The Journey of a Black Film Critic: Breaking Barriers, Inspiring Change | Black Writers Week

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According to Zippia, white writers still dominate the industry, comprising 67.3% of the field in 2021. Black critics remain underrepresented, comprising only 6.2% of the profession, a lower number than even in 2010, while women of color face particular challenges in authoring reviews on platforms like Rotten Tomatoes. These disparities underscore the industry’s imbalance. Nevertheless, my unwavering desire to become a film critic propelled me forward.

Black film critics encounter various barriers, including limited employment opportunities with organizations that offer compensation and access to festivals and events. Access to publications, publicists, studios, and festivals is also often restricted, as these entities control attendance at screenings, interviews, press junkets, premieres, and set visits. Joining industry organizations typically requires a significant following, numerous reviews, accreditation, or sponsorship, further hindering aspiring critics. Moreover, bias, often disguised as a lack of training or necessary skills, perpetuates the persistent disparities, failing to acknowledge the issue of exclusion.

In my journey, I have encountered many of these barriers. However, before delving into how I confronted and overcame them, it is important for you to have a sense of who I am. Growing up in a predominantly Black community on the Southside of Chicago, I witnessed my mother’s determination and resourcefulness as she worked multiple jobs to support her eight children. Despite challenges, she ensured that all of us had the opportunity to attend and graduate from college. While we enjoyed television shows featuring predominantly white characters, we eagerly consumed content featuring Black characters as well. My mother emphasized the importance of play and creativity over excessive media consumption, igniting our imaginations through plays, skits, poetry, and invented games.

One of our notable skits developed by my older brother Rhinold, the “Muntly-Rinkly Report,” was inspired by the nightly news program “Huntley-Brinkley Report” but infused with a Black perspective. This skit sparked my passion for commentary, allowing me to address world events from my unique standpoint and shed light on unreported news stories or perspectives lacking in mainstream media.

While at Princeton University, where I joined Rhinold, I changed my major to sociology, which demanded a critical analysis of the world around us. I then pursued an MBA in marketing and economics at The University of Chicago Booth School of Business and found success in the advertising industry at Leo Burnett. However, my burning desire to discuss cinema and its messages compelled me to journey to amplify my voice as a film critic. This journey has been marked by challenges, setbacks, and victories.


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