Marsai Martin, Byron Allen Call for Industry Accountability at Annual Culture Creators Innovators & Leaders Awards

Jerritt Clark/Getty Images for Culture Creators
Marsai Martin

“It’s very important that we understand that there’s power behind our community ... we could do so much more,” said Culture Creators founder Joi Brown.

MVPs, studio executives and prominent Hollywood figures gathered Saturday to celebrate and appreciate black culture at the fourth annual Culture Creators Innovators and Leaders Awards Brunch at the Beverly Hilton. 

The afternoon affair, sponsored by Morgan Stanley, recognized a wide array of influential figures hailing from various industries including technology, music and entertainment for their contributions to the innovation of black culture. Among the honorees were Little actress and executive producer Marsai Martin, Entertainment Studios CEO Byron Allen and Will Packer Productions president James Lopez. 

"The Culture Creators event serves a very special role, as it’s to help others appreciate where black culture has come from and where it’s going," Allen told The Hollywood Reporter. The exec, who in 2015 filed a $20 billion lawsuit against Comcast for racial discrimination, received the afternoon’s Icon Award and said appreciation is necessary to continue making changes in all kinds of industries. 

"I don’t think we have enough appreciation in this world. So I think it’s important to recognize the people who are making those changes, who are pushing the boundaries, really helping to share the culture," he said. 

Allen, who said "there’s quite a bit of pride" being honored with the organization’s icon award, spoke about how the Comcast dispute is one that concerns economic inclusion for African-Americans. He also stated that it’s up to "good folks" to hold corporations like Comcast accountable.

"'We the people' — those are three very powerful words … [they] can always affect change and we simply have to demand better, because we deserve more," said Allen. "Others will stand up and speak out, and that is important."

Receiving the afternoon’s innovator of the year was Martin, who told THR about how she thinks her young age has helped her make moves in the industry and become a culture creator. Martin, 14, said she owes her creativity and innovation to her age.

"I feel like when you’re a kid, you have imagination, you don’t have to worry about taxes or anything like that," she said. "But when you’re an adult, most of those imaginations and dreams tone down because you have so much to focus on."

Martin, after receiving her award, dedicated the honor to "all the young girls of color who feel like they don’t belong or feel that they’re not seen" and said that she hopes to inspire them. 

Celebrating Martin for her talents and achievements was Little co-star Issa Rae, who shared her praise for the upcoming Hollywood executive in a video message. The Insecure star said that both young people and "old people” like her, as well as Regina Hall, can continue to find inspiration in Martin.  

Another honoree hoping to continue to make a difference in the industry was Lopez, who said that creating impactful and positive culture comes from best practices, both on and off camera. He also said that the terms "diversity," "inclusion" and "representation" may be buzzwords now, but don’t have any meaning without action to back them up. 

"It’s about holding people accountable, hiring inclusivity riders, making sure that cast and crew, if it calls for it, reflects the nation we live in, the world we live in," Lopez told THR

Other honorees at the fourth annual Culture Creators event included Blavity founder and CEO Morgan DeBaun, tech wiz Iddis Sandu, Gucci vp brand and culture engagement Antoine Phillips, artist Simphiwe Ndzube and more. 

After a couple of hundred guests finished feasting on items from the brunch buffet, Culture Creators founder Joi Brown closed the afternoon by thanking those who attended as well as nodding to the importance of uplifting and community building among fellow culture creators. 

"It’s very important that we understand that there’s power behind our community ... we could do so much more," she said.