“America to Me” subject Charles Donalson III used his platform during the Starz docuseries panel at the Television Critics Association press tour on Saturday to call out what he called America’s “hoarding” of wealth, citing examples he saw right there at the conference’s Beverly Hilton setup.
The gap of financial resources is particularly prevalent in the entertainment industry, Donalson added. He’s now a small part of that business, and so is everyone he addressed.
The high school graduate pointed out “all the money it takes just to set up this room,” referring to the Beverly Hills Ballroom. He continued, “Jesus Christ, you know how much food you have out there? Y’all are laughing, but I’m being dead serious right now. You all know how much food it is out there?”
Yes, there was a good amount of food available for brunch, which Starz paid for. And the room was very nicely set up, also at the expense of the pay-TV channel.
Donalson said that “situations like this where we’re hoarding wealth” remind him of the differences between schools in wealthy and less wealthy neighborhoods. “That’s the same thing in this entire country.”
He added that the entertainment journalists in the room have the power to change the conversation when it comes to stories of race in America.
“Like, I would want each and every one of y’all to take away from this — from both documentaries [Starz also featured “Warriors of Liberty City” and the panel] — not these stories of black power and stories of black struggle, like that’s cool. We’ve seen that. Start giving us stuff where we ain’t got to struggle no more,” Donalson said.
Donalson added that the only thing separating his education from that of his some of his friends “is literally a street.”
“Like those are my friends coming over there that don’t have the same advantages as me just because their parents couldn’t afford to live in this neighborhood,” he said. “I’m glad they thought we were special enough to put a camera on us, but go put a camera on them.”
“It’s because the people in power don’t want to give us the money they have, they don’t want to give us the privileges they have, shit, they don’t even want to give us books,” Donalson continued. “So for the simple fact of this, I want each and every one of you to go write something about it.”
“Take away from this that this doesn’t need to happen. Like y’all can give us any type of light, any type of story, any type of shine, but until y’all start helping us, until y’all start putting us in positions where we don’t need this spotlight… [nothing will change].”
“America to Me” is a docu-series that follows the racial, economic and cultural mix of Chicago’s Oak Park and River Forest High School. Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Steve James followed Donalson and other select students, out of the school’s 3,400 students.