Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Black Stuntmen's Association

"You can go out here today and ask who is the BSA, 99% of the population do not know. We accomplished a hell of a lot, because we fought back and I don't think that the studio ever forget what we did and I think its time for the public and the world to know who we are and what we did." - Alex Brown, BSA Founding Secretary

Sadly, I was a part of this 99% that Mr. Brown referenced. Earlier this month the NAACP Image Awards honored The Black Stuntmen's Association with the President's Award. Before this I had no idea who these brave men and women of film were, and was amazed to learn of their story and plight. Today is the last day of Black History Month and yes it's totally cliche for me to drop this on you today, but I think it highlights something greater about the importance of making African-American history a part of everyday life and not just a crash course during the shortest month of the year.

The Black Stuntmen's Association was founded in 1967 by Eddie Smith and Marvin Walters. Early on the organization sought to tell the story of the "Buffalo Soliders" but later realized that they had a talent that would not only earn them a living wage, but would allow them to redefine standard practices in Hollywood's film industry. The Black Stuntmen's Association through Eddie Smith's vision generated jobs for African-Americans in Hollywood and challenged the status quo, that used non-black stuntment transformed into black stuntmen, to perform stunts for black actors.

It appears that The Black Stuntmen's Association are in the early stages of telling their story and creating avenues for information about their history and legacy. Despite the little information available, I think that everyone should at least know who these people are, and the contributions they made to Hollywood and the Civil Rights Movement.

The work of the Black Stuntmen's Association can be seen in "I Spy," "Uptown Saturday Night,"  "Buck and the Preacher," "MASH," "Dirty Harry," "Beneath the Planet of the Apes," "Blazing Saddles," "Earthquake," "Scarface," "The Nutty Professor," "Roots," "I'm Gonna Git You Sucka," "Coming to America," "Action Jackson,"  "Hillstreet Blues," and the 1973 James Bond movie "Live and Let Die," where Eddie Smith served as the only African-American stunt coordinator.

The Black Stuntmen's Association also led to the creation of the The Coalition of Black Stuntmen and Women in 1973 by Marvin Walters (Original Co-Founder of BSA) and Jadie David.

From the Facebook Page of the Black Stuntmen's Association: 

The Coalition of Black Stuntmen and Women (“CBS” founded 1973 by Marvin Walters and Jadie David) further shocked Hollywood via a series of hard fought Federal lawsuits (helmed by EEOC attorney Marge Ryan Kreeger) that forced Hollywood to hire, train and advance individuals, in front of and behind the camera, without regard to race, gender, sexual orientation or nationality.

The Coalition was the ONLY group in Hollywood to accomplish this feat.

The findings of discrimination were so sweeping that in 1980 Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, then Chairman of the EEOC, ordered sweeping new investigations to end discrimination in the entire entertainment

Marvin and CBS member Jade David, developed and ran prototypes of what have become the most successful studio compliance, professional development, safety, and equal opportunity programs and policies in the entertainment industry, including Paramount Pictures’ diversity program, the Minority Labor Pool, and the Stunt and Safety Unit of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG). 

Marvin, Jade and Marge are consultants specializing in employments, stunt safety and union issues in the entertainment industry.

I hope you find this as interesting as I did. 

Were you aware of the Black Stuntmen's Association before today?
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