Sandra Evers-Manly, first cousin of civil rights leader Medgar Evers, is from the small California city of Pittsburgh. She was born with a rare disease as a child and watched a lot of television.
She asked her mother why there were no people on TV who looked like her. Evers-Manly says, her mother, who comes from a prominent civil rights family, said, “Change it.”
Inspired by her mother’s directive, Evers-Manly has made a mission of changing situations, institutions and anything that prevents African Americans and other minorities from being fully involved. Her efforts have led to more diversity in Hollywood and throughout the entertainment industry.
The tremendous change she initiated is just one of the reasons that Sandra Evers-Manly will be one of the five honorees at the “Power, Leadership and Influence of the Black Woman” luncheon on Saturday, April 15, at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. The gala event, sponsored by Bakewell Media, will pay tribute to dynamic women as well as celebrate the 90th anniversary of the L.A. Sentinel.
Regarding the accolade, Evers-Manly said, “It’s an honor because I’m really a behind-the-scenes person. I thought I was going to be on the funding side, but then the Bakewell family said, “Nope you’re one of the honorees.”
Evers-Manly has accomplished a lot for others since first coming to Hollywood during her sophomore year in college. She became very involved in the Beverly Hills/Hollywood NAACP branch in pushing for more diversity in front of and behind the scenes in entertainment.
Evers-Manly says that she came from hardworking parents, so she had to work. Her junior year in college ,she got a job at a company which was then called Northrop. She stayed at Northrop for 40 years and just recently retired in June of 2023.
Evers-Manly’s undergraduate degree is in Public Administration from the University of Southern California, and her graduate degree is in Executive Management from Wharton Business School.
While she worked her way up at Northrop Grumman, she was very involved with NAACP. Eventually, many years later, even though it wasn’t on her radar, Evers-Manly became the president of the NAACP Beverly Hills-Hollywood branch for 12 years. When Evers-Manly left the branch, she started the Black Hollywood Education and Resource Center (BHERC).
“In order for us to have full representation, we got to have that diversity and Black representation in front and behind the scenes,” she said.
“We need to be in the executive suites of Hollywood, in the producing role, directing role, we have to be a part of the storytellers and the creatives. Then we will see even more robust emergence in front of the camera,” she insisted.
“We have to get involved and get young people introduced in the film and television industry, and when we have them in college, we have to be there providing scholarships,” said Evers-Manly.
BHERC has been a pipeline for film and television greats like Gina Prince-Bythewood, David Massey (the first Black to be nominated for the Academy Award Best Documentary), Ryan Coogler, and “a host of other filmmakers across the country.” Also, the organization has provided funds for a broad range of needs including continued education, food, housing, and film financing.
“When I look at where some of these individuals are today, I am truly proud of the work that we’re (BHERC) is doing,” said Evers-Manly.
Before BHERC, Evers-Manly kicked off the short film showcase, Sistas Are Doin’ It For Themselves. Sistas just celebrated its 30th anniversary as a platform for Black women directors.
“We showcase the films and we invite the industry in to view them. And we continue this work until today,” said Evers-Manly
“We help the full spectrum of the filmmaker as they’re making their way into an industry that is very challenging for us,” she explained.
Evers-Manly simultaneously worked with BHERC while serving in a senior executive position at Northrop Grumman.
Now, nine-months into retirement from Northrop, Evers-Manly said, “I am very proud of my corporate career. I started out as an intern in human resources to become the vice president of Global Corporate Responsibility reporting directly to the chairman and CEO.”
Evers-Manly says one of the greatest things she has probably ever done was probably the most unexpected. She personally made a $1 million donation to the National African American Museum of History and Culture.
“I went to Grumman and asked what they were going to do,” she recalled. “They said they would do a $3 million donation, and while I was there, I saw the beautiful vision for the building. I thought to myself, I can give $25,000.
“Something came over me and said, ‘no you can do more than that.’” And although she had planned on retiring seven-years earlier, Evers-Manly concluded, “I went back, worked through my numbers and personally gave $1 million dollars.”
She says that she felt she owed it to her mother, Medgar Evers, and all their ancestors.
]As for the future, Evers-Manly said, “I still have lots of work to do in Hollywood and there is plenty here to do!”