The other night at the Paley Center, my friend Pat Mitchell who is President and CEO of the Center, invited Richard and me to attend the photo exhibit and screening of “The Black List Project.” This was the third part of the series of extraordinary interviews with African Americans who have been successful, mostly in the face of great odds. HBO has shown the first two but I had not known about it.  Photographer Timothy Greenfield-Sanders did the photographing and former New York Times film critic, Elvis Mitchell, did the interviews although he is never seen or heard. May not sound very special—interviews, seen ‘em, done ‘em. But this is something quite different. Just these amazing faces, not prettied up, taking right at the camera in ways we don’t expect. Often profound, funny, surprising. What’s terrific is that although most of the subjects have had a hard go of it, overcoming huge obstacles of racism and sometimes poverty, they are not victims. They don’t see themselves as such and we don’t either. I wish every single American school child could see these interviews. They’d learn a lot about not giving up, about going for it. Because I work with disadvantaged youth in my home state of Georgia (youth of all ethnicities, not just black) I recognized so many themes…the mother who, though poor and single, instilled in her child the importance of education and the will to succeed; the one person who makes all the difference in the child’s life…a teacher, an uncle, a neighbor. I can’t remember who of the interviewees talked about what the black community was like before integration when lawyers, teachers, janitors, doctors, construction workers all lived in the same community. How different today in south Atlanta, for instance, where middle class professionals have moved to the burbs leaving the seemingly permanent underclass with no one to show the young ones what it means to get up every day and go to work. Not that they don’t want to work. There are no jobs and few mentors to tell them what to wear and how to behave and why it’s important to be on time. The kinds of things we of the middle class learn from our parents. There’s no Uncle Joe to call to make sure they’re up and out the door. It’s as though there was a giant mirrored wall all round these run down communities and all they can see is themselves. This is why mentoring, 100 Black Men, Boys and Girls Clubs and other such organizations  are so critical. But don’t get me wrong, the Black List is a real “upper.” After the screening there was a Q & A on stage with Elvis, Timothy, Suzanne de Passe (Motown exec), Lou Gossett Jr. and Beverly Johnson, the first black super model.

Anyway, check it out if you get a chance.

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  1. I wish you had been out there for me to find, a whole lot of years ago.

    Caring about someone you’ll never know, it’s the right thing to do….for so many reasons. They just compound.


  2. Very interesting, Miss Fonda. There was a documentary a few years ago where famous African Americans of film, television, and academia got their ancestry traced that I saw. I forget the title of that documentary, but I wonder if you saw it? It might have been on PBS. It’s amazing how interconnected we really are.

  3. Before I go lay down and pretend I am sleeping until it gets light out, I will say this: I am one of those people who believes we are commanded by God to love each other. I have seen a lot of people with plenty who have lost their humanity toward their fellow man. I believe it must be hard to have too much and still feel comfortable. We are supposed to love our neighbor, but I do not see that happening in these days and times. When I was a child, children were required to behave. I am glad I am still that same child in my heart. I fear the future filled with the anger I see. I wonder what children think these days with so much indifference from too many.
    I wrote Kirk Douglas a letter last week and told him I would like to mow his lawn if he served lunch sometime! heh heh I remember mowing the lawn for my Grandfather because he was my Grandfather. I did it because it made me feel good to know he appreciated it. I still carry that smile with me.
    That being said, I would like you to thank Ted for me for his humanity to man. I also thank you for being civil to him even though you are not married anymore! God knows I wish my ex’s could just be civil… Hahahaha!
    Thanks for your letter!

  4. I hope they included Mary Frances Berry who is very deserving of any and all recognition.

  5. Black List Project is a GENIUS of an idea and hope HBO will have it on someday.
    I like this format. Maybe someday other races and nationalities could be presented.
    Your description of how the ‘middle class professionals’ moved to suburbs leaving behind the poor with no mentors, etc. could also include my ‘working class’ parents from Europe who also would have moved out of Gary, Ind in the l940’s (if we hadn’t located west) to the countryside.

  6. always stirring up the flame for the young people to make something out of their life and you open the door to struggle and hope with your associations!frederique dhenein

  7. This exhibit sounds very interesting. I think seeing the the interviews would be inspiring and helpful to all young people, but especially to those young people who want to make a change in their lives for the better! You’re right that many teenagers don’t have much guidance from people in their lives to “lead” them on the path to opportunity. It only takes one person sometimes to ignite a “spark” within someone else that can change their life.

    • Heather,

      Some people promote themselves at the expense of others. You are one of those persons with your harassment and malicious defamation of Ms. Fonda. It is to her credit that she allowed your nasty comments and took her valuable time to respond to it. If I had been her, I would not have wasted my time on you – a pretender at best.

      I would be willing to bet you weren’t born until after the Vietnam war and have no first hand knowledge about it and the resistance to that war that many Americans, including me, engaged in.

      I was married to a Vietnam era Army helicopter pilot who was fortunate enough to come home intact. Therefore, I speak with more authority than you on that subject.

      You can pretend to be “offended” while you “offend” but your words are hate filled and have no basis in reality.

      Let me also advise you that the United States military does not condone your hateful, malicious, conduct and you had best stay anonymous if you want to avoid causing problems for your husband. The military stands for honor, and your malicious lies about Ms. Fonda are not honorable, ethical, or honest. Ms. Fonda is NOT a traitor in any sense of the word. For you to state otherwise is a bald faced lie.

      You message is old news Heather. Grow up and stop posting cheap shots on the Internet.

      I am a real Vietnam era soldier’s wife – you’re not. And as such, I know the difference between a low class, malicious, lying a$$ like you, and a real soldier’s family whose work it is to make the country better, not drag it down to your level.

  8. I can not believe you can be allowed to be in America you are a traitor!!! I am a soldiers wife and am deeply offended every time I see your face or name!

    • Dear Heather, this makes me sad for you. I made some mistakes, a terrible lapse in judgement when I sat on an anti aircraft gun in North Vietnam, most specifically. i have written extensively about how and why this happened and my profound regret that it sent an image that belies what I was doing in North Vietnam and how I felt (and feel) about U.S. servicemen with whom I had worked for a number of years prior to this (including Air force personel) and about whom I made “Coming Home” which was voted one of the two favorite films of veterans along with “Green Beret” according to the V.A, poll that year. The people who betrayed our country and our servicemen were those who prosecuted the war, knowing it could not be won. Many veterans have come to understand this. Robert McNamara, to his credit, admitted the architects of the war had made a terrible mistake. It would better serve your country and your soul, perhaps, if you took the time to study what really happened and not believe the continuing lies circulated about me. Even the then head of the POW/MIA organization and the person who was supposedly tortured because of me have said it was “an internet hoax.” Why continue to live with hate that is based on falsehoods. You are the one that is hurt by this. xx

  9. Very Interesting Jane , always interested in media and information events, as a educational media specialist. I see that the white house is have a civil rights music special on Febuary 10, if I got that infomation right, with many of the music people of the 60’s on hand, and pbs with be showing it also. I got that from Joan Baez- she is the host, Iam sure you and Richard would be interested.

  10. Dear Jane,

    For what it’s worth, I’m a soldier’s wife, too. And, though young enough think of a movie like “Barefoot in the Park” as ‘before my time,’ I’ve still heard the stories and arguments about what happened during Vietnam.

    I wasn’t there to see it unfold as it happened, to make a judgment based on as much information as I could possibly have gathered at the time. But I know, having watched the way people behave when it comes to war and politics, to learn as much as possible before making judgments or deciding to hate.

    I love your “old” movies, I love the not so old (but still probably considered “old”) ones (like “California Suite” and “On Golden Pond”), and I loved your appearance on the Colbert Report as much as I would have hated it were I Colbert’s wife.

    I wasn’t born when the Vietnam controversy involving you and the photographs happened, but as the wife of a man who deployed twice, I say without prejudice or reservation that I don’t hate you.

    I don’t even know you.

    What I do know is that you seem like one of the most independent, confident, fearless, and outspoken women in Hollywood, and I admire that.

    For what it’s worth.

  11. When I first heard of this from The Paley Center Website, my initial thought was how encouraging such an equivalent would be for the youth here (London), black and white. The Paley Centre is inspiring and I wish that we had a similar institution here.

    The Black List is a worthwhile idea that deserves breeding.

    Just noticed the commenter above. Ms Fonda, I am sorry that you had to respond to that, if I may be so bold, I think you have apologised enough. Some people want their pound of flesh for no other reason than cannibalism, which is exactly what bullying is.

    May you have a beautiful day filled with understanding.

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