Friday, February 9, 2007

Now I Feel Bad...

I can be "quite harsh" sometimes. Well at least thats what I'm told.

But I couldnt help being "harsh" when I wrote my comments on Allison Samuels' book, Off the Record. This was the same journalist that wrote the infamous Newsweek article, "Angela's Fire", that was quoted all over Hollywood as:

Bassett Disses Berry, Bassett has sour grapes, or even Bassett says No to 'Ball', Berry gets the Oscar

Many people immediately assumed the article's author (Samuels) purposely created strife between Angela and Halle. And they promptly formed negative opinions of her. I'm sad to say I was one of those people.

AW HA! But no longer am I kept in the shadows as one of those ill-informed people. The book publicist for Off the Record, but more importantly Samuels' friend, emailed the Angie B News! contributors in response to my comments (you can read my comments here and the update to them here) and gave her side of the story.

Ms. Gilda Squire informed me of just how much Samuels has contributed to supporting black entertainers and their talent in a less than accepting Hollywood.

I'm writing this blog post so that you all can come out of the shadows too and create your own well-informed opinions of Samuels and her book. All with the glorious knowledge of both sides of the story.

Ms. Gilda Squire's Response:

Hi there,

I happened to find your blog and came across your entry about Allison Samuels’ Off the Record. I’m sincerely writing to you as her friend and not her book publicist. Everyone is entitled to an opinion and I wouldn’t dare question that, but your initial blog entry about Allison’s book, instructing your readers not to buy it but to thumb through it in the bookstore, was quite harsh. It concerns me largely because I know how much power bloggers have and how much influence you have with your readers. While I understand how the Angela/Halle quote was hurtful on many levels, what disturbs me most is how we accept things as they’re served.

Allison’s article clearly stated that Angela was not directing her frustration toward Halle , rather toward an industry which makes it difficult for talented and deserving African American women to secure decent roles. "I wasn't going to be a prostitute on film," she says. "I couldn't do that because it's such a stereotype about black women and sexuality.’ Bassett is clear she isn't criticizing Berry --just the way Hollywood views women in general and black women in particular. Several actresses, including Vanessa Williams, passed on "Monster's Ball" as well. "Film is forever," says Bassett. "It's about putting something out there you can be proud of 10 years later. I mean, Meryl Streep won Oscars without all that.'' And toward the end of the article - She says she loved Halle Berry 's performance in "Monster's Ball" and was moved to tears when Berry mentioned her in her acceptance speech. "I can't and don't begrudge Halle her success,'' she says. "It wasn't the role for me, but I told her she'd win and I told her to go get what was hers.”

There were a lot of people who rushed to judgment about both Angela (why she’d say it) and Allison (why she’d write it) without reading the quote in its context. What’s unfortunate about this is that I encouraged Allison to write the book because you’re right, she works for a magazine that makes a lot of decisions which she may not agree with as it relates o her articles, including the headlines of the final product, how the rticle should lead, the tone of the piece, and what they choose to highlight from the articles in their press releases. This is the case with any major magazine. Writers write and offer input, but editors/management make decisions about the final product. Nor is Allison allowed to come out in the aftermath of such chaos and explain herself because at the end of the day, it’s ultimately Newsweek’s call.

This is the reason why I thought she should write the book. Rather than do a reprint of her various articles, writing the book and offering her insight into what takes place behind the scenes would give her a chance to take readers not only inside the stories but also inside what it’s like as an African American female reporter who covers her own people at a mainstream publication. The Angela Bassett/Halle Berry debacle made Allison question herself, her career and her decisions. Her intent had always been to celebrate Angela Bassett and to call into question why this incredibly talented, beautiful woman has not worked more in the wake of her Oscar nomination and such a brilliant performance. Sadly, because so many people took that one quote out of context, it overshadowed that very important message and intent.

All this to say that Allison has worked hard at Newsweek to highlight and call into question issues of importance to African Americans, particularly the plight of blacks in Hollywood (check out Allison’s review in this week’s Newsweek of the book, Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present, a book by a black woman that is so important but receiving very little media exposure yet something that Allison pushed to get into Newsweek).

And yes, to this day, she takes it very hard when readers question whether she has good intent. What’s more is Allison worked very hard on Off the Record. She’s one of only a handful of African American female journalists (if that many) who covers black entertainment, including sports, for a mainstream magazine, so she needs our support (including me, as I’m also a black woman). Even if you don’t buy her book or buy the magazine to support her pieces, please don’t discourage others from doing so.

I appreciate the fact that you posted an update to your earlier post. I hope that more people will give Allison a chance. She really has a unique body of journalism that is awe-inspiring and just as the subjects she covers, her journey can be just as difficult and disappointing as she tries to do her community justice in one of the nation’s top news weeklies.

Thanks for your time.

Gilda N. Squire
Director of Publicity

Did I just get schooled or what? I probably needed that, its healthy to get told 'what for' once in a while. But in defense of myself, I wrote those comments of Samuels' book before I found out that she was black (I'm so not trying to bring another sista down!) and before I read about her true intentions with writing the article, "Angela's Fire".

I cant make any comments on Ms. Samuels' book until I've read it (and by 'read' I mean AFTER I've gone to the bookstore and purchased it!). But I will say that giving this journalist a chance by reading her side of the story is the least we can do.

You can purchase Allison Samuels' Off the Record at, B&N, or Walmart!


Strength/Courage/Wisdom said...

Great site! I love Angie B too. Her book with Courtney is very good, as well is Allison Samuels. Both books are very eye opening.

Keep up the good work!

Simonique said...

Thanks so much for the support! I'm thinking of getting into publishing as well...(if only to be able to read novels early!!)

Coco LaRue said...

Honestly, this is your blog and you are entitled to express your opinion in any way that you see fit. You're only doing your job just like Ms. Samuels and Ms. Squire. Keep doing what you're doing!

S.Leslie. said...

Thanks, Coco babe! Keep doing you too.


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