3 movies with predominantly black casts have dominated the box office for the last 5 weeks.

For a long time, Hollywood thought it knew the type of characters America wanted to see on screen: white and mostly male.

The cast of "Oceans Eleven." Photo via Raoul Luoar/Flickr.


As recently as last year, the Media, Diversity, and Social Change Initiative at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism compiled data on named or speaking characters in 2014's top 100 movies.

They found that only 27% were non-white. Only 30% were women.

But the 2014-2015 TV season has challenged those assumptions in in a big way.

Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images.

"Empire," "Scandal," and "How to Get Away with Murder" — three shows created and/or produced by people of color and featuring non-white leads, powerful, three-dimensional female characters, and diverse casts — were some of the biggest ratings hits of the year.

Still, TV is TV. The bigger question is:

Would that success translate to the movies?

The jury is still out, but there's some really encouraging evidence that it's starting to.

According to a recent New York Times report, three different movies have claimed the #1 Movie in America crown in the last five weeks — and each of them has featured a predominantly black cast.

Photo by Tristan Fewings/Getty Images.

Here's Brooks Barnes, writing for the Times:

"'The Perfect Guy,' a 'Fatal Attraction'-style thriller starring Sanaa Lathan, took in an estimated $26.7 million, or about 50 percent more than analysts had predicted based on pre-release surveys that track audience interest. Screen Gems, a division of Sony Pictures, spent $12 million to make the movie, which received poor reviews. 'Straight Outta Compton' and 'War Room' have recently led the multiplex race."

The fact that these movies are kicking ass — and exceeding expectations — is great news.

Not only are they upending antiquated notions of what heroes and heroines look like, broadening the type of stories that get told, and expanding job prospects for actors of color, they're showing Hollywood:

Diversity = $

Money. Photo via iStock.

"The Perfect Guy" and "War Room" got ... pretty bad reviews, to be sure. And yet, Hollywood has already made approximately 8 bazillion terrible Spider-Man movies. But they keep getting made. Because they make money.

Let's face it. "The right thing to do" and "what's good for art" only get you so far in showbiz. But if more high-powered studio execs start believing that putting non-white, non-male faces on screen is the best way to jump-start renovations on their squash courts, then you better believe Viola Davis is going to get mighty busy mighty quick.

And a busy Viola Davis is great news for America.

It took a long time, but equality, justice, and cold-blooded capitalism are finally starting to align in Hollywood.

More money. Photo via iStock.

And if that's not the most American thing I've ever heard, than I don't know what is.

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Courtesy of Macy's

In many ways, 18-year-old Idaho native, Hank Cazier, is like any other teenager you've met. He loves chocolate, pop music, and playing games with his family. He has lofty dreams of modeling for a major clothing company one day. But one thing that sets him apart may also jeopardize his future is his recent battle against a brain tumor.

Cazier was diagnosed in 2015. When he had surgery to remove the tumor, he received trauma to his brain and lost some of his motor functionality. He's been in physical, occupational, and speech therapy ever since. The experience impacted Cazier's confidence and self-esteem, so he's been looking for a way to build himself back up again.

"I wanted to do something that helped me look forward to the future," he says.

Enter Make-A-Wish, a nonprofit organization that grants wishes for children battling critical illnesses, providing them a chance to make the impossible possible. The organization partnered with Macy's to raise awareness and help make those wishes a reality. The hope is that the "wish effect" will improve their quality of life and empower them with the strength they need to overcome these illnesses and look towards the future. That was a particularly big deal for Cazier, who had been feeling like so many of his wishes weren't going to be possible because of his critical illness.

"In the beginning, it was hard to accept that it would be improbable for me to accomplish my previous goals because my illness took away so many of my physical abilities," says Cazier. His wish of becoming a model also seemed out of reach.

But Macy's and Make-A-Wish didn't see it like that. Once they learned about Cazier's wish, they knew he had to make it come true by inviting him to be part of the magical Macy's holiday shoot in New York.

Courtesy of Macy's

Make-A-Wish can't fulfill children's wishes without the generosity of donors and partners like Macy's. In fact, since 2003, Macy's has given more than $122 million to Make-A-Wish and impacted the lives of more than 2.9 million people.

Cazier's wish experience was beyond what he could've imagined, and it filled him with so much joy and confidence. "It is like waking up and discovering that you have super powers. It feels amazing!" he exclaims.

One of the best parts about the day for him was the kindness everyone who helped make it happen showed him.

"The employees of Macy's and Make-A-Wish made me feel welcome, warm, and cared for," he says. "I am truly grateful that even though they were busy doing their jobs, they were able to show kindness and compassion towards me in all of the little details."

He also got to spend part of the shoot outdoors, which, as someone who loves climbing, hiking, and scuba-diving but has trouble doing those activities now, was very welcome.

Courtesy of Macy's

Overall, Cazier feels he grew a lot during his modeling wish and is now emboldened to work towards a better quality of life. "I want to acquire skills that help me continue to improve in these circumstances," he says.

You can change the lives of more kids like Cazier just by writing a letter to Santa and dropping it in the big red letterbox at Macy's (you can also write and submit one online). For every letter received before Dec. 24, 2019, Macy's will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million. By writing a letter to Santa, you can help a child replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy, and anxiety with hope.

Believe
True
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