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West Michigan film makers, HBO series star discuss diversity in Hollywood at Muskegon Area Public Library

The event was inspired by reaction to casting of a minority as Arial in Disney's Live Action version of "The Little Mermaid."

MUSKEGON, Mich. — A Muskegon native starring in the HBO Series Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty, spent Tuesday evening in his hometown talking about diversity in Hollywood.

Quincy Isiah, who plays Magic Johnson in the series, was the keynote speaker in the panel that also included other West Michigan filmmakers.

Isiah was also born and raised in Muskegon, making his role as one of Michigan's greatest basketball players even more special to the community he came from.

The event titled "Black Representation in Hollywood: Who Gets to be a Mermaid?" took place at 6 p.m. at the Celebration Cinema Carousel in Muskegon, and was a partnership between the Muskegon Area District Library, Studio C and Hackley Public Library.

The event was inspired by reaction to casting of a minority as Arial in Disney's Live Action version of "The Little Mermaid."

"There are many people who are like, you know, this is a really good step for Hollywood to take in terms of diversity," said Sarah Rinsema-Sybenga, Executive Director of Community enCompass. "And there were other people who are like, a black actress for for Ariel, that's unacceptable. And so we saw that kind of divide in public discourse. And we're like, there's a really good opportunity for a conversation of community conversation here."

The panel talked about the history of racism in film and stigmas minority's have been forced to overcome.

"There's still a ways to go, but progress is indeed being made," said Ron Suszek, Director at the Muskegon Public Library. "The portrayal of particularly people of color is still somewhat limited, although that's getting better. But also that representation over time, it hasn't always been as honest as it could be."

Organizers for the event hoped to shed light on the importance of representation in the industry and share stories of those who are out there making their dreams happen, even when its not easy.

Those who attended the event were given free tickets to a special screening of The Little Mermaid later this month.

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