RogerEbert.com, the world’s preeminent destination for movie criticism, commentary and community, amplifies the voices of Black storytellers in its first Black Writers Week, June 14–20. The event includes reviews of 14 films by a diverse slate of film critics, profiles on five inspiring leaders in an array of professions and three virtual panel discussions focusing on cinematic and theatrical excellence. Articles, interviews and profiles penned by a coterie of Black writers and editors will be published daily and accessible free to all at RogerEbert.com.
“Black representation in storytelling matters. And it gives me great pleasure during this Juneteenth week to amplify the many rich voices in the fields of entertainment, philanthropy, science, technology and other spheres who enhance our daily lives,” said Chaz Ebert, publisher and editor-in-chief of RogerEbert.com. I am especially looking forward to the Afro-Futurism panel on Juneteenth, June 19, where our distinguished panel will creatively imagine worlds far better than we have seen. But I am so proud to highlight the many voices of Black storytellers who deserve to be honored far more than they have been."
There will be an interview with Mary J. Blige about her documentary “My Life,” by director Vanessa Roth, and Janicza Bravo will discuss her new film “Zola.” Media mogul Troy Pryor will chat about his path to one day becoming the “Black Disney.” Director Mark Harris will highlight his film “White People Money,” and director Melissa Haizlip will discuss her awards-nominated film “Mr. Soul.” Director Lateef Calloway will outline his journey making a documentary about Sojourner Truth.
Among the independent and documentary films reviewed during Black Writers Week are “Rise Again: Tulsa and the Red Summer,” “Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It,” and “The Sparks Brothers.”
Some of the other featured interview topics include “Black Kid Joy,” “Death, Universe and Everything,” “On Apollo Creed,” “What the Justice League Means to Me,” “The Black Trauma Discourse,” “Black Politics in Film” and “Encouraging Black Voices to Express Their Blackness.” Three dynamic panels will be presented during the week covering topics of Afro-futurism, equity in TV/film and theater, and a Black film critics roundtable. Links to panels will be available at RogerEbert.com and The Official Roger Ebert Channel on YouTube starting at 9 a.m. CDT on the following dates:
June 16: “The Tanning of Hollywood: Reimagining Equity and Inclusion as a Pinnacle Measure of Cinematic and Theatrical Excellence,” moderated by attorney, film writer and former MGM executive Rebecca Ford. Panelists are: Karen Horne, SVP of Equity and Inclusion, WarnerMedia; Jon Carr, executive producer, The Second City; JaSheika James and JaNeika James, showrunners, "Empire"; writer, producer and film journalist Shawn Edwards; and Troy Pryor, founder, Creative Cypher Multimedia.
June 18: “Whose Gaze: A Roundtable of Black Film Critics at the Movies” moderated by Chaz Ebert, CEO of Ebert Digital. Panelists are: renowned movie critics Gil Robertson, founder of the African-American Film Critics Association; Carla Renata, Emmanuel Noisette, Tambay Obenson, Sarah-Tai Black, Kathia Woods and Reginald Ponder.
June 19: “The Evolution of Afro-futurism: Black Power, Love, Superheroes and Magic” moderated by author, film historian and educator Tananarive Due. Panelists are: Steven Barnes, science-fiction, fantasy and mystery writer; screenwriter and film producer Ytasha Womack, whose 2013 book “Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci Fi & Fantasy Culture” is a leading primer bridging science fiction, futurisms, and culture; and Dr. John Jennings, Afrospeculative artist and professor of media and cultural studies at the University of California at Riverside.
Other highlights covered during the weeklong celebration of cinema include a segment, “Profiles in Courage: Five on the Black Hand Side,” which spotlights five inspiring leaders in a wide range of fields. They are: Julieanna Richardson, founder of The HistoryMakers; leading coronavirus scientist Dr. Kizzmekia Corbet, who was instrumental in groundbreaking research that directly led to development of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine; Black People Eats founder Jeremy Joyce; peacemaker Erica Ford, founder of LIFE Camp and Peace Week in NYC; and percussionist and jazz composer Dr. Kahil El Zabar.