When Chaz Ebert decided to have Black Writers Week on RogerEbert.com, she chose mid-June dates to coincide with the same week as Juneteenth. Upon this decision, she had no idea Juneteenth was to become a federally recognized holiday.
“I’m really filled with emotion today because of it being the first federally-recognized Juneteenth Independence Day. The fact it it is happening at the end of our Black Writers Week is even more impactful,” Ebert told Variety. “I didn’t expect that the legislation would pass… It sort of took me by surprise.”
Inspired by the site’s Women Writers Week, which she started in 2013, Ebert planned to roll out a diversity and inclusion week. Then the Black Lives Matter movement had its watershed moment last summer, and she decided to change her approach.
“After the death of George Floyd last year and all of the aftermath of the protests for social justice that happened on a global level, I decided I didn’t want to dilute the message. So I wanted to have an all-Black writers week to amplify Black voices,” Ebert said.
Over the course of the week, RogerEbert.com has published reviews and features by a select group of Black critics and writers, whose coverage spans from Pixar’s “Luca” to the Twitter-based romp “Zola.” The programming also included a number of panels, such as “The Evolution of Afofuturism: Black Power, Black Love, Black Superheroes and Magic.”
Leading up to mid-June, Ebert sought to do a small promotion for Black Writers Week on Twitter. She said her submission was rejected and she plans to follow up with the company to ask how the promotion violated standards.
“What are your standards if you can’t call something ‘Black Writer’s Week,’” she questioned.
In addition to publishing film-centric content, Ebert pointed out the inclusion of pieces about and by individuals outside the movie industry. The site ran a five-part series called “Profiles in Courage,” which featured the likes of peacemaker Erica Ford and Dr. Kizzmekia S. Corbett, who led the team that designed the Moderna vaccine. Another notable piece was an essay by Andre Hammel about why he chose family law over business law. For Ebert, highlighting all sorts of life experiences runs tandem to the core mission of filmmaking.
“I believe like my late husband, Roger Ebert, that movies are a machine that generates empathy, but not just for the movies, but empathy for life itself,” Ebert said. “The end result of movies and empathy and compassion and kindness in the world, film can be one of the ways to reach that point.”