Actress discusses portrayal of blacks

The new pharmacy building was the locale for a forum-style discussion that focused on Hollywood’s portrayal of Blacks and its enduring social implications last Thursday.

The Beta Alpha Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., hosted “The Portrayal of Blacks in the Media” which featured Derick Williams, a professor in the Department of Visual Arts, Humanities and Theatre, and actress Tyra Ferrell.

Ferrell, a graduate from the University of Texas Performing Arts school, has graced the big screen in many well-known movies including “Boyz-N-the-Hood” and “White Man Can’t Jump.”

Williams’ discussion focused primarily on the recurrence of derogatory stereotypes in black cinema. Using “Friday,” “Imitation of Life” and “Boyz-N-the-Hood” as examples, Williams denounced the portrayal of Black culture in commercialized and stereotypical terms.

Williams also advocated investing in films directed and produced by blacks, which he argued they will provide a more comprehensive view and portrayal of black culture.

Ferrell captivated her audience with numerous recounts of her personal experiences in Hollywood. She discussed her personal conflict with stereotypical portrayals of blacks, especially women, in modern media.

“I wanted to see myself on the screen the way I didn’t see myself on the screen,” Ferrell said of her commitment to raising the social standards associated with black actors and actresses.

She also focused a larger part of her discussion on her motivation and dedication to her cause.

“The little brown girls like my daughter here and a lot of women like yourself could see yourself in me and say that’s beautiful.”

Ferrell said she wanted her audience to know that she took “roles in movies when they would benefit her community or culture.”

Marie Triche was one of the members of the Beta Alpha Chapter who was responsible for organizing the event.

Triche said the idea for the discussion stemmed from a previous opportunity that she had to meet and speak with Ferrell.

“After hearing her speak on the different roles that she played in the future of her black cinema, I was gasping and intrigued and getting students to know that this actress is here,” Triche said.

The senior criminal justice/pre-law student from Miami said she appreciated Ferrell for taking the time to visit Florida A&M University and share her experiences and perspectives with students.

“I thought the speakers were really good, especially Tyra Ferrell. I know she’s a great actress,” said Donyelle Russ, a junior healthcare management student.

The 22-year-old from Tallahassee said Ferrell’s discussion showed the stress and struggle of black women.

“She really showed how we live and grow up,” Russ said.

“Professor Williams was great because he’s so educated in black film,” Russ added.

Cheree King, a 21-year-old junior computer information systems student from St. Augustine, said the two speakers spoke from different, but interesting perspectives.

“I feel both speakers were coming from different standpoints,” King said.

“Dr. Williams was coming from history of African Americans which is as important as Tyra Ferrell coming from a modern day standpoint and both had wonderful things to say.”

Ferrell advised students to have determination in order to make it into their chosen fields.

“Focus, have a plan, find out what it takes to get there, and read what you can. Keep sending in your resume over and over again, talk to people, go out, pray within, don’t settle for anywhere and think outside the box.”

Contact Tia Kigler at