Lee Daniels’ The Butler arrives in cinemas in the US this weekend. It’s a while before it reaches South African shores, but the film has a close resonance that will be felt there, in scenes where Nelson Mandela’s name is chanted, and Apartheid is protested from afar. I will be posting links to the stories I’m doing when the film releases closer to the time, but for now, there were a few words said at a recent press conference for the film that I’d like to share.
The film springs off from the true life story of Eugene Allen, a butler who served at the White House through 8 presidencies. Danny Strong took the article written about Allen, by Wil Haygood in the Washington Post, and created a movie script that, through one man’s story, we are able to learn and feel more about the experience of a black family living through the Civil Rights movement.
The film’s themes of racism and wearing ‘two faces’ came up during the press conference, as the line is uttered during the movie as something Cecil, the butler played by Forest Whitaker, has to do when interacting with white people.
First Lee Daniels spoke about his experience, and then Oprah.
Then Cuba disagreed…
But Terrence Howard left us with these profound words…
The experience of the press conference was almost like being in an Oprah episode itself. With the legacy of racism still being felt today, the film – and further discussions around it – are so valuable.
There were many reasons I enjoyed the 2012 Social Good Summit. One because Forest Whitaker was there. Two because so were Rory Gilmore and Betty Suarez. All kidding aside, it was an uplifting 3-day event, during which I heard a few resounding themes that came up over and over – from both the celebs that took part and the rockstars running non-profits and other such inspiring organisations.
Perhaps the most over-riding idea was the one articulated by Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and founder of the Grameen Bank, that, when it comes to the future, there is more to be excited about than to get worried. Those words were echoed in the many initiatives being showcased during the SGS – from Al Gore’s The Dirty Weather Report to the United Nations Foundation’s Global Entrepreneurs Council Global Good Challenge, which is giving away prizes like meeting Lady Gaga and a trip to Africa (which part of the vast continent, I’d like to know?) in exchange for engaging and sharing in world issues.
Another theme that kept coming up is the idea of serving the world by following your passion. This was particularly true in actress Maria Bello’s story about her work in Haiti with creating a women’s network called We Advance. Angelique Kidjo too, explained her passion for becoming a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador comes from her parents. “The thing that is important for us to understand with social media, is the message we send and how we send it,” she added. As for Rory and Betty, aka America Ferrera and Alexis Bledel, nothing replaces physically going to place to see things for yourself, as they did on their trip to Honduras with ONE.
Kudos to the event for taking place throughout the world too. My friend Mariska attended the Social Good Summit in Nairobi, while I was in New York. There were meetups happening on the ground throughout the world where people were watching the live stream and participating.
“People who build the technology, and people who understand the problems and solutions should come together” #sgsnairobi
— Mariska du Preez (@mariskaza) September 24, 2012
Ultimately the day was best summed up by one of the speakers, Beth Kanter, who said: “It’s not about the tools, it’s what you do with them.” Simple as that, really. But Mr Whitaker gets the last word here – with so many ideas and initiatives wanting our attention, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and stop caring altogether. And all this talk about technology can sometimes be impersonal and too technical. His answer – as sappy as it sounds – is love. Take a look:
I’ll leave you with another highlight – Deepak Chopra – who gives us an idea on how to find the spirituality in technology.
* The 64th Primetime Emmys handed out top honours for TV’s best comedy, drama, variety and reality shows.
* Green Day’s Bille Joe Armstrong has checked into rehab, following at outburst at the iHeart Radio gig in Las Vegas this weekend.
* Bruce Springsteen turned 63 and invited 60 000 fans to his birthday party in New Jersey on Saturday night.
* Oscar-winning actor Forest Whitaker launched his PeaceEarth initiative last week, and spoke at Sunday’s session of the Social Good Summit.
* Mumford and Sons release their new album today, after imitating the Beatles and performing on SNL this past weekend.