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Anne-Marie Johnson: A Champion For Minorities In Front & Behind The Camera
By Shaquille Woods, Contributing Writer
Published May 23, 2019

Anne-Marie Johnson was the first Black SAG Vice-President.

Anne-Marie Johnson isn’t mincing words when it comes to Hollywood’s treatment of diverse voices.

“Hollywood gets an F. You still see the messages of the White male point of view as opposed to a diverse point of view. We have a long way to go,” Johnson told the Los Angeles Sentinel Newspaper over the phone.

The actress has been busy balancing her career while still advocating for the rights of the less fortunate. Johnson, known for her  role in “In Living Color,” has always enjoyed playing both comedic and dramatic roles.

“In grade school it was predominantly musical theater. That was my training. Doing comedy was second nature. So, to transition into doing heavy drama wasn’t difficult. I don’t know why. I just enjoyed both types of entertainment,” said Johnson.

That enjoyment for entertainment has led her into roles such as “Grey’s Anatomy,” “NCIS,” and “Girlfriends.” The actress will appear as a series regular in the upcoming NBC TV drama “The InBetween” as “Lt. Elizabeth Swanstrom” on Wednesday, May 29.

But her advocacy behind the camera has sparked conversation regarding the entertainment industry’s sluggish movement for change.

Johnson was the first Black person to become the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Vice-President between 1997 and 2013. She was also presented with the Ralph Morgan Award in 2016, which is the highest award for an actor in the SAG union. This all started when Black rights were threatened by legislation.

“Back in 1995, there was a California proposition to do away with affirmative action. I was asked to speak against the initiative. That caught the attention from SAG. I was then asked to join a committee. That’s where I found my voice,” said Johnson.

“I spent 17 years of my life dedicated to bringing more attention to the scarcity of quality roles for protected groups.”

Johnson continued to highlight the disparities between performers of color and their white counterparts. The actress thanks her upbringing as the source for her activism.

“My father at the time was an LAPD officer and World War II veteran. Both him and my mother raised me in Silver Lake. They both experienced every aspect of discrimination and exclusion as Black people. My father was very active in the Silver Lake community. Now, its quite sad what’s happening in Silver Lake.”

The actress is an active community member in Silver Lake. In 2017, Congressman Adam Schiff honored her with the Silver Lake Woman of the Year award. Recently, Councilmember David Ryu recognized her as one of the 2019 Wonder Women of the 4th District.

“This is where I was born and still reside. I call myself the unicorn because there are very few Black people in Silver Lake right now. Even the public schools are predominately White. I’m disappointed to see the attitudes regarding the transition. It’s one thing to move into a community because you desire to be in that community. It’s another thing to move into a community and push out the cultural significance,” said Johnson.

According to Johnson, Silver Lake was a safe haven for minorities. Those minorities have since moved out.

“If you look up gentrification in the dictionary, you will find Silver Lake. It was once welcoming to minorities. Now, you’re seeing a complete transition of this community. Latino families and older LGBT residents are being forced out especially the ones who didn’t buy homes. We saw this happen with Compton, East L.A., and other cities decades ago. It’s the collateral damage of institutionalized racism and sexism,” said Johnson.

Today, you will still find Johnson fighting for change. She doesn’t plan on slowing down anytime soon.

The actress shared, “I always knew that I need to give back. It’s just a natural process.”

Categories: Entertainment | Movies | News (Entertainment) | TV
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