HOW THE NEED FOR DIVERSITY IS CHANGING THE INDUSTRY: A live dialogue between African Greeks and African Americans in entertainment

Greece, like so many other countries, has undergone radical demographic changes in the last three decades due to waves of immigration and the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean basin. The African Greek community is part of the new composition of the social fabric. These changes are reflected on every stratum, including the rising local film & entertainment industry. In this panel, guest speakers – representatives of the African Greek and American communities – will share their experiences in the workspace as well as their perspectives on local and global social change while facing the nemesis of racial bias. Participants: actor Samuel Akinola, filmmaker/activist Keith Beauchamp, actress Ksenia Dania, screenwriter Grace Edwards, actor Ernest Harden Jr., filmmaker/performer Taj Jackson, actor/performer Jerome Kaluta, actress Aurora Marion, actor/performer Black Morris, actor Stefan Mwange, actress Deborah Odong, actress/activist Nahisha Pettit.

 

To be moderated by renowned Los Angeles film critic Elvis Mitchell.

The panel is produced and presented by Constantinos Isaias.

A free live online panel discussion – 90 minutes
Saturday, May 29, 11:30 am PST (9:30 pm/Greece)
Event complete
Elvis Mitchell moderator

ELVIS MITCHELL

Moderator

Elvis Mitchell is an American film critic, host of the public radio show The Treatment, and visiting lecturer at Harvard University.He has served as a film critic for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, LA Weekly, The Detroit Free Press, and The New York Times. In the summer of 2011, he was appointed as curator of LACMA’s new film series, Film Independent at LACMA. He is currently teaching at the American Film Institute.

Aurora Marion

Aurora Marion

Aurora Marion has acted in theater, feature films, as well as short films and international TV series such as “Doctor Who”, “Parliament”, “Before We Die”, “Professor T.” and more. Her career started with a leading role in cinema with Chantal Akerman’s “Almayer’s Folly” which premiered at the Venice Film Festival. She was nominated as a most promising actress by the Belgian academy for this first role. Regarding the Greek Theatrical and Cinema scene, she has performed for Konstantinos Markoulakis at the theatre of Dimitris Horn in Athens, for Brett Bailey at the Onassis Cultural Center, for Dimitris Lignadis at Megaro Mousikis and at the European Parliament, for Vana Pefani, Nikos Perakis, Nikos Cornilios, Athina Rachel Tsangari and the list goes on… She recently received an award by the Belgian Academy of Cinema for her role in “The Wedding” by Stephan Streker.

Instagram @aurora_marion

Black Morris

Black Morris

Black Morris’ known as “Negros Tou Moria” born by Ghanaian parents in the economically depressed Athenian district of Ambelokipi, and growing up in and around the neglected Kipseli neighborhood ‘Black Morris’ made his first tentative steps in the world of Greek rap next to the legendary MC ‘TakiTsan’ and has since gone on to flesh out his unique and intuitive voice amongst the new-breed in his hometown. Black Morris is the approximate translation of Negros Tou Moria which in its original Greek is an adroit play on words with Geros Tou Moria, a legendary general of the Greek revolution against the Turkish occupation – this twist on a symbol of classic ‘Greekness’ goes a great way to describing the artist’s ethos, creativity and cultural dichotomy; he is an artist that embodies 21st century inner city Athens, speaking of and to its affronted youth with his own tenacious swagger. Black Morris is best described as one of the most up and coming Greek rappers to have emerged in recent years, with unparalleled flow, prodigious beats and music that takes its cues from Europe and the US in equal measure, backed by a modern melting pot of intensely talented young producers and artists from a diversity of ethnic backgrounds. Marking himself out with an inimitable approach amongst this new generation of artists who share the ancient city as their influence and base, he has resonated with those in the know up North as the Thessaloniki Hip Hop Festival chose ‘Black Morris’ as their Best New Artist of the Year in 2014. Black Morris composed the soundtrack of the movie “Motorway 65” which was nominated for Palme d’Or and he appeared in the documentary “My Rembetika Blues” which is part of the Los Angeles Greek Film Festival 2021 Program.

Instagram @blackmorris37

Deborah Odong

Deborah Odong

Deborah Odong is an actress born and raised in Athens and in London. Before completing her acting training in Athens Drama School G. Theodosiadis, she earned a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the American College of Greece. For more than a decade, she’s been made essential to greek television viewers by being included in all the most prominent productions, the most loved series and having worked with Greece’ s most noted directors. Some of her works on TV is “Maria i ashimi”, “Ethinkini Ellados”, H Leksi pou den les”, “Dia tauta”, “Logo Timis”. She is a voracious theatre-goer and is waiting patiently till the time is right again to watch shows in Athens, London, Paris and New York. She’s always avoided interviews but as of last summer and the birth of the BLM movement, she knows that as a black greek woman, she doesn’t have the privilege to be silent. In a series of interviews in prominent greek newspapers and a Tedx talk, she’s started addressing the issue of an all white greek television, theatre and cinema.
She is currently rehearsing for the upcoming production of the Athens Epidaurus Festival, “National Fashion Show” which attempts to comment on the notions of identity and alterity, raising the following question: What type of communities could we invent nowadays, aiming at a more inclusive future?

Instagram @deborahodong

Ernest Harden Jr

Ernest Harden Jr.

Ernest Harden Jr. started his career in New York working in films like “The Three Days of Condor”, “The Front”, and Taxi Driver”. Soon after arriving in Los Angeles, He was awarded the regular role of Marcus Henderson on the hit television show The Jeffersons. He has starred and guest starred in numerous TV shows and feature films including “Roots”, “White Men Can’t Jump”,”The Transporter 2” and “J. Edgar” directed by Clint Eastwood. Ernest is the only African American to ever star opposite Bette Davis in a film. The film was called “White Mama”. It was one of Mrs. Davis’s last films that she ever made. He can also be seen in the upcoming movies Bronx Bull and Compton’s Finest. He not long ago closed his one-man show as Kabin Thomas in “Beethoven Misfortune Cookies” at The Odyssey Theatre in Hollywood as well as a run at the Mark Taper in August Wilson’s, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”, directed by Phylicia Rashad. Ernest teamed up with actor/director Moe Irvin making their short film “Stanford and Son”. Ernest and Moe star in the film. He is also starring in “Bus Stop” another short film directed by Peachanda Dubose He is currently shooting on the Amazon Prime series “Them Covenant” produced by Lena Waithe and created by Little Marvin and just finished shooting the feature film “Velvet Jesus” that he is also starring in. Ernest is a lifetime member of the Actors Studio.

Instagram @ernesthardenjr – Twitter @ernestharden

Grace Edwards

Grace Edwards

Grace Edwards is a prolific writer/actor/producer. She is the creator/executive producer of “Jodie”, a spin-off of the iconic series Daria. Most recently she was a writer/producer for the Emmy-nominated HBO series Insecure. Her previous writing credits include multiple seasons of the Emmy-nominated “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”, Hulu’s “Dollface”, “Loosely Exactly Nicole” and “Inside Amy Schumer”. Her acting credits include “Our Cartoon President”, “Insecure” and “Inside Amy Schumer”. She has an MFA in Screenwriting from Columbia University and a BFA in Acting from the University of Michigan.

Instagram & Twitter @gracyact

Jerome Kaluta

Jerome Kaluta

Jerome Kaluta born and raised in Athens, is a unique performer and a songwriter who has combined his Afro European music influences, having been raised funk, soul, reggae & disco music, and emerged them to his music production and performance, the infamous Urban Soul experience. As a solo artist, Jerome has appeared in music halls and clubs, throughout Greece & Cyprus. Hosting a Busta Rhymes concert in Athens and starring in two music documentaries about Hip Hop “Rhythm & Rhymes” & “Open Mics”, which paved the way for his 2008 signing with music label Renegade Records, with whom Kaluta released his first Maxi EP “Get Up”. In 2011 he signed with Warner Music Greece and released the digital single “Den Pirazei” and currently, he is signed with EMI Universal Group where he released his digital single “Home”. From 2008 until present his collaboration with one of Greece’s best composers Stamatis Kraounakis stands out as one of the highlights of his career. As member of Speira- Speira, the 1st Greek music theatrical ensemble, Jerome has appeared all over Greece and Europe performing in pure musical plays. From the Ancient Herodion Theater to Athens music Hall Megaron up to the Little Theatre of Ancient Epidavros. This music project, dated from 2011, gathered great like minded players who wanted to mix Funk, Soul, Hip Hop, R’n’B, Reggae, Latin and Afro with Jerome’s soulful original songs and updated takes on sardars, in a single show. This gave birth to the musical genre “Urban Soul” and gained a loyal local audience in Athens and Cyprus.Influenced by icons like James Brown, Compay Segundo , Ella Fitzerald, The Blues Brothers, Bill Withers, Ray Charles and many more alongside with Jerome’s powerful and unique energy on stage!

Instagram @jeromethesource – Twitter @jerome_kaluta

Keith A. Beauchamp

Keith A. Beauchamp

Keith A. Beauchamp is an Award Winning Filmmaker. He attended Southern University in Baton Rouge, where he studied Criminal Justice, with the intention of becoming a Civil Rights Lawyer. Beauchamp found work in New York at Big Baby Films, where he honed his behind the camera skills while devoting himself to researching the Emmett Till case. In 1999, Beauchamp founded Till Freedom Come Productions, a company devoted to socially significant projects that can both teach and entertain. He has devoted the past twenty two years of his life telling the story of Emmett Till and has traveled extensively between New York, Chicago and Mississippi to investigate the historic murder. On May 10th, 2004, the United States Department of Justice re-opened this 50 year old murder case citing Beauchamp’s documentary “The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till” as both a major factor in their decision and the starting point for their investigation. That same year, Beauchamp begin his collaboration with the FBI’s New Civil Rights “Cold Case” Initiative, producing documentaries on other unsolved civil rights murders in hopes of helping Federal agents with their investigations that could lead to bringing remaining perpetrators to justice. Beauchamp is a frequent lecturer at colleges and universities around the country. Beauchamp is the former Executive Producer and Host of Investigation Discovery’s Award-winning crime reality series, ‘The InjusticeFiles. His past works include, TV One’s ‘Murder in Black and White’ hosted by Rev. Al Sharpton and ‘Wanted Justice: Johnnie Mae Chappell’ for the History Channel and ‘BET’s Exceptional Black Women.’ Beauchamp is currently the producer of the upcoming feature film “Till,” which is being co-produced by Fred Zollo, Whoopi Goldberg and Barbara Broccoli.

Instagram @keithabeauchamp – Twitter @KeithBeauchamp

Ksenia Dania

Ksenia Dania

Ksenia Dania was born and raised in Athens, Greece. She is an actress and singer. She studied acting at the Athens Conservatoire Drama School. In 2016 she played the supporting role of Teresa in the movie “America Square” by Yiannis Sakaridis. In 2019 she starred in the short film “Motorway65” by Evi Kalogiropoulou which was nominated for the Palme d’Or- Short Film at the Cannes Film Festival. In 2020 she played the lead role in the short film “Antivirus” by Anastasia Sima. She has given numerous concerts in Athens, such as the Athens Concert Hall, the Stavros Cultural Foundation, the Kakogiannis Foundation, and more.

Instagram & Twitter @kseniadania

Nahisha Pettit

Nahisha Pettit

Nahisha Pettit is an actress, podcast host and social activist. Originally from Washington DC, Nahisha was raised in Baltimore, Maryland. She was born into a pioneering civil rights family. Her grandfather was a key integrator of Maryland schools, with the help of the legendary Thurgood Marshall as his attorney. Later, as her father graduated Law School, he would represent his dad, Nahisha’s grandfather, and make her grandfather the first Black man to successfully sue the United States military for racism. Growing up the child of a nationally respected civil rights attorney, Nahisha is no stranger to the issues of police brutality and wrongful executions. Her dad has been the recipient of many of these cases for as long as she can remember. Unfortunately, she has lost two of her closest friends, who were completely innocent and more importantly, unarmed, at the hands of corrupt cops. This history set Nahisha upon her journey to equalize the experience of Black people in America. Upon moving to Los Angeles, after attending Howard University, Nahisha launched her career as a music writer and working actress. She has appeared as a guest star on several well known television shows, and starred in multiple commercials. Nahisha has also toured multiple countries performing music. Nahisha has always possessed a strong passion for music. She has placed original songs on various film soundtracks and commercials. Nahisha’s podcast is her latest endeavor. She looks forward to continuing to make her voice heard, especially as it pertains to the very important issue of human rights, and the liberation of the oppressed. She believes one group’s suffrage and oppression, is the oppression of us all. And she will stop at almost nothing as she plays her part to create a fair, humane and equal world for us all.

Instagram @nahisha – Twitter @nahisha

Samuel Akinola

Samuel Akinola

Samuel Akinola is an actor and performer. Born and raised in Greece, with roots from Kenya and Nigeria. He is an accredited stage, film and voiceover actor, with many Greek theater productions under his belt, some of his credits include, “Oedipus Rex” by Sophocles and “Bacchae” by Euripides. He is the voice for Greek releases of animated movies such as, “Smallfoot” and “The Secret Life of Pets”. His on screen work includes roles in the films, “Do it Yourself”, “Holy Bloom” and “The Tailor” – a feature film in LAGFF 2021. In addition to acting, Akinola plays Djembe and has performed in several dance productions with the group ‘ANASA drummers’ and with the dance group of ‘Dafne Asimakopoulou’. Akinola devotes himself to several outreach and non-profit organizations who focus on diversity and interculturality. He has worked with “Diversity Volcano” with the organization Generation 2.0, that aims to help students understand and familiarize themselves with topics of diversity, interculturalism and human rights, within several schools around Greece. He has also combined his skills of acting and efforts of social justice, to normalize human relations based on diversity, performing “FO-RA STOP” (Fear-Racism STOP!), a school action inspired by the theatrical play “Third wave” by Ron Jones and Joseph Robinette, performed in the youth stage of the National Theatre (Chora Theatre).

Instagram @samuel_akinola_theo

Stefan Mwagne

Stefan Mwange

Stefan Mwange was born and raised in Athens, while his origins are from Uganda. He is an actor with many productions on stage and on screen. While a student of journalism, Mwange worked as an amateur actor in the theater, taking part in performances as a professional while also presenting radio shows. His first big break as an actor came in 2008, with the leading role of Abdel in the youth series “C4” for which he was nominated for the Nation TV Awards. This was followed by extraordinary appearances in series such as the comedy “The Apartment Building”, also as Simon Elenko on Mega Channel’s daily series, “Stolen Dreams”, and most recently as Mamandou in the comedy series “Throw The Fryer”. Mwange performed at the National Theater Of Greece in 2014 in the play “Mephisto” and in 2015 in the play “Piaf”. Also Mwange performed twice in the “Athens and Epidaurus Festival” with the plays “A Quiet Voice” and “Aida”. He made his cinematic debut in 2011 as a doctor in the comedy “Out of the Bones”. This was followed by the film “Vacant” in 2013 and the short productions “Not Medea” and “History Zero” in 2014 at Venice Biennale. In 2016, the film “America Square” followed, while in 2017 “Do It Yourself” & “Smac” and in the 2021 newly acclaimed film “Tailor”, a feature film in LAGFF 2021.
Instagram @stefanosmouagkie

Taj Jackson

Taj Jackson

Taj Jackson was literally born into fame, appearing on a JET magazine cover as a newborn. The son of the Jackson 5’s Tito Jackson and nephew of Michael Jackson, Taj was raised with a front row seat to the inner workings of the entertainment industry. At age twelve, he followed in his father and uncle’s footsteps by forming a musical group with his brothers Taryll and TJ called 3T. Soon after hearing their demo tape, Sony Music signed them to a record deal. Their first song, “Didn’t Mean To Hurt You” was featured on the soundtrack to the movie “Free Willy” which also featured a song by their uncle Michael to whom they were extremely close. Michael was very instrumental in developing Taj’s passion for music, photography, and film. Beyond helping Taj with his entertainment career, Michael was an emotional rock for Taj and his brothers, especially in helping them grieve for the death of their mother, Dee Dee Jackson, in 1994. With the support of Michael, Tito, and the rest of the Jackson family, 3T was able to finish their debut album, “Brotherhood”, later that year. The album went on to sell over three million units worldwide and forced Taj to make a difficult career decision: stay in college and pursue a film education, or focus solely on 3T and his music. Of course, Taj found a way to incorporate all his artistic interests, and began co-directing the group’s music videos and acted as creative advisor on the “Brotherhood World Tour” in 1997. Since then, he has continued his music and photography career as well as fulfilling his dream as an established director.

Instagram @tajjackson – Twitter @tajjackson3

Constantinos Isaias

Constantinos Isaias

Producer/Presenter - Diversity Panel
Trey Armstrong

Trey Armstrong

Panel Content Assistant - LMU 2021 Intern
Maria Musoga

Maria Musoga

Panel Content Assistant