Black History Lunch: One Hollywood Writers Room's Quest to Diversify Staff Meals

Calaya Stallworth Writer's Room - Publicity - H 2019
Courtesy of Calaya Stallworth

Hulu's upcoming 'Wild Cards' has created a unique and delicious challenge for Black History Month.

To celebrate Black History Month, one Hollywood writers room is putting its money where its mouth is — literally.

The scribes behind Hulu's upcoming Wild Cards, a two-series adaptation of Game of Thrones author George R. R. Martin's postapocalyptic, alien-virus-destroys-Earth book series, have committed to ordering their staff lunches exclusively from black-owned restaurants throughout February.

"Each weekday, more than 300 Hollywood writers rooms order group lunch from a limited list of culinary outlets," says story editor Calaya Michelle Stallworth, who came up with the idea. "You have lots of small business owners in Los Angeles that aren't getting any of the money that constantly floods into Hollywood."

Stallworth proposed the concept to Wild Cards showrunner Andrew Miller, who was immediately all in. "Rooms can't [make change] without leadership from the top," notes Stallworth. When the writers and assistants began researching options, they were stunned to discover a cornucopia of culinary choices within reach. "It's been incredibly easy to find black-owned restaurants that look amazing and that we've never heard [of] nor been to," Miller says. "Black History Month seems like a really good opportunity to appreciate the efforts of people who started a small business to [share] part of their culture."

The challenge began Friday, Feb. 1, with Little Ethiopia on Fairfax, followed Monday by Janga by Derrick's, a Jamaican restaurant in Culver City. The Hollywood-based Wild Cards writers room is chronicling each day's meal on social media, and Miller says they hope to begin tweeting stories about the restaurant owners as well. Meanwhile, Stallworth has posted a long list of black-owned eateries serving up cuisines as diverse and delectable as soul food, barbecue, Mexican, Belizean and vegan, in hopes that other writers rooms will also take up the #BlackHistoryLunch and #DiversifyHollywoodLunch challenge. So far, friends at shows such as Disney Channel's Raven's Home and The CW's Arrow have indicated their interest.

The Wild Cards writers aren't stopping with February. Next month, they intend to repeat the challenge for female-owned restaurants during Women's History Month, but Stallworth says that it already has proved difficult to identify as many candidates. She's hoping that if #DiversifyHollywoodLunch catches on, more people can help crowd-source a directory of dining options.

The ultimate objective is not just a tradition restricted to designated months, but a lasting impact that will see new eateries added to the go-to rotation. "Hollywood's goal of being diverse needs to move beyond writers, producers, [et cetera]," says Stallworth. "What about vendors and contracts that grow businesses? Our goal is diversity for our [lunch] list and long-term impact."