Ava DuVernay, Filmmaker
Ava DuVernay talks about growing up in Los Angeles, gaining her love for movies from her aunt, and earning her big break in the film industry.
Catharine MacKinnon, Pioneering Legal Scholar
Sandra Day O'Connor, First Female Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court
Lena Waithe, Writer & Actor
LENA WAITHE: When you're an artist and you're making whatever it is you're making, I think the mission is to walk to it as vulnerable as possible, so that somebody will be able to connect to it.
LENA WAITHE: I grew up on the south side of Chicago. I was in a house full of women. It was my mother, my grandmother, my older sister, my aunt come by a lot. There was a similar thing that they all had, which was a lot of strength, a lot of pride, a lot of integrity, and a nice amount of sass and swag, too. I know a lot of kids watch television, but I really felt like I was immersed in it. I watched, like, "A Different World," "The Cosby Show," "Saved By the Bell," "The Fresh Prince." Even though they were multicam sitcom characters, they still felt very honest and real. And I just kind of got lost in all of those different kind of worlds.
LENA WAITHE: Getting a chance to work for all these talented black women, who were just sort of playing hacky sack with me for a couple years, just being the most excited person on set, and having a really great attitude and there being nothing that I would say no to doing, it was really the beginning of my life in scripted television.
LENA WAITHE: I went to New York to talk story ideas with Allen and Aziz and some of the other writers. And in the midst of just having a conversation, Alan asked how I came out. And I proceeded to tell them not thinking it was that interesting. And I got back to my hotel, and they both called me and said, we want to do an episode about that. And Aziz was like, you have to help write it, because it's so specific. And it's your story, and I can't write that by myself.
DENISE: I'm gay.
- You what?
DENISE: I'm gay. I've always been gay, but I'm still the same person. I'm still your daughter.
LENA WAITHE: Telling the coming out story, I had to step in my mother's shoes as well. And I think it actually gave me a greater understanding of what it's like to be come out to. It was about telling an honest story about two people who are trying to figure something out. And I think that's what most coming out stories are. I really wanted people to see the love more than the fear or confusion, and I think they really got it.
LENA WAITHE: My LGBQTIA family, I see each and every one of you. The things that make us different, those are our superpowers. Every day when you walk out the door, put on your imaginary cape and go out there and conquer the world, because the world would not be as beautiful as it is if we weren't in it. I do think the things that make me different are my superpowers, because there is no "Thanksgiving" episode if I wasn't born black, gay, and female.
LENA WAITHE: "The Chi" is about being black and human on the south side of Chicago. It's not about drugs. Nobody's singing or rapping. I was more interested in the middle class, the working class community, because that's what I'm from. When you're a working class person with a dream, it's like a pressure cooker, because every day is a choice to fight the good fight, to chase the dream. I know we're not perfect, but we're not all bad either. There's always these demons that we're wrestling with, and I wanted to show that in a real way. So that way people start to care about these communities and these people that make them up.
I think there's a lot of storytellers that don't look like the storytellers of yesteryear. A lot of young, black, queer, different people that have never been a part of the culture in a mainstream way. That's the way I want to change the business is by helping to usher in new voices. There's still a lot of others who haven't been included yet. And so until everyone is in the room, I think we still have work to do.
MARIA PEPE: When I was a young girl and people would say, what do you want to be when you grow up? I used to answer I want to be a Yankee.
I think the day that I was given the permission to have the tryouts for the Hoboken Young Democrats, that was probably the most exciting moment, because I knew I was going to make the team. And I was just so looking forward to having a uniform. I was starting pitcher.
Not everyone realized that I was a girl. My hair was short. So you just saw a couple of small curls hanging out of my baseball cap. It took a little while into that first game before some of the other coaches were saying, hey, wait a minute, Jimmy's got a girl on the team. The rule book says that girls aren't allowed to play.
My coach Jimmy Farina tried to argue with the coaches and say look, Maria's just as good as the boys. Little League issued a letter to the town, if you don't remove Maria, we're going to take the charter away from Hoboken.
My coach said to me, Maria you can come to the games and keep score. Well I have to be honest, I did that for one game. And I could not just sit there and take score, because I wanted to be out there.
The National Organization for Women had read about the story and was fuming at the fact that they let me off the team. And so that's when they filed the suit against Little League with the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights claiming that I was being discriminated against because I was a girl.
Thank god for Judge Silvia Pressler because she had the wisdom. What she read in her decision was that the institution of Little League is as American as the hot dog and apple pie. And there's not any reason why that part of Americana should be withheld from girls.
It was the 30th anniversary of the ruling and Little League headquarters asked if I would come to throw the first pitch at the opening day of the Little League World Series. I remember them asking would you mind going down, Dr. Creighton Hale would like to meet you. Well, you know, I took a deep breath. He approached me. And he shook my hand. And he looked at me, and he said, you know, I just want you to know my granddaughter plays.
That's my gift is that I get to see so many girls actually enjoying it and participating and not being discriminated for it, but actually being encouraged to grow in the sport.