( from l to r: Demetria McKinney, Traci Lynn Blackwell and Wendy Raquel Robinson)
If Atlanta is the new Hollywood South, then last Friday’s Black Women Film Network luncheon was a sure indicator of that claim. Black women from all areas of entertainment including television, film and reality-fame filled the ballroom of The Marriott Marquis Hotel for this year’s stellar event.
Founded in 1997 by Sheryl Riley Gripper, The Black Women Film Network has been committed to recognizing the achievements of African-American women (and a few men) in television and film as well as telling their courageous and often ‘untold’ stories.
RayCornelius.com had a chance to talk with honorees Wendy Raquel Robinson, Saptosa Foster and Traci Lynn Blackwell (after her emotional acceptance speech).
Bronze Lens Film Festival’s executive producer, Kathleen Bertrand chimed in about this year’s 2012 Festival. And we captured photos of RHOA stars, Phaedra Parks and Cynthia Bailey and rising actresses, Demetria McKinney and Jasmine Burke.
This year’s luncheon also honored actress, Tasha Smith and humanitarian, Judy Mauldin and featured a special musical tribute to the late, Whitney Houston.
Sheryl Riley Gripper, Founder of The Black Women Film Network
Wendy Raquel Robinson, Performance Award recipient and BET’s The Game
RC: Congratulations Wendy on being an honoree this year. How does it feel?
WRR: Amazing! You know anytime you’re being recognized not only for your work but by an incredible group of black women like this! It’s amazing!
RC: Now you’ve done some sketch comedy in the past. Are we going to see some more of that in the future?
WRR: You know, what’s amazing is that’s my first love. You know? Writing and performing sketch comedy, and doing character work. But I’ve always done it in theatre. So I don’t know if it will make it to television because it’s such a hard genre. But yes, you’ll see me or you’ll see me on stage doing it. Wait! Did I just jump into a character? LOL
Kat Graham of CW’s The Vampire Diaries
Phaedra Parks of Real Housewives of Atlanta
Kathleen Bertrand, Executive Producer of Bronze Lens Film Festival
RC: The Bronze Lens Film Festival is featured in this month’s Ebony and is going into its third year. What can we look forward to this year?
KB: Well, more of the same quality programming and excellent films. Submissions are open now thru July and we’ve already recieved some entries. We are also anticipating a lot of the film makers that were inquisitive about us last year will finally submit this year.
Cynthia Bailey of Real Housewives of Atlanta and The Bailey Agency
Tai Beauchamp of InStyle and My Black Is Beautiful
Saptosa Foster, Innovator Award recipient and Managing Partner of the 135th Street Agency
RC: Congratulations on being an honoree this year. How does it feel?
SF: It’s kind of surreal. I didnt realize how significant this event is to African American women. I have been so immersed in my work that i hardly ever take a step back to ‘smell the roses.’ I really do appreciate Sheryl Gripper and the BWFN directors and board members for taking the time to celebrate other black women in film. I absolutely love it.
Jasmine Burke, actress and Terrell Whitley, CEO of Liquid Soul Media and 2011 Honoree
Demetria McKinney of Tyler Perry’s House of Payne and 2009 Honoree
Traci Lynn Blackwell, Pinnacle Award recipient and VP of Current Programs at The CW Network
RC: First of all congratulations. What does this moment mean for you right now?
TB: Oh, Gosh! Now that I’ve been through it; it’s been such an amazing day. Just being honored by an organization that is committed to moving forward and inspiring and encouraging women of all cultures, but particularly African-American women is an honor. I’m just really happy and grateful. That’s what is in my heart.
RC: Everyone is talking about your acceptance speech and how inspirational it was. Any thoughts?
TB: God is at the center of everything I do. So, the older I get the more I learn that the transparency about that is important. I’m not afraid to talk about how much I love God and how much He has helped me and influenced my career. I said that I was going to speak from my heart but that was the point of today. You just have to stay in faith!
Judy Mauldin, Humanitarian Award recipient and Co-Founder of R&B Hip Hop 4 Humanity