Although I never had the opportunity to meet you in person, I feel like I got to know you through your writing and, especially, with my experience as an Ebert Fellow—which evolved from my participation in the Film Independent Project Involve’s artist development program to other opportunities I have had in programs Chaz established after your death.
For me, being an Ebert Fellow is larger than film. It is a way of life and words can’t express my deepest gratitude for the nurturing and supportive space that the Fellowship has provided. I have met many wonderful Ebert Fellows creatives at Ebertfest, the Cannes Film Festival, and peppered throughout the industry.
Through the fellowship I have met a number of wonderful and supportive individuals, with some of us becoming dear friends. In fact, the Ebert Fellows connection led me to my current job. My participation in the fellowship program came at a crossroads in my life, and the financial support was instrumental in allowing me to focus on pursuing my goals.
In appreciation, I visit your star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame occasionally, just to say hello. At times, my mind imagines us sharing tea together and enjoying conversations about the current state of the entertainment industry especially in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement.
I’m thinking that you might agree that, though diversity is well intentioned, the word is thrown around in boardrooms without clear actionable goals and evaluation to track the impact of initiatives. It is my hope that all of Hollywood will be intentional and diligent about inclusivity that supports individuals from marginalized communities.
Programs like the Ebert Fellowship are very important for individuals like myself, a Black, immigrant woman from Zimbabwe who since childhood has had a deep passion for the film industry, yet zero ties to the world of entertainment. My love for film is steeped at the intersection of viewership, scholarship, and creator/maker/filmmaker. Being an Ebert Fellow has allowed me to explore and grow in this trilogy of interests.