*As you know, the NAACP Image Awards were held last Friday, March 4, in Los Angeles at the Shrine Auditorium.

Unfortunately Eric Chambers (pictured), host of Jazzspel on the Word Television Network, along with numerous other black media outlets, feel they were slighted by not being invited to cover or were denied press credentials altogether.

To address the inequity, Chambers has written an open letter to Roslyn M. Brock and Benjamin Todd Jealous.

March 11, 2011
Ms. Roslyn M. Brock
Mr. Benjamin Todd Jealous
NAACP National Headquarters
4805 Mt. Hope Drive
Baltimore, MD  21215

Dear Roslyn & Benjamin,

Greetings from Hollywood! First, allow me to commend the NAACP for once again staging such a star-studded 42nd Awards show. After the omission of our people from the Academy Awards, I almost forgot what outstanding Black stars we have! It was nice to see them all gather on your behalf.

Holly Robinson-Peete and Wayne Brady did a stellar job! While I’d heard Wayne sing before, it was nice to hear Holly debut her once-hidden singing gift. Now, the secret’s out. She was great! Overall, the visual quality of the show was excellent. I especially loved the tributes to Surgeon General Regina Benjamin and Secretary Colin Powell. Both inspired me.

I, like so many others, was disappointed Fox TV didn’t promote it properly. It’s always one of the best awards shows on TV, but it’s sad when their network promotes a cartoon–The Simpsons–more than The Image Awards. Perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate the TV home–or at the least, demand they take it more seriously. This is our crown jewel and the only national award most of those artists will ever come close to receiving, although many deserve Emmy, Golden Globe and Oscar consideration!

According to an industry report, this year’s TV audience was a half-million less than the previous year’s. It doesn’t surprise me. Most people I talked to didn’t know it was even coming on! Earlier this week I came across this quote by Stuart H. Britt: “Doing business without advertising is like winking at a girl in the dark. You know what you are doing, but nobody else does.” Fox winked, but the lights were off! Therefore, most of America was denied a beautiful Friday night date with Halle Berry! And Vanessa L. Williams!  And Angela Bassett! And Kimberly Elise! And LL, Terrence Howard, Tyler Perry, Prince and others! What a night to gaze at our glory, but who knew? I’m certain that doesn’t bode well with the TV sponsors. And to learn that the Black newspapers were left out of the ad campaign is blasphemous! We’ve been taken for granted by the mother ship! Wow!

While I’m not a BET or TV One employee, I believe they would handle this show with the respect and promotions it deserves. Stop begging Fox, a network that doesn’t want us, and newspapers that only want our money. Come back home Image Awards. She doesn’t want us no more. This is our yearly Hollywood family reunion and our granddaddy sent out the clarion call to the wrong media and wonders why nobody watched. Could it be complacency? Or administrative alzheimer’s? Lest we forget. We might end up back in some hotel’s ballroom once again doing this show unless we change.

I am host and executive producer of The Jazzspel, a Hollywood-based entertainment show that airs Saturdays at 4:30PM EST/1:30PM PST on The Word Network. We are the nation’s second largest urban TV network behind only BET. Available in over 80 million US homes and worldwide including The Caribbean Islands and London, I wanted to be there to share the night with our audience.

Unfortunately, your public relations representatives, The Lippin Group, is NNF: not Negro-friendly and in my estimation need some serious diversity training. How does the NAACP hold the biggest Black Hollywood event of the year, and the Black press not be credentialed? Or just a select few. I’ve spoken to several press members whom were denied and are as hot as fish grease over this!

I received several calls and e-mails inquiring if I was credentialed, considering our worldwide reach and my eight years and 121 episodes. Actually, I didn’t even apply for one because I knew what the outcome would be with The Lippin Group. In 15 years of trying, I have NEVER been granted a credential from them–to nothing. Not even a cat fight! I felt I had a better chance of succeeding Barack Obama as president than getting a credential to your event. Therefore, I spared myself the agony.

That evening, my beloved eight year-old daughter Aerica and I flipped channels back and forth–between The Image Awards and The Wizards of Waverly Place on The Disney Channel. I had to explain to her who the NAACP is. She was in total amazement that I personally knew Sistah Rosa Parks. I showed her a picture of me and Sistah Rosa sitting on a park bench in San Diego. I also told her about my friend, Mrs. Mamie Till Mobley, Emmett Till’s mom who became a “surrogate grandmother” to me. She and I used to have long, wonderful telephone conversations. She actually came out to visit me here in California in 2000. I was honored to speak at her funeral in Chicago in 2003.

During your broadcast, on my Facebook wall, I posted how inspiring the surgeon general’s story was. One of my FB friends, a White lady, replied she thought I’d be there on the red carpet like I normally am. I had to drop the truth on her that me and so many other Black press were denied by your PR company. It was like Bull Connor turning the water hoses on us. We weren’t welcomed.

About three years ago they drenched me also, when I had a spirited debate with one of their female publicists. She told me, “I’ve never heard of The Word Network.” My reply? “I’ve never been in your bedroom but that doesn’t mean you don’t have a bed!” From that moment on, I felt it was a lost cause to apply for credentials to anything they are heading up–including sadly, the NAACP Image Awards–a show for us, by us, but controlled by them. Go figure! The civil rights ancestors must be turning flips in their graves!

Why doesn’t that account belong to a Black PR company(s) who knows your audience? Inquiring minds want to know. The only time I was credentialed was about 10 years ago when it was held at the Universal Amphitheater and several Black PR firms tag-teamed as publicists for the event. You can do that again if you feel one of them isn’t big enough.  I’m certain that account alone could fund a large part of their yearly budget. I can suggest at least a dozen Black PR firms from LA to NY.

I surmise your thinking is Lippin can deliver you “mainstream media” Access Hollywood, Entertainment Tonight, Extra, etc. But what you fail to understand is this: You’re lucky if you get one minute of coverage from all of them combined! My show is 30 minutes and the entire episode would have been devoted to The Image Awards–not just a 15 second blurb and the rest, the antics of Charlie Sheen. I would have run it at least 8 times throughout the rest of the year and reminded people that you are still relevant beyond award shows. At least that’s what I want to believe. Please help me believe.

Had I been granted a chance to cover the event, I would have interviewed both of you and given you a chance to make your pitch to our people to join the NAACP. I would have included your website, text and phone numbers, and most importantly, a background piece on who the NAACP is. To most youngsters, you’re just another awards show like the Grammys or Oscars. They needed to be educated on your broadcast. The golden opportunity was blown! Not a word!

I recorded the show and to my surprise, only about 13 seconds was devoted to promoting your own organization! About three seconds for people to text to join. But join what? Tell us what we’re joining. And at the end, Holly gave a 10-second pitch for people to vote for next year’s awards. What about your membership drive and showing “young America” why they need to pick up their pants off the ground and stop calling our women derogatory names? The price has been paid. Cash it in.

Back to the “mainstream media” darlings: They take up prime real estate and are put on a pedestal at yours and even at BET’s awards show. (I addressed this with BET several times in the past, including last year.) They get platform risers and the best spots on the red carpet. If the Black press is lucky enough to get credentials, we may have 100 people bunched together in spaces conducive for 35–looking like a bunch of slaves on the Amistad! In the words of  Cinque´, “Give me free!”

And the only time most of “mainstream’s” coverage airs is when one of our celebs is in trouble with the law. “Here is file video of so-and-so from last year’s Image Awards,” they’d say. Otherwise, forget about the positive exposure. Last summer I was sickened when the only thing Access Hollywood showed from the BET Awards was Chris Brown crying during his Michael Jackson tribute. Then they trivialized it asking their audience, “Do you think he was faking the tears?” What kind of question is that?! Of all the interviews they obtained, that was the only footage and it was spun in a negative light! Give me a break! If that’s what you want–then carry on smartly.

Me and other Black press would love to give the artists a platform to talk about their careers, passions and other concerns, like getting omitted from other award shows. Or perhaps they’d like to talk about a charity that can use exposure. Id’ love to inform them about The Harvest of My Dreams Foundation that I have created to honor our prophets without honor. Again, thanks to “Bull Connor,” we’re at home watching.  And too bad the NAACP helped turn on the water.

Roslyn and Benjamin, I am a 25-year veteran and nine-time Emmy and Golden Mike winner formerly with CBS, The Reelz Channel, ABC, NBC, Big Brother, The Amazing Race and The NFL Network. I’m tired of having to justify my credibility to companies like Lippin. It’s time for a change. C’mon Kinfolk! Not only are you losing your core audience, but it won’t be long before the top entertainers start to bail–and rightfully so.

If I were executive producing your show, we would always be reminded of the trailblazers who lead the way–from W.E.B. to Booker T. From Dr. King to Medgar Evers. From Harriet to Sojourner. From Sistah Rosa Parks to Mrs. Mamie Till Mobley.  From Hattie McDaniel to Lena Horne. What an awesome opportunity to re-educate America about where we came from and remind them the struggle isn’t over just because we have a Black president. Again, a blown opportunity.

That’s also why I believe The Image Awards should be executive produced and produced by Black folk. We don’t see the Oscars, Grammys, American Music Awards, etc giving away their plum events of the year to Black PR companies and executive producers. Then why should we give ours to anyone but us? In the words of my dear sistah Jewel Diamond Taylor, “I’m not giving my Black back!” Neither should The Image Awards. No refunds! No exchanges! It should be returned to the family.

There’s far too many qualified Black men and women in Hollywood whom are capable of producing just as nice of a telecast and can use the work. Let’s stop looking for approval from others. How about some diversity among your own family? It seems we need the NFL’s Rooney Rule of hiring Black folk in our own house! I’m just saying. By the way, does The Lippin Group employ any Black folk?

Why am I so passionate about this? Because I just want to matter. I want to vindicate the struggles of my people with progress. As one photo journalist asked me, “Isn’t this supposed to be for the advancement of colored people?”  Unfortunately, it appears we’re regressing at the hands of our own family. Too much blood has been shed and too many Black men became “strange fruit” hanging from southern trees swinging in a southern breeze. The civil rights struggles happened in my lifetime. Who’s going to hold up the blood-stained banner for them? I’ll go. Send me.

That night after watching your show, I tossed and turned in my sleep. My soul refused to be comforted until I decided to write this open letter.  It was then I could hear Sistah Rosa and Mother Till say, ‘Fight on son. Thanks for not forgetting us, Emmett, nor the rest of the freedom fighters.”

I honor your willingness to play fair and invite everyone into the vision, but the others aren’t playing fair as evidenced by the absence of any Black men at this year’s Oscars. The NAACP needed to be there holding press conferences and protesting that mess. Instead, it appears you’re in bed with them giggling and playing footsies! It’s time to wake up and smell the cappuccino! Let’s get back to our tenacity.

Finally, I may not go down in history, but I will go down on record fighting for the ancestors because they fought for me. I am one of the” children of the future” their blood was shed for. I owe them. As Dr. Maya Angelou wrote, “I am the dream and hope of the slave.”

The Image Awards and all of her entities are ours and should stay home. In the words of the apparel company, “We must protect this house!”

Respectfully sent.

 

Eric J. Chambers,

www.EricJChambers.com

E-mail: [email protected]