On many Saturday mornings, I relaxed by having a late breakfast while watching Tiffany Vazquez bring in some welcomed Latinx representation as the new weekend host on Turner Classic Movies. She was the first woman hired to host and the first Latina host. Man, how I loved seeing her represent! As an African American, I grew up looking for images of myself and for images of people in my immediate community on TV and in films. I still do. Tiffany did such a smooth job as the weekend host. I will miss her.
Back in 2014, TCM devoted the month of October to Africa. Films about and shot in Africa. Films about African people. The host? Canadian Alex Trebek. Don't get me wrong. He's a terrific TV game show host. But, honestly, I watched and thought to myself "Couldn't TCM get LeVar Burton, Don Cheadle, Lou Gossett, Leslie Uggams, Alfre Woodard or Delroy Lindo? You know...someone black?"
Up to and including January of this year, black talent has rarely been seen as a monthly Guest Programmer in the last couple of years. There isn't even a black former Guest Programmer seen in the short video montage that precedes the segments. We see Michael J. Fox, Cher, Conan O'Brien and Bill Hader. But no Diahann Carroll, Spike Lee, Whoopi Goldberg or Lou Gossett, Jr.
Saturday host Alec Baldwin has not had an African American co-host for "The Essentials." Sunday host Eddie Muller hasn't had any black folks sipping wine with him in any of his several TCM Wine Club promos. No black TCM fan speaks in a TCM Backlot spot. Host Ben Mankiewicz was appropriately on the red carpet last April for the TCM Film Festival. One of the highlights was a special 50th anniversary screening of the Oscar-winning murder mystery/race drama IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT. Director Norman Jewison, composer Quincy Jones and stars Sidney Poitier and Lee Grant attended. So did the 1967 Best Picture Oscar winner's producer Walter Mirisch. Ben Mankiewicz asked about the enduring relevance of the film's look at race in America. It was a great question because, 50 years later, "Black Lives Matter" was a major headline in the national news.
I know that Ben Mankiewicz is a baseball fan. If he went to ball games last summer and never saw a black player on the field, wouldn't he ask "What the heck is going on here -- in the 21st Century -- with no black players in the games?"?
This is why I was thrilled at the racial diversity and inclusion that Tiffany Vazquez brought to TCM with her presence and knowledge.
It was wonderful to see you, Tiffany Vazquez. Representation matters.