Dr. Jamie Williams - CEO YMotion Media / former S.F. 49er
Black Filmmakers Panel - Cinequest 11 Film Festival - San Jose, CA - March 2001
The former San Francisco 49er tight end has gone on to the bigger playing field, now wearing the hat of filmmaker, as well as film star. From one Gridiron to the next, including a Superbowl Championship with the 49ers, Dr. Williams went from real life football to writing and appearing in the Oliver Stone film “Any Given Sunday,” a powerhouse pigskin extravaganza.
As the founder and CEO of YMotion Media, Dr. Williams’ aim now is to help black filmmakers make their mark in the celluloid jungle that is Hollywood. We met with Dr. Williams after the Black Filmmakers Panel that was hosted by the March 2001 Cinequest, San Jose Film Festival. Although the Panel itself left a lot to be desired with its seeming infighting and no clear direction or agreement, Dr. Williams was engaging and polite as he helped to clear up some notions about the black stereotype that is so rampant throughout film and music these days. Touching on a few subjects that many seem to hide from, we got to some points that seem to still distance some cultures.
K2K: The use of the word “nigger,” has become that now, not only is it “not OK” to say, but it has become the “N-word.” It’s on par with the “F-word.” Yet, blacks profusely use it throughout music videos and films. It’s not only that, but then the term “Niggaz,” which supposedly lightens it. But Whites are still not allowed to say it. Why is that OK for one but not the other?
JW: (laughs) I’ll tell you, this one’s easy. The reason why is... when you look at syntax and you look at meaning, everything we say is “how we say it” and “what does it mean”. What is the end result. You could say to someone, “I love you.” (with emphasis) or you could say (flatly) “I love you.” That’s two different meanings. I’ve said the same thing with two different meanings. So, when a White person says it, it means something different than when I say it.
K2K: Does it have to mean something different?
JW: It’s like the secret handshake thing. Because most of us have come through the same place and had to define ourselves through a lot of adversity, not that other people didn’t, but we have similar adversarial things that we go through to get to where we are. That’s why there’s a commonality. That’s why you see Blacks who walk down the street and speak to each other. They don’t even know each other but, “Hey man. What’s up?” That’s the “club” thing, you know. I’ve had white guys say, “You know that guy?” “No, man. It’s just another black guy. We’re speaking.” That’s what we do. It’s the same thing, kind of a club thing. Personally, I don’t like the word because of it’s historical roots, but I don’t feel that history when another black guy says it. If I white guy said it, then I would feel that history.
K2K: Even if it was just a friend who was talking in general?
JW: Yeah, because he doesn’t understand it. He could be talking in general, but he really doesn’t understand it. Until you live your life where, with all those uses... Think of all the times in your life. In your life, how many times have you been in a room where you’re the only one of your kind? A few times. You remember those moments. I can’t remember all those moments. Most Blacks are like that. All the time that you’re there, and you’re the only one representing, and so that’s why it has that meaning. You won’t feel that unless you go to Nigeria, or grew up in Nigeria, and...
K2K: What about the term “Niggaz?” Now they’re not only identifying themselves with that word, but illiterately so.
JW: I think that’s just an art form. I think it’s just like getting into the end zone and celebrating. It’s how you dance in the end zone. One year it’s this way, another year it’s that way. It still goes back to the roots.
K2K: So, what do you think needs to be changed then? The cut and dry of it.
JW: I think that Blacks have to get away from stereotypes and the country needs to get away from stereotypes. I think it’s going to take... The people who understand and know have to lead the least common denominator. We have to break down the stereotypes for them. We have to use... We’ve gone to school and we’ve got an understanding of life and the complexities in life. We have to use that ability responsibly by breaking down myths that we know are wrong.
K2K: What do you think about those people who say that there is not enough Black representation [in films]? Yet, there are actors like Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Denzel Washington, who are two of my favorite actors - who are immense, huge, larger than life.
JW: It’s like a black quarterback. When we only had a handful of black quarterbacks - and when I say a handful, I mean one or two - playing on a team, we had no backups. They were either the star, or they weren’t on the team. It’s the same way. You had to be a superstar. For actors, they have to be near-Oscar contenders to get the big time films, when we have tremendous actors. We have a lot of good actors.
K2K: Why does basketball equal Black
JW: I think it’s just like when Jews couldn’t get jobs when they first came in, they had to... They were boxers, they were baseball players, they were into sports. That’s kind of a way out. It’s kind of become our game. No more and no less.
K2K: What’s new for you coming up?
JW: Still writing. I just started my production company and I’m just doing my thing.
And with that, Dr. Williams was whisked off to meet with friends and get his ride back to the hotel. Don’t forget to check out his production company online at: www.ymotion.com.
Written by Philip Anderson

Philip Anderson is a musician, in addition to being a writer/photographer. He has performed as a guitarist/vocalist, as well as songwriter, in several bands over the past 20 years. As a writer and photographer, he has been published by several magazines and in several books, and had his works appear on television.

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