Corporate responsibility consultant and writer Susan McPherson spoke with industry leaders across multiple business sectors in a January 19 article for Forbes about the trends in CSR they see for the year ahead. Liba Rubenstein, 21CF's newly appointed SVP of Social Impact, was among those interviewed, and she discussed the business world's unique capacity to bring about social change, as well as the importance of clear, captivating storytelling to a successful CSR strategy:
"The world's most respected companies focus not only on doing meaningful, measurable work in their communities, but also on telling compelling, multidimensional stories about who they are and why Social Impact is core to their identity," she said. "They're also taking advantage of exciting mediums like virtual reality (VR) to increase empathy and understanding. A dry CSR report isn't going to move the needle anymore - we all have to be storytellers."
Nearly 10,000 young women from middle and high schools across Los Angeles County gathered at the University of Southern California’s Galen Center on January 10 for an exclusive screening of Hidden Figures, the hit film from 20th Century Fox that tells the true story of three female African American mathematicians who played crucial roles in the Space Race of the 1960’s. The LA Promise Fund for Public Schools organized the screening, which featured appearances by cast members Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe and Aldis Hodge, along with producer Pharrell Williams, all of whom spoke about their hope that the Hidden Figures story will inspire more women and women of color to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math.
“When I first heard what the story was about, which is three African American women who help get our first man into space, I thought it was fiction,” Spencer said during a Q&A with the cast. “When I realized they were real women who made real contributions, which we are still feeling the effects of today, I wanted to be a part of telling their stories so that we will never have people not getting the recognition that they so richly deserve… You are the master of your fate. Remember that.”
The LA Promise Fund invited female students from more than 100 public schools to the screening as part of its Girls Build LA initiative, which challenges young women from across LA County to use STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) principles to effect social change. The event featured a full day of speakers and presentations, including from Diana Trujillo, a Hispanic-American immigrant from Colombia who now works for NASA as the Activity Lead for the Mars Curiosity Rover, and Dr. Knatokie Ford, Senior Policy Advisor at the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy, who emceed the program.
“Take a look around. You all represent the depth and the diversity of LA County, and I am so very inspired to look at all your beautiful faces and all this amazing potential that you represent,” Ford said. “I hope that you will not only be entertained by this amazing film you’re about to see, but I also want you to be encouraged, and I want you to be inspired to think that you can do it too.”
This event was supported by the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans and by the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics.
21st Century Fox previously partnered with the LA Promise Fund in September 2015 for the West Coast premiere of He Named Me Malala, the documentary about the life of international girls’ education activist and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Malala Yousafzai. The event brought together nearly 7,000 girls from middle and high schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District and featured a special video appearance by First Lady Michelle Obama. Following the screening, students were treated to a festival on the L.A. Live Plaza, where 21CF organized a selfie campaign, encouraging girls to make a pledge to #StandWithMalala and take action in their schools and communities.
The organization Humanitas has named the screenwriters of two films and one television series from 21st Century Fox as finalists for its 42nd Annual Humanitas Prize, a prestigious award honoring projects that contain effective social messaging and inspire compassion, hope and understanding. Among this year’s nominees are Nate Parker for Fox Searchlight’s The Birth of a Nation, Theodore Melfi & Allison Schroeder for Fox 2000’s Hidden Figures and Dan Fogelman for the pilot episode of This Is Us, produced by 20th Century Fox Television. The winners will be announced at a luncheon in Los Angeles on February 22.
“Great stories can play an essential role in people’s lives by reminding us of our common humanity and motivating us to be our best selves,” said Ali LeRoi, Humanitas President. “Many of the extraordinary works by this year’s finalists touch on issues of inclusion, equality and tolerance, ideas that are of particular importance in today’s conflict-ridden world.”
Parker, Schroeder, Melfi and Fogelman are among the 32 total writers nominated for this year’s award, all of whom will compete for $100,000 in prize money spread across nine categories. Hidden Figures was nominated in the Feature Film category, The Birth of a Nation in the Sundance Feature Film category and This Is Us in the 60-Minute television category.
“We received a huge number of worthy submissions this year, which made narrowing the field down to these exceptional finalists especially challenging — and rewarding,” said Humanitas Executive Director Cathleen Young. “These were truly the best of the best, writers whose work engaged, illuminated, inspired and entertained, all while exploring the range of human experience from fresh and diverse perspectives. Or as Humanitas founder Father Bud Keiser put it, works that ‘tackle the big questions…and challenge us to seek out our own answers.’”
The Birth of a Nation follows the life of Nat Turner, who was born into slavery in Virginia and went on to lead a slave revolt in the state in 1831, and This Is Us is a new drama featuring an ensemble of characters who all share the same birthday. Hidden Figures tells the untold story of three female African American mathematicians who played crucial roles in the 1960s Space Race, including John Glenn’s historic orbit around the Earth. The film stars Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae and has become a rallying cry for diversity in STEM, screening at the White House in December and serving as the basis for the Search for Hidden Figures scholarship contest last fall.
Since its founding in 1974, the Humanitas Prize has awarded more than $3 million to film and television writers. Previous Fox winners include Jesse Andres for Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, John Ridley for 12 Years a Slave, Alex Gansa and Meredith Stiehm for Homeland, Lucy Alibar and Benh Zeitlin for Beasts of the Southern Wild, Ryan Murphy for Glee, David Shore for House, and Elaine Ko and Steve Levitan for Modern Family.
Middle and high-school students from Washington, D.C. area schools gathered at the White House on December 15 for a private screening of Hidden Figures, the new film from Fox 2000 following three female African American engineers who played crucial roles in the 1960s Space Race. Stars Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monae were in attendance and joined a panel discussion following the screening to celebrate the contributions these women and many more African Americans have made to the STEM fields. First Lady Michelle Obama hosted the screening, part of a larger event series recognizing the untold stories of women in STEM, and delivered closing remarks.
“What we saw in this film is that when we pull together men and women, people of every background and color and faith, immigrants who have come across the globe to make America their home, when we bring all of that brainpower to the table, anything is possible,” Obama said.
Dr. Knatokie Ford, Senior Policy Advisor at the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy, moderated the panel after the screening, which included the three stars as well as co-star Kevin Costner, director Ted Melfi, author Margo Lee Shetterly, who wrote the book on which the film was based, and producer Mimi Valdés, who worked with Pharrell Williams on the film’s original songs. Henson, who portrayed Katherine G. Johnson, a NASA mathematician whose work was instrumental in John Glenn’s successful mission to orbit the Earth, said the women’s bravery should make them role models for young women today.
“You’re talking about being the first woman in a room of all white men at a time where that was not popular. The courage to even walk in that room with your head held high, I don’t think many people could do that,” she said. “Just the fear of ‘What are they going to think of me?’ or ‘Will I make it?’ The courage just to walk in that room speaks to her fearlessness, speaks to her tenacity, speaks to her brilliance… At the end of the day, you couldn’t take her mind from her.”
In the months leading up to the film’s Christmas Day release, 21st Century Fox has worked to make Hidden Figures a rallying cry for diversity in STEM. In November, the company partnered with PepsiCo to launch The Search for Hidden Figures, a contest giving high school and college students, as well as professionals, the chance to win $200K in scholarships and awards for STEM education. In addition, 21CF hosted a screening and panel discussion at the Paley Center for Media in December for nearly 200 New York City high school students.
“As we move forward in life and we get access to these seats of power, these tables of power, I want you to look around and make sure there’s diversity at the table,” Mrs. Obama said at the White House screening. “Because you don’t come up with the right answer if everyone at the table looks the same and thinks the same and has the same experience – you never come up with the best answer.”
View Michelle Obama’s complete remarks, as well as the full White House panel discussion, in the video below. Hidden Figures will open in select theaters on Dec. 25 before opening nationwide on Jan. 6.
The nominees for the 48th NAACP Image Awards were announced on December 13, with 21st Century Fox film and television projects receiving 34 total nominations. Fox Searchlight's recent historical drama The Birth of a Nation received six nominations, tying with Moonlight as the year's most-nominated film.
Several more Fox films and TV series were recognized, including FX's hit limited series The People v. O.J. Simpson (six nominations), 20th Century Fox's Hidden Figures (three nominations), and FOX's musical drama Empire (six nominations), which collected five awards last year. This year's winners will be announced at a ceremony in Hollywood on February 11 hosted by Anthony Anderson and broadcast live on TV ONE at 9pm/8c.
"The Image Awards is the premier showcase for art and advocacy reflecting the depth and diversity of the African-American experience," said Cornell William Brooks, President and CEO, NAACP. "It is an American prism through which we see a breadth of culture and color reflected in film, television, music, and literature in ways that reveal our shared humanity. At a moment when America is so divided, the Image Awards represents an hour that brings us together."
The awards both celebrate the accomplishments of people of color across the media landscape, and honor those who promote social justice through creative endeavors. The Birth of a Nation, Empire, and The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story led the field of 21CF's nominations at six each, with each being recognized in the categories for Outstanding Motion Picture, Outstanding Drama Series, and Outstanding Television Movie or Limited Series, respectively.
FX's breakout series Atlanta received four nominations, three of which recognized Donald Glover for acting, writing, and directing. National Geographic's returning series StarTalk with Neil DeGrasse Tyson was nominated for Outstanding News / Information Series. Keesha Sharp was nominated for her role on FOX's Lethal Weapon, and Paris Barclay received a nomination for his role directing the network's baseball drama Pitch.
In addition, the Image Awards nominated several series produced at 20th Century Fox Television, including This Is Us, Fresh Off the Boat, and The Carmichael Show. This Is Us received three nominations, one for Outstanding Drama Series and two for acting. The Carmichael Show's nominations include Outstanding Comedy Series and David Alan Grier as Outstanding Supporting Actor. Hudson Yang was recognized for his role as "Eddie Huang" in Fresh Off the Boat.