Los Angeles, California, June 22, 2020 – Delivering a closing keynote during the first session of the RespectAbility Lab for Entertainment Professionals the 30 participants and five-member programmatic team, Cheryl Bedford shared her tips on how to turn fear into action.
“We fight together, and we fight all -isms, and at the very same moment in time,” Bedford said, sharing that while the nonprofit she founded, Women of Color Unite, focuses on the inclusion and advancement of women of color that they “leave no marginalized groups behind.”
To describe Cheryl Bedford in just a single sentence would be: she is an unapologetic, badass, Black woman. A more in-depth description of her would include her journey at New York University, studying film. She then studied at AFI, earning her M.F.A. for producing. Subsequently, she became a producer, line producer and a production manager for countless films. She has worked at UCLA Extension as a professor; founded Cheryl L Bedford Productions; founded the charity, CLBP Helps; founded Women of Color Unite; and is a NAACP Image Award Nominee. Those are just a few of her innumerable accomplishments.
In the beginning of her career, though, Bedford recalls getting rejected from jobs because of her identity as a minority, despite being more than qualified.
“My high school cost $20,000 a year to go to. Then I went to NYU to a School of the Arts. When I went to NYU, they were the number one film school in the country. When I went to the American Film Institute, they were the number one film school in the country. And I graduated and nobody deemed me worthy. I didn’t have any connections. And I was like, ‘Hmm, okay. Just because you don’t deem me worthy doesn’t mean I’m not.’”
From then, she worked ten times harder to fight not only for herself, but for others. Through her work with Women of Color Unite, she accidentally created the largest nonprofit for women of color in Hollywood’s history. Now, she has production companies such as Monkey Paw Productions, SpectreVision and so many more organizations who have allied themselves, pledging to do better. This has led to mentors pledging to mentor eight women of color, with enough spots for 500 women, including some RespectAbility Lab participants, to participate as mentees.
But Bedford pointed out that too many people are not fully opening the tent.
“[People constantly tell me] ‘oh, sure, we’re giving you a spot at our table,’ and I tell them, ‘No. No. No. No. No. Don’tgive me a choice. I’m not taking a spot at your table. I’m allowing you a spot at mine.’ I don’t play in a crowded field. I build my own. They’re like, ‘Cheryl, we’re gonna give you–’ Here’s what I know about your table. Your table is fixed and rigged. You will have me jump through hoop after hoop after hoop. You will promise me things that you won’t deliver. That’s how we got here in the first place. I am going to say this and I am going to curse. ‘F*** your table. I’m inviting you to mine.’”
The entirety of Bedford’s conversation with Lab participants is invaluable. Her passion of creating more inclusive spaces sparks tones of action within the group. She said something so simple, yet incredibly reassuring: she believes in them. She believes in creating space, she believes in stories, she believes in redefining reality for minorities, she believes in everything good.
“And I just fought,” she said. “I fought everybody. I’m like, ‘this is what’s right.’”
It is people like Cheryl Bedford who have fought a seemingly endless battle so that others won’t have to. It is people like Cheryl Bedford, a badass, unapologetic, kick-ass woman, ready to take on the world, despite being afraid.