread there.
And not even take it step back.
One of the things that you know.
Having working for working for Spike Lee and seeing how he works.
And also just, you know, growing up watching his films.
One of my favorite films from him.
He's always been Malcolm X and gigantic achievement.
Yes.
Just the epic epic film.
Yeah, I write a lot about.
That.
And as you know in the book, Yes.
You know why he wanted to make the film, why it needed to be made.
I mean, that's a big story in of itself.
That's a whole drama.
You know, itself, Spike Lee originally.
Hadn't had the opportunity to make that movie and he had to fight to get to scripting.
You know, it's a drama.
Yeah.
Exactly.
That was actually one of the chapters that obviously really stood out, stood out to me because of my connection and being able to sort of see.
One of the things that was really positively received about that film is the nuance he gave to Malcolm X.
We felt like we got to experience him in a way that most people would have never known him and got to understand him in the nuances of who he is and what makes he is.
And I feel like part of that, what was so excited.
Having about that film is also what's so exciting about this book is you'll get the context that gives so much opportunity to see it from a lens of the present.
And you made a decision to really start this book.
In 1915.
And so can you talk a little about, little bit about, you know, your decision-making in looking to edit this down to be 100 years or span 100 years versus what you may have intended to write it for the length of or the history of like what what was that process and why why did you make that decision-making?
Start there?
Yeah.
You know, when you talking about cinema, it was important to me to explain the early magic.
I've cinema.
I mean, just think what it was like.
For people.
In 19191915 to walk outside of their house and to see a car for the first time, you know, with the engineering rolling down the street, you know, that's a sensation that you Remember for the rest of your life.
And walking into theater's At that time, it was still fairly new.
It was magical.
So in 1915, there was this movie came out and it was called The Birth of a Nation.
It was based on vicious vow.
Now, that portray the Ku Klux Klan as he runs unit portray all Black people as heathens, as scoundrels, as rapist.
That novel was turned into a movie in it play on the big screen across this country for four years.
So I mean, it was like advertisement for somebody saying.
We hate black people.
Here are the stereotypes in there on the big screen.
And He was estimated Alex net one in for citizens of this country between the year 19151919 saw that movie, one out of four people saw that movie.
I mean, for four straight years.
And so.
That's a heck of a heck of a cinematic hold that Black people.
We're pushed down.
We were, you know, we were talking about the huge impact of the film, the Birth of the Nation had on not just Black America, but really.
American cultural society as a whole.
And obviously it was from a technical film perspective.
It was well-received, but you were mentioning some of the very, very deep entrenched an atrocious.
Aspects of it that affected us for Honestly till this day.
Would love to hear more about what you were sharing with.
Yes.
I mean, when it came out in 1915, this movie, The Birth of a Nation.
Was the first Hollywood blockbuster in this country.
It was the jaws of its era.
You know, it made a lot of money.
The ATO honor started keeping their theater's open longer hours, but it also had a flip side.
It angered a lot of people.
Anger.
Most black people.
And there were white sympathizers and ne, started to pick IT.
Movie theaters.
They wrote articles that movie shouldn't be shown.
Theater's.
They even.
I went to court to try to stop the movie.
There were a few cities across the country that refused to show the movie because it was such a violent, cinematic attack against black people.
The movie you in hand, a premier showing inside.
President Woodrow Wilson's White House.
You know.
And I don't know if this is a spoiler alert or wet, but book opens as you know with that.
And then you go hundreds of years later, a 100 15 something years later.
And you see that Princeton University has removed Woodrow Wilson's name from some of the buildings because of his attitudes when race, because of what he did.
In connection.
With this movie, he supported this movie.
And so when I looked at cinema, at the history of cinema, I knew I had to open this book.
Then by telling that story.
Because that's the word really leads to a lot.
More heartache in America.
Cinema also leads to some lovely trying out.
But when you look at that movie and you look at the mindset of Hollywood, and then you can see where the stereotypical characters.
The step and fetches Amos and Andy.
The made roles, the stereotypical roles.
You can see how entrenched they were for 40 more years until the late fifties, when Black American roles started to.
Evolved from those stereotypes that had been Birth on the big screen in 1915.
Yeah, I mean, you know, I have to just admit it was a tough Thing to read, you know, understanding where, you know, where we have column.
Obviously there's a lot of progress to be made, but where we have come today in the world, we live in today into and then to put your mind in, focus into the time of 1915 and how much of that.
Racism was entrenched in Media, how much it wasn't trends and not just the storytelling of film, which was this new phenomenon, but how it really impacted actual lives.
Of those during that time.
And in new even hinted at it and talk more at some about it in the book about how it's not long after.
So that the race riots of Tulsa happens, It's not long after that the race riots in Chicago happened.
It's not longer write that and then you can even, you know, fast-forward of how the stereotypes and these tropes are put in such a film that a Floor of the nation has seen.
I mean, it's almost unheard of today, immediate with all of these axis.
Just the different streaming networks and films of Florida.
And so this film which was absolutely racist propaganda and it pervades all of these different stereotypes that impact Black Americans out.
These last 100 years of film, you know, you look at.
The story of what happened to, you, look, and you fast forward into the Central Park Five and we're still seeing a lot of the same stereotypes that played out in the film.
Over a 100 years ago.
And so no Right?
Right.
Right.
Good point, brilliant points.
I was just gonna say those are brilliant points.
Yeah.
I mean, there's just so much inspired by, you know, the nuance that you gave visits.
It's so important.
So you have that context when we look at the stories that we write today, we who are alive now have the opportunity to impact that.
We're alive now, we are able to look at books like Colorization that you've given us.
We're able to see how we now can see the power of owning our narrative.
The power of impacting and telling stories.
And so, even, even within film and outside of film, like myself, who's a brand storyteller, I see the power of.
Creating diverse storytelling and telling it from a place of elevating the consciousness, humanizing us, getting beautiful nuance, uniting us in a way that's not coming to create what obviously The Birth of a Nation did to our people in And the racist constructs that still exist today.
I'm here to ask questions, so I'm going to get off.
Well, here's something that I find extremely fascinating.
Here.
You worked with for Spike Lee.
And when.
He was in graduate school, Spike Lee wrote his thesis against a Nation.
I mean, he, he explored that movie deeply all these years later.
You know, young filmmaker Spike Lee and College in New Through your nose, how epic that movie that he committed himself to studying.
And he made a short film that was rebuke to that.
Movement.
I mean, you know, so that's how history swirls.
I mean, you know, there's The Birth of a Nation and there's filmmakers and they're Spike Lee, you and me.
You and meeting went to the same school and we were in this space right now.
It's all really.
Important in meter.
Yes, it feels like such a beautiful thread, poetic threat, even through the struggles that, you know, many, many have had to overcome because of the negatives.
That was also something that was really beautiful to read.
Despite chapter read, just hearing, you know, obviously, you know, I have some insight scoops on some of this stuff, but you give context a lot of things that I didn't know or most people would not know.
And, you know, just even thinking about the naming of the production company 48 years.
Inspired by his experience going into film school and seeing and seeing those things and being like, No, this is how we're going to change on here.
This is how we're going to own our narrative and tell our stories, Right?
Right.
Right.
Alex, I'm glad.
And that you mentioned Forty Acres because the Black godfather of film in this country is Oscar Michelle, who became my homesteader and went out west because he was told by the US government, if you farm this land as a home.
Instead, you'll be given 40 acres in a meal.
Asking me show.
You went to stop the coda and he became a filmmaker and he made about 40 feelings between the year 19, Twitter and you 529.
1953.
And he is a giant.
You know, he's on the cover of this book, his picture.
So a Spike Lee and so as the late great Sidney Poitier, Harry Belafonte, pm Greer, Dorothy dangerous.
All of the ical.
The iconic figures.
And, and I love that you also provide the history for someone like myself still there net as well, and seeing how, you know, we usually start at certain date.
You know, you know, about the van people was and you know about the coordinate.
Parks and you hear about sort of the more popular names, but it's the one who's the ones who saw the seeds like an Oscar.
Michelle, that, that really is beautiful to learn about.
And those are the nuggets within Colorization.
So for those who haven't gotten it yet, definitely I recommend it highly recommended, not just.
Because I'm talking a wheel, but it's a really, really great read and learn.
And so, you know, one of the things that for me I selfishly wanted to talk about a little bit is just the impact of not just filmmakers specifically, but how.
Black music and black musicians, and there's a chapter in there talking a lot about their Gordy and his decision to get into how he wouldn't make films.
And can you just talk a little bit more about some of the influence that music hasn't been involved with film-making, Hollywood stories telling him that aspect.
Yes.
In this country, it's always been easier for a Black artists to get a job in a bank end.
In a music band, as opposed to getting a rolling.
In a major motion picture.
It's always been easier to play a horn or to strum a guitar, or to write your music.
You know, then it has been to get a role, one TV or were you feeling when I started doing this?
Book?
When I was sitting down and look at some of these similar movies, light lilies feel in the heat of the night, or shap, or Super Fly.
Amazing.
It was it was Black reusing that was really steering these movies.
It seemed like because you the movie and you had Urban Radio in Miami.
That was the way in that blacks heard about movies, because the studios would not spin the same advertising dollars for magazines and newspapers on Black movies that they would.
White movies.
And so you would be in a car.
All right.
In the 1970s and you would hear Super Fly.
I'm your mother or father.
Super flat.
And you sort of say to yourself, Wow, I gotta go see that money.
I mean, you At rush out that Friday or Saturday night, all dressed up to see that movie.
And the next morning.
Because I was I was there in the 70 and I mean, I was at college at Miami, but during the summers I would see these movies and I see the movie on Friday and on the Saturday morning, rush downtown or over to Mount Vernon Avenue to the records.
Store.
And I buy the soundtrack of shaft or the sound track of Super Fly, or the sound track of Foxy Brown.
I mean, because there were hit records, you know, there were hit records.
In that were connected to the films.
It was it was just an amazing story when you think of the Michael Jackson in diana Rawls and t It Rawls and Richard Pryor.
Well, that soundtrack was just beautiful.
And I still have it.
I mean, the soundtrack from the movie was just beautiful.
Yeah.
I mean, you can't go wrong with Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, I mean, lasing.
Yeah.
You know, these people had really good they dance, they could act.
I mean, you know, there were a lot of I mean, not a lot in There were some seminal black musicals in the 1940s.
Of course, stormy weather.
And you also had cabin in the sky.
These were some similar, no, seminal black musicals, but they played in mostly segregated movie theater's.
I mean, look, this is a country that has big, a big gaping wound.
And that wound is race.
It is.
Race has always frightened filmmakers.
That's why we don't have very many movies about race in this country.
And it's hard to get them.
I mean.
You know, it took four years to get the Butler.
May you know, you know, folks had to go out and raise money at hand and they did a movie became a huge success.
You know.
But it wasn't like the studios wanted to make it.
He was a struggle.
Spike Lee, of course, has had those same struggles.
He always has to knock on the doors.
You know, you know, he has to figure out a way to raise money and you You mentioned Malcolm X, you know, he started filming and then there was a point where you ran out of money and he went around to several several black entertainers, sports figures, erase more money.
You know, it's a hustle.
Movie making is heart, heart hustle.
It's a hard climb for all people.
But, you know, especially, especially for blacks.
Which I mean, it just shows the power of making good decisions.
Chronicle that this history because this will now live as an artifact, as an asset for us, as a culture to absorb, to see the thread right.
And how can we make his story?
My story, really personalizing and realizing like we take ownership in, there is no other for us to tell the story of our experience.
And so, you know, yeah, you know.
Very important to to note that there are many white he wrote in his book.
People who went out on a limb to help, to help folks like Sidney Poitier aid hearing Bellefonte days, Spike Lee, you know, he's Mitchell, you know.
White artists, white people who work in the film industry and will go out on leon to help these people.
And they have done that, you know.
And I'm speaking at people like Ralph Nelson, Stanley Kramer, you know, those are.
Big-time filmmakers who were white, you know, who wanted to help tale stories that we usually wouldn't see on the screen.
And so very important to mention knows figures because they really, really went out of their way to make the world.
More fair, to make the country better when it came to film making, you know.
And yet, we have years like 20152016 where there were no black Oscar nominees.
And of course that started.
They started the Oscars.
So White movement, a movement that Spike Lee had been talking about for years, and people would sort of sneer at him, but he was onto something.
He was speaking truth to power.
It's no doubt about it.
I was curious as I was, you know, I mean, I'm still going to the book, but it's a lot in there, but it's not as long of a read as you would think, with covering 100 years.
What were some of your favorite aspects of writing the book as you were going to, what did you.
Joy the most.
As part of rather than the book?
Yeah.
I really like studying how a film, a film gets me, you know, from article or book to screen.
You know, how a film, you know, Power film is.
A friend told me, he said, Wil.
Giving a movie made is like landing a plane, moving.
Naval vessel in the middle of the rates.
At midnight.
I.
How difficult it is to get movies.
That was really, really fun to study that.
And it was also a Joy.
My goodness, to know, to steady the careers of people like Paul Robeson in like candidate Lee In like Dorothy, dangerous edge.
Can Billy Dee Willliams, Richard Pryor, Harry Belafonte.
I mean, you know, it takes a lot of people to make a film.
I mean, it was just astounding for me to study the friendship.
Harry Belafonte in Sidney Poitier, who not only.
And to keep getting better at their craft, but they also had to keep telling the world that you are Rome and the way you are treating black people.
I mean in so.
They were both movie stars, civil rights activist who went into Mississippi to risk their lives to deliver money to get civil rights workers out of jail.
I mean, degrees.
Really lovely connection with Miami and film and what happened.
I mean, as you know, the three civil rights workers SHE, Warner, Goodman, and Chaney left Oxford and went down and Mississippi and were murdered in 1964.
Well, Sidney Poitier in