CAAN-LA Black History Panel

7 02 2018

“Success is to be measured not so much by the position
that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he
has overcome while trying to succeed.”
— Booker T. Washington

One of the great privileges of being part of the Columbia College Chicago National Alumni Board is representing the Board at CAAN events. The CAAN-Los Angeles network has been ably built up and guided by Sarah Schroeder, the West Coast Regional Director for Columbia, and her events are always top notch, well represented by our up-and-coming alumni, and well attended.

Yesterday’s Black History Panel featured our Columbia alumni who are also some of the trailblazers and innovators in Black filmmaking and entertainment: Producer-Director-Writer George Tillman, Jr., who has been the creative force behind some of my favorite movies, including the Barbershop films and Men of Honor; Writer-Director-Actor Kenny Young, the genius behind You Can’t Fight Christmas, Chance, and One Week; Producer-Development Executive Crystal Holt, engineer behind Rebel (BET), and The Swap (Disney Channel); Actress Erica Hubbard, who had pivotal roles in Chicago Med, Let’s Stay Together, and Lincoln Heights; Producer Paul Garnes, who gave us Selma, and Queen Sugar; and on-air personality, Grammy-Nominated Music Producer-Songwriter, and co-founder of Da Internz, Marcos “Kosine” Palacios.

The panel was moderated by some really talented and thoughtful Columbia student moderators: Jocelyn Shelton and Marquise Davion.


Gearing up for our CAAN-LA’s Black History Month Alumni Panel with some fabulous filmmakers and student moderators Marquis Davion and Jocelyn Shelton.

George Tillman, Jr. discussed how he got into film, and how the presence of African-American creators and filmmakers has grown since he first came to Hollywood.

Kosine talked about his journey, encouraged the alumni still pursuing their dreams to simply, “Stay in the game,” and urged that, “Black History Month is a great time for African-Americans to be networking with each other,” and to take advantage of this and motivate each other towards excellence.

As an actress, Erica Hubbard discussed the high bar set by the writing and talent she experienced on the “Lincoln Heights” set, and how it is difficult to accept projects that don’t meet that standard.

If Paul Garnes did nothing else, he helped launch director-producer Ava Duvernay to the world. Paul shared his journey in filmmaking, how he met and got started with Ava, and working on Selma with David Oyelowo, and Oprah, as well as Queen Sugar.

Kenny Young talked affectionately about his mentors and the people who helped steer him in his career. He also talked about making determinations. He said at one point that he didn’t want to work a full-time job ever again, and he hasn’t since then. He has found a way to juggle, struggle, and forge ahead on his drive and talent, while still earning a living in Los Angeles.

Crystal Holt gave, what I felt was the most powerful and practical advice. “Drive is something you cannot teach, and that goes further than talent… You have a goal in mind, and you are working toward that plan for your life. Don’t give up on that.”

She also gave some sage advice on contracts and equal pay: “Trust no one! Be contract literate, and read it from front to back before you sign.”

While this old dog gleaned from their practical wisdom, I also enjoyed hearing about the endeavors and adventures of our young alumni; like the delightful Toy Monique, who works for Will Packer Media in their scripted and unscripted television department. Toy is a recent transplant to L.A., having gone through Columbia’s Semester in L.A. program in 2016. She laid the groundwork back then, and came back to Los Angeles as an employee at the place where she interned! What a smart lady—we’ll definitely be keeping an eye on her, and very happy to stay in contact via Instagram and LinkedIn.



In My Orbit…

29 12 2010

Digital Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti /

After all the holiday festivities, I’m catching up on my reading.  A dear friend sent me this revelatory article from the Huffington Post about our former employer, Kaplan University. At Kaplan University, ‘Guerrilla Registration’ leaves students in debt.

A pull quote:

“Former admissions officers say they labored under an imperative to enroll as many students as possible, regardless of their qualifications or the likelihood they would succeed. Former academic advisors–who were supposed to be helping students make wise choices–say they felt constant pressure to keep students enrolled, regardless of all other considerations.”

This goes right in line with what we experienced, and a relative who worked in admissions can corroborate this as well. Interesting that both the relative and I got fired from our positions on bogus crap.  My friend was just so disgusted, she resigned.

The advisors could not care less about whether the student had a proper computer system to do the online work, plagiarism or the fact that the student couldn’t even SPELL!  They kept the student on the hook and ignored my copious reports on their poor showing and recommendations that the student be allowed to withdraw.

And the most reprehensible was when my sister, who was enrolled in the Kaplan paralegal program, was going through chemotherapy and could barely keep food down.  Her academic advisor was calling her weekly, harassing her about attending classes, and even suggesting that HER DAUGHTER do the work for her!

After my sister died, Kaplan still called weekly, supposedly to check on her status. After two months of calls and numerous times telling them that she was no longer living, I lost it and gave the advisor what for.  It was only after I went postal on her that I never heard from them again.

So I have no love lost for the company and am relishing popping the popcorn in order to watch their demise.  I hope this probe nails their asses to the wall.

And of course, I wouldn’t be me if I wasn’t paying attention to politics, and at present, we have New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg in the cross-hairs.  Nanny Bloomberg, famous for his billions and for leading the charge to eradicate trans-fats and salt from his fair city, cannot do the necessary work of plowing out and salting the roads of this same city after the incredible East Coast blizzards.

I recall the Chicago Blizzard of 1979.  I remember watching snow fall from afternoon of New Year’s Eve 1978, to late into New Years’ Day 1979 and watched in rapt attention as my mother’s green van got buried under several feet of snow.  Being all of 12 at that time, I was cheering that I didn’t have to go to school and could sled down the snow piles.  But in the political realm, it was the death knell to then-Mayor Michael Bilandic, who failed to plow the city out in time for work on Monday, or for a full week afterward. Enter Jane Byrne, who handily snatched the Mayorship from his grasp because of this, among other incompetencies.

I suspect this is the siren song for Mayor Trans-Fat.  It is typical of people who know nothing about real leadership to major on their minor pet causes, rather than produce action when action is needed.  All he and his administration have been doing is flossing and making excuses, while industries, from Wall Street to cabs drivers, suffer the loss.  I’m almost sure that come next election, the overly-taxed and snow-bound New Yorkers will say, ‘Good riddance’ to Nanny Bloomberg.


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