Why George Lucas' $10 million donation to promote diversity matters.

He and Mellody Hobson took a step toward helping underrepresented groups in Hollywood.

George Lucas wants to help make Hollywood a more diverse place — starting with his alma mater.

George Lucas graduated from the University of Southern California in the late 1960s before going on to make some of culture's most iconic films. In 2006, he donated a whopping $175 million to USC's film school. Nine years later, and he and his wife, Mellody Hobson, opened up the pocketbooks once again, this time with a much more targeted initiative.


Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images.

Lucas and Hobson just donated $10 million to USC's film school to help minority students and increase diversity.

The donation marks the creation of the George Lucas Foundation Endowed Student Support Fund for Diversity. It's the largest single donation for student support the school has ever received.

Here's how it'll work, according to the school's website:

"Undergraduate and graduate African American or Hispanic students will receive priority consideration for financial support from the fund. The recipients, who will be called George Lucas Scholars or Mellody Hobson Scholars, will first be awarded for fall 2016. The awards will be split equally between male and female students."

Hispanic and African-American storytellers are underrepresented in the entertainment industry. It is Mellody's and my privilege to provide this assistance to qualified students who want to contribute their unique experience and talent to telling their stories," Lucas said in a statement posted to the school's website (emphasis added).

Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images.

USC's own striking 2014 study found that, yes, diversity is certainly lacking in Hollywood.

When it came to characters, nearly three-quarters were white.

"Of those characters coded for race/ethnicity across 100 top films of 2014, 73.1% were White, 4.9% were Hispanic/Latino, 12.5% were Black, 5.3% were Asian, 2.9% were Middle Eastern, <1% were American Indian/Alaskan Native or Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, and 1.2% were from “other" racial and/or ethnic groupings."


And when it comes to diversity among directors, things are even worse.

"Across the 100 top films of 2014, only 5 of the 107 directors (4.7%) were Black. One Black director helmed two pictures and only one was female. Only 45 Black directors have been attached to the 700 top‐grossing films. This represents 5.8% of all helmers in the years analyzed. Only 19 Asian directors worked across the 700 top‐grossing films. This is an overall percentage of 2.4%. Only 1 Asian director was female across the films analyzed and was listed as a co‐director."

Lucas' contribution will certainly help, and hopefully spark a wider conversation about, diversity in Hollywood.

Fixing Hollywood's diversity problems isn't something that can happen overnight. Change hinges on so many factors, and one is the question of whether those in a position of power will use that power to lift the voices of minority filmmakers and actors. That's why it's important that people like Michael Moore and Geena Davis speak up and that George Lucas makes contributions like this.

Lucas resists the dark side of the Force and proves himself to be a true Jedi. Photo by David Paul Morris/Getty Images.

Lucas' donation helps push back in an effort to break down the barriers that prevent others from telling their stories. Well done, George.

More
Courtesy of First Book

We take the ability to curl up with a good story for granted. Unfortunately, not everyone has access to books. For the 32 million American children growing up in low-income families, books are rare. In one low-income neighborhood in Washington, D.C., there is approximately one book for every 800 children. But children need books in their lives in order to do well in school and in life. Half of students from low-income backgrounds start first grade up to two years behind other students. If a child is a poor reader at the end of first grade, there's a 90% chance they're going to be a poor reader at the end of fourth grade.

In order to help close the literacy gap, First Book launched Give a Million, a Giving Tuesday campaign to put one million new, high-quality books in the hands of children. Since 1992, the nonprofit has distributed over 185 million books and educational resources, a value of more than $1.5 billion. Many educators lack the basic educational necessities in their classrooms, and First Book helps provide these basic needs items.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
True
first-book

I was 10 when my uncle Doug took his own life. I remember my mom getting the phone call and watching her slump down the kitchen wall, hand over her mouth. I remember her having to tell my dad to come home from work so she could tell him that his beloved baby brother had hung himself.

Doug had lived with us for a while. He was kind, gentle, and funny. He was only 24 when he died.

My uncle was so young—too young—but not as young as some who end their lives. Youth suicide in the U.S. is on the rise, and the numbers—and ages—are staggering.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
Pavel Verbovski

Forrest doesn't mind admitting he needed a second chance. The 49-year-old had, at one point, been a member of the Army; he'd been married and had a support network. But he'd also run into a multitude of health and legal problems. He'd been incarcerated. And once he was released, he didn't know where he would go or what he would do. He'd never felt so alone.

But then, some hope. While working with Seattle's VA to obtain a place to live and a job, Forrest heard about Mercy Magnuson Place, a new development from Mercy Housing Northwest that would offer affordable homes to individuals and families who, like Forrest, needed help in the city's grueling rental market.

Forrest remembers not wanting to even go see the building because he didn't want to get his hopes up, but a counselor persuaded him. And when he learned that the development was a repurposed former military barracks — now a historic landmark — he knew he'd feel right at home.

Today, Forrest couldn't be happier. "I've got a 10-foot-high ceiling," he says. "I've got 7-foot windows. I look out onto a garden." His studio apartment, he says, has more space than he knows what to do with. For someone who's spent chunks of his life not having a place to call his own, the three closets that Forrest's apartment boasts are a grand luxury.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
True
Photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash

Having a baby is like entering a fight club. The first rule of having a kid is don't talk about having a kid. New moms end up with weird marks on their bodies, but they don't talk about how they got there or why. They just smile as they tell other women motherhood is such a joy.

There are so many other things we don't talk about when it comes to pregnancy. Hearing about the veritable war zone your body turns into is enough to snap anyone out of the highest of baby fevers, which is why so many women probably keep the truth to themselves. But it's important to talk about the changes because it normalizes them. Here are some of the ways your body changes that your health textbook isn't going to cover.

Keep Reading Show less
popular