By Lee Alan Hill
Special to TelevisionWeek
The National Association of Multi-ethnicity in Communications is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year and expects its profile to rise higher than ever before as it expands its second annual Creative Summit to include New York as well as Los Angeles and plans for the first telecast of its Vision Awards.
“Both our mission and our organization have become more visible in recent years,” said Kathy Johnson, national executive VP. “The Vision Awards have been a big part of that. It’s a distinctive award, and as the caliber of the show itself has increased, we’ve seen more industry interest.”
NAMIC is an organization dedicated to creating opportunities for people of color, particularly in cable and new technologies. It has 17 chapters and 2,000 members nationwide, running the gamut from industry executives to students hoping to break in to the business.
The organization said in 1993 it became the first in the industry to launch a mentoring initiative, and was the first organization to do wide-ranging research on multiethnicity-or lack thereof-in the executive branches of the industry and among those who produce programming.
The organization comprises various ethnicities linked in a common cause, people who have not always worked in tandem. “At NAMIC we are joined, and I think it’s because at the end of the day we all focus on the same issues,” Ms. Johnson said.
“We really try to keep our finger on what the entire industry and the Hollywood industry are doing,” said Antoinette Brown-Leon, president of NAMIC’s Southern California chapter and the regional director of affiliate sales for TV One, the network launched last year that targets the black adult audience.
“We’re about empowering and educating at all levels,” Ms. Brown-Leon said. “I can speak personally that when I joined NAMIC 12 years ago it was a tremendous support group for me, as I know it has been for others. It has given me the opportunity to reach back and develop not just myself but to bring other different voices into the industry.”
This is accomplished, she said, in many ways, including through the Executive Leadership Development Program, which seeks to train and place executives through an association with UCLA’s Anderson School of Business Management.
NAMIC’s Vision Awards ceremony, now in its 11th year, is part of the organization’s fund-raising efforts that are otherwise spearheaded on the local level and a chance to honor people and programs from cable TV that, show producer Gregory Amerson said, “look across the landscape of inclusiveness.”
This year’s awards ceremony takes place at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, ending a day that includes the Creative Summit’s panels and networking opportunities and a job fair.
“I’m excited to be involved in the Vision Awards because it’s NAMIC,” said TV One President and CEO Johnathan Rodgers, the honorary chair of the event.
“I’ve been in the cable industry since 1996 and have found NAMIC to be an organization with great influence,” Mr. Rodgers said. “At cable conferences I’ve seen top executives get up for early-morning breakfasts hosted by NAMIC to pay tribute to the organization. The Vision Awards is the annual event that celebrates the organization and the creative achievements that are there in large measure because of the organization.”
Emceed by Lisa Ling, who hosts “National Geographic Explorer,” and Lisa Vidal, who stars in “Strong Medicine” on Lifetime, the Vision Awards are presented in nine categories.
Mr. Amerson said he is particularly proud that the nominees “include networks and achievement that are overlooked by other awards in the TV and cable field. For example, a documentary, ‘Sisters in Cinema,’ about African American female film directors, is nominated. It ran on Black Starz and was a superb and informative show,” he said.
“At the same time,” he pointed out, “you see that Dave Chappelle, who has a higher profile, has three nominations.”
Highlights this year will include posthumous honoring of the late actor-writer-activist Ossie Davis with the annual North Star Award, presented to an individual for longstanding commitment to diversity. The name “North Star” conjures the celestial body that slaves escaping clandestinely to freedom on the historical “underground railroad” were told to follow.
Mr. Amerson said Ruby Dee will accept the award on her late husband’s behalf and will speak publicly about Mr. Davis for the first time since his passing. “We expect this to be a very emotional moment,” he said.
‘Sesame Street’s’ Legacy
Other scheduled highlights include the bestowal of the Legacy Award upon PBS’s long-running children’s classic “Sesame Street,” and the Quasar Award on Jeff Valdez, chairman of SíTV, the English-language Latino-oriented network. The Quasar is given annually to a person “who like a creative beacon has illuminated and advanced diversity.”
Additionally, a song by musician Patrick Gandy will be performed by Renee Elise Goldsberry of “One Life to Live,” celebrating Cable Positive, the industry initiative to create HIV/AIDS awareness.
To add some levity, comic Alec Mapa of the TV series “Half & Half” is taping person-on-the-street segments in several Southern California locales.
Mr. Amerson said 700 are expected to attend the show, which has become “a must event” for cable companies.
“As an organization, we’re pleased the cable industry has discovered us,” Mr. Amerson said. “We were like the little train that could for many years.”
NAMIC Creative Summit West Coast/Vision Awards Dinner and Ceremony
Where: Beverly Hilton Hotel, Beverly Hills
When: April 29
8 a.m.: Networking breakfast
9 a.m.: Conference panels begin
Noon-1:30 p.m.: Ruby Dee speaks at luncheon
3-5 p.m.: Career expo
6:30 p.m.: Vision Awards VIP reception
7:30 p.m.: Dinner and awards ceremonies
Tickets: Creative Summit only, $150; Creative Summit and Vision Awards, $395. Student discounts available; special pricing for select events.
Information: www.namic.com/initiatives/awards/vision/default.aspx; Ramona Wright at the Baker Group, 310-216-4722.
NAMIC Creative Summit East Coast
Where: Marriott Marquis, New York
When: May 9
8 a.m.: Registration and networking breakfast
10:15 a.m.: Breakout sessions begin
5:30-7:30 p.m.: Career expo
6 p.m.: Evening reception
Tickets: Entire day, including reception, $425. Student discounts available; special pricing for selected events.
Information: www.namic.com/events/East_Coast_creative_summit.aspx; Nicole Llido, 212-594-5985.