GLAAD Announces Inaugural Class for New Equity in Media and Entertainment Initiative (Exclusive)

GLAAD Announces Inaugural Class for New Equity in Media and Entertainment Initiative (Exclusive)

Ten Black LGBTQ+ creatives have been named as part of the three-year program, which offers each a $10,000 grant and aims to increase their access to Hollywood's professional networks, resources, insider knowledge and funding.

GLAAD has announced its inaugural cohort of 10 creatives for its newly launched Equity in Media and Entertainment Initiative.

Alexander King, Brandon Nicholas, Brit Fryer, Ish Brown, LaQuann Dawson, Michael Donte, Nyala Moon, Olivia Peace, Riley Wilson and Whitney Skauge will participate in the three-year program focused on developing and elevating the work and storytelling of Black LGBTQ+ creatives.

Created and led by DaShawn Usher, the director of GLAAD’s Communities of Color and Media department, along with associate director Julian J. Walker and junior associate Kayla Thompson, the initiative — which is also supported by Gilead Sciences — is designed as a pipeline program to help address, and begin to resolve, the existing gap in equitable representation onscreen and behind the scenes in Hollywood.

Each participating creative will be granted $10,000 to fund a current or new creative project to be produced during their time with the initiative in an effort to help produce more authentic Black queer stories. In addition to the funding, the program will work to strengthen creatives’ professional networks while advancing their access to executive leadership and spaces that provide insider knowledge and resources.

“While we know we are not at a deficit of Black LGBTQ+ storytellers, creatives and content producers, we still do not have the same equity or access in telling our own stories in entertainment and media. We are excited to launch EMEI during a time that is pivotal in telling Black queer stories that are fully supported financially, creatively and professionally,” Usher said in a statement. “This year’s cohort of visionaries and advisors are the pinnacle of what Black LGBTQ+ creatives can do when we join together to amplify our work.”

Each year will support a different group of Black LGBTQ+ creatives across various disciplines, with the first year’s cohort made up of short form filmmakers, followed by writers for television, theater and books as part of the second year. Music artists, songwriters, producers and choreographers round out the program as part of its third-year creative cohort.

An advisory board of Black LGBTQ+ creative professionals will support each year’s cohort, shaping their experience with EMEI through recommendations, industry insights, network building and resource sharing.

Among that board is Tony-winning producer and stage manager Cody Renard Richard; Director of Corporate Giving at Gilead, Darwin Thompson; Dennis Williams, svp, Corporate Affairs & Corporate Social Responsibility at WarnerMedia; hairstylist and studio hair department head Derek J.; filmmaker Elegance Bratton; Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer at Nike Jarvis Sam; Jasmine J. Smith, MS, manager of Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging at Universal Music Group; manager of Multicultural Publicity and Community Projects at Netflix Kevin Stuckey; costume and set designer Kwame Waters; co-founder and Chief Product Officer at Revry, Inc. LaShawn McGhee; and author, showrunner, executive producer and TV drama writer Rasheed Newson.

The cohort will meet virtually on a monthly basis to discuss their projects in addition to having quarterly meetings with the advisory board. Both groups will make recommendations for quarterly events that help supports the cohort’s professional development.