In 2019, I attended my first in-person CAA Amplify, a summit from the titular Creative Artists Agency in the scenic southern California town of Ojai — which gives Napa/Sonoma energy. The summit launched in 2017 served as ‘a powerful platform to create and empower a network of dynamic leaders” in the industry and beyond. In addition to the summit, CAA holds events and programs that align with the CAA Amplify vibe of addressing timely social challenges, inspiring action to create sustainable change for pressing issues, and celebrating progress for our communities — specifically intentionally exploited communities (BTW thank you for that brand new language, Yolo Akili).
Nonetheless, my first CAA Amplify in 2019 was good. My thoughts of the event were very positive, but I new I needed more from this. I needed to be inspired, mobilized, and activated on all fronts when it comes to talking about diversity, inclusion and equity because I am a thirsty bitch. The first summit I attended was a great taste, but felt like I didn’t get enough to sink my teeth into.
Then, the pandemic happened (and is still happening). It wasn’t long before the murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and numerous Black people at the hands of cops began to make headlines. Trans women and men of color like Nina Pop, Summer Taylor, Dustin Parker, Yunieski Carey Hererra and more were murdered and violence against LGBTQIA+ began to grow. In addition, hate crimes toward Asians and Asian Americans began to grow and, true to American form, people at the border — mainly Latinx people — were being treated like animals and put in cages. And that’s just start of the list when it comes to how garbage fires began to flourish in every single corner, nook and cranny in America.
As we all know, 2020 was a shit year. Hell, 2021 was as well and 2022 ain’t lookin’ sweet either.
With its drive for inclusivity and critical conversations about advocacy and impact in our world, CAA Amplify hit different this year… a lot different. CAA’s Ruben Garcia, Kevin Lin, and Shone Jemmott were part of a team that put on this year’s CAA Amplify with mindfulness that spoke to the moment in history that we are currently in.
In a TED talk-style of programming, the summit featured numerous panels that gave the opportunity for not only actors, creators, filmmakers and media trailblazers like Ava DuVernay, Storm Reid, Nina Shaw, Yara Shahidi, Leslie Grace, Stephanie Hsu, Lauren Ridloff, Jeymes Samuel, Amber Ruffin, Anthony Ramos, Crystal Echo Hawk, Tomi Adeyemi, Franklin Leonard and more to speak their truth and share their stories but also provided a platform for those not necessarily in Hollywood’s direct orbit including Khalil Rountree, UFC Fighter and Activist and Nancy Santiago, Office of the Surgeon General, who spoke on mental health; Kaya Henderson, CEO, Reconstruction; Alberto Carvalho, Superintendent of Schools, LAUSD; and Sharif El-Mekki, CEO, Center for Black Educator Development who spoke on representation in education; as well as Rachael Rollins, United States Attorney for the District of Massachusetts; Keisha Lance Bottoms, Senior Advisor, White House Office of Public Engagement and Former Mayor; City of Atlanta Eric Ward, Executive Director, Western State Center; LaTosha Brown, Founder, Black Voters Matter who talked about the state of politics.
This year’s CAA Amplify was certainly well rounded and there was one quote that spoke to me the most from the aforementioned Storm Reid: “Whatever room I am supposed to be in…I’m in.”
CAA Amplify provides an “industry” space for people of color, queer people, disabled people and those who are historically marginalized and excluded to speak their minds, organize, strategize, and share ideas to help create change. Most of all, it’s a safe space. No code-switching is required, but you, of course, no how to act right. Also, it feels like a community. It honestly felt like the Hollywood I want to see and create with DIASPORA.
Yes, I realize that this is an exclusive event, but at the same time, CAA Amplify is doing something right with their summit that could hopefully inspire other organizations, agencies and groups to create like-minded summits that aren’t filled with panels that just “talk about diversity”. Although discussing diversity, inclusion and equity is always good, we are in a phase where all of our talks need to turn into action. CAA seems to be taking those next steps by amplifying these DEI ideas we have been talking about for what seems like ages and mobilizing people to do something by picking the right speakers and topics that speak to the now.
If anything, this year’s CAA Amplify gave me hope in a time and industry where I feel like we take two steps forward and then 10 steps back. From Anthony Ramos’s honest, emotional recollection of his journey as a performer to Lauren Ridloff educating us on “deaf gain” to Crystal Echo Hawk illuminating the perspective of Native peoples to the general presence of Keisha Lance Bottoms, it lit a fire underneath my happy meal ass and almost two weeks later and the ideas and words spoken at the summit have stuck with me.
The aforementioned Eric Ward’s words during his panel are echoing in my head: “We stand in a moment of history that is, believe it or not, not about us. This moment is about those who came before us and the sacrifices they have made to bring us to this point in history and those being born during this time of change.”
He said that in a time of stress, pragmatism and vision are hard to balance and that “feelings are not an organizing strategy”.
And when all else fails, I remember what LaTosha Brown, co-founder of the Black Voters Matter Fund said (and sang) when she took the CAA Amplify dais: “I know we’re going to win.”
Check out the numerous nuggets of knowledge and motivating quotes from this year’s CAA Amplify’s summit below.
She’s at #CAAAmplify y’all! (Shout out to @franklinleonard) pic.twitter.com/Z3mBSUw0yQ
— Dino-Ray Ramos (@DinoRay) June 23, 2022
You can also just “unroll” all of them and read them below thanks to Sharif El-Mekki.
Hello, you can read it here: https://t.co/6UXMggcTZJ See you soon. 🤖
— Thread Reader App (@threadreaderapp) June 24, 2022