As soon as the Georgia Senate passed the “heartbeat bill,” banning abortions after six weeks into a pregnancy, thousands flocked to social media with #BoycottGeorgia hashtags urging Hollywood to pull their productions and economic support. Over 100 actors and a few production companies have joined the pledge.
Challenging this restrictive legislation is imperative. The Georgia legislature has accepted non-science as fact, based on their personal religious beliefs that disenfranchise pregnant people from ownership over their bodies, subordinate them to government property and elevate zygotes to people entitled to government housing.
However, the response of pulling away an entire industry that provides over 92,000 jobs would have dire consequences for Black and brown folks in the state, especially Black women and other pregnant people who are already being targeted by this law.
Georgia is the fourth state with the greatest Black population, and in Atlanta, the center of Georgia’s film industry, Black people make up 52.3% of the population. Black Georgians already have a 5.7% unemployment rate, many percentage points above the national average. So if Hollywood eliminates $4.6 billion in wages, affecting not only production workers, but waitresses, Uber drivers, small business owners, etc., ask yourself, who takes the hit the hardest?
Speaking of productions, there’s no other place in America with film crews as diverse as Georgia. The multiple productions in the state that we’ve had the pleasure of working on championed Black, brown, Asian, LGBTQ, and women crew members—not just in entry-level positions, but as directors, cinematographers, line producers, department heads, all across the board. Meanwhile, we still hear from L.A. friends who consistently find themselves being the only person of color on set. Diversity and inclusion have become buzzwords in Hollywood (with varying degrees of sincerity). Behind-the-scenes, the real progress is being made, not in the City of Angels, but the Peach State.
Of those productions, one ran an internship program for students attending local HBCUs. An eager intern used the connections he made in the program to land a highly coveted writers’ assistant position on an upcoming cable show where he later earned the opportunity to write a freelance episode. He can now call himself a TV writer, and this is within months after graduating college. From someone who pounded the L.A. pavement six years before getting his first assistant job, trust us when we say the inroads Georgia is creating for our people are unparalleled. This is what we stand to lose if #BoycottGeorgia gains steam.
In this battle for autonomy over their own bodies, it’s important that women and other people who can get pregnant have a say in how the war is fought. But those calling for a boycott are taking a stand on a local issue without local affiliation or input from members of the affected communities. The Women of Film in Georgia, a coalition of women production workers, argue the liberal-leaning film industry has been crucial in creating a democratic stronghold in the state, yet those gains would wash away if Hollywood abandoned them: “Your condemnation is understandable, but what we really need most are allies,” the coalition said.
Rising Democratic Party star Stacey Abrams proposed instead of boycotting, to invest in ground efforts to combat the unconstitutional law, to be more effective. After watching her run a gubernatorial campaign full of deep thought, integrity and concern for the lives of Georgians, maybe we should listen to a Black woman for once. Because, whether we’re talking about Harriet Tubman, Michelle Obama, Ava DuVernay, Henrietta Lacks, or U.S. Representative Maxine Waters, really, Black women be knowing.
The Georgia “heartbeat law” won’t take effect until January 1st, 2020. Organizations in Georgia like Planned Parenthood Southeast, Fair Fight Action, and the ACLU have vowed to stop it in the courts before then. They’re doing the necessary work for equality. Please follow their lead alongside J.J. Abrams, Jordan Peele and Chernin Entertainment by financially supporting their efforts.
Instead of #BoycottGeorgia, let’s try #ResistNotRetreat.
Rashad Mubarak and Jazmen Darnell Brown are bi-coastal producing partners and 2018 Producers Guild “Power of Diversity” Workshop fellows. As well as being independent filmmakers, Jazmen is a screenwriter and TV writer (OWN’s Ambitions, Bounce TV’s Saints & Sinners) while Rashad works as a local Georgia producer on socially disadvantaged narrative films and docuseries (Mentoring Kings, Mancation). Follow them on IG at: @mubarakfilms and @jazmendbrown.