Hollywood, Health & Society (HHS)

HHS, a project of USC’s Annenberg Norman Lear Center, had a terrific panel yesterday with Jennifer Cecil, Carol Barbee, Michael Nash, Dr. Zoanne Clack, Max Burnett, and Karen Tenkhoff.  HHS sponsored a study tour to tour poor areas in Mumbai, India and South Africa for several Hollywood writer/producers.

The idea is that trips like these and panel discussions will raise awareness among writers and content creators about health issues and climate change.

Wonderful stuff.

I still left the panel with mixed feelings.


I obviously can’t speak to HHS’s recruiting efforts but wasn’t surprised to see the panel dominated by women.  Several panelists were connected to shows executive produced by African American Shondra Rimes.  Women and people of color, often already sensitive or drawn to these issues to some degree, getting more sensitive. I wonder what would have happened if  a few of the guys — and I do mean guys — who deal in big budget action adventure, sex  and violence had gone on the trip instead.


Consciousness raising doesn’t take. It can’t be grandfathered in.  It has to be repeated.

Even then, the pace of changing hearts and minds is painfully slow and fitful.

When a panelist mentioned that she was surprised to see happiness in the slums, I immediately thought of Nikki Giovanni’s poem Nikki-Rosa.


childhood rememberances are always a drag
if you're Black
you always remember things like living in Woodlawn
with no inside toilet
and if you become famous or something
they never talk about how happy you were to have
your mother
all to yourself and
how good the water felt when you got your bath
from one of those
big tubs that folk in chicago barbeque in
and somehow when you talk about home
it never gets across how much you
understood their feelings
as the whole family attended meetings about Hollydale
and even though you remember
your biographers never understand
your father's pain as he sells his stock
and another dream goes
And though you're poor it isn't poverty that
concerns you
and though they fought a lot
it isn't your father's drinking that makes any difference
but only that everybody is together and you
and your sister have happy birthdays and very good
and I really hope no white person ever has cause
to write about me
because they never understand
Black love is Black wealth and they'll
probably talk about my hard childhood
and never understand that
all the while I was quite happy


Having worked for the Streisand Foundation for many years and seen organizations like Hollywood Hill and the Creative Coalition come and go, it’s really great to see a Hollywood organization that appears to have diversity as part of its DNA. HHS’s Sentinel Awards recognized children’s programming and a telenovela.

That rocks.


The reach and influence of media is, in my view, often overstated. However, that doesn’t mean that it’s insignificant. Several members of my family have mental health challenges.  How those health issues and others are treated in the media matters much. It directly impacts public policy debates and the day-to-day treatment of people whom I love.

Amazing work by the effort’s director Sandra de Castro Buffington who is planning local events as well.  I watch HHS with great interest.


About liftingasweclimb

Mildred Lewis writes and directs for theater, television, film and the web. She's also a full time professor, Christian, activist and troublemaker with a passion to save as much of the world as she can.
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