Issa Rae speaks on race, entertainment

Issa Rae, a writer and actress for HBO’s Insecure spoke at Bovard Auditorium Tuesday night. She spoke about her identity as a black woman and how the entertainment industry is moving in a direction that is increasingly empowering for black creators.

HBO director and actress Issa Rae spoke to USC students in Bovard Auditorium about her HBO television show Insecure and how students can enter the entertainment industry as creators. Emily Smith | Daily Trojan

The event, called “Issa Rae and the Black Perspective,” was put together by the Graduate Student Government, the Black Student Assembly and the Student Assembly for Gender Empowerment.

The event began with a screening of the pilot episode of Insecure, after which there was a question and answer session led by GSG Director of Diversity and Equity Sarah Toutant and USC Black Student Assembly co-executive director Saphia Jackson.

“I think ultimately we wanted to create a chance for students, faculty, and staff to listen to a conversation about blackness,“ Toutant said. “A conversation that students of all ages and all backgrounds would be interested in hearing.”

Rae said she was not afraid to use her HBO show Insecure to discuss sensitive topics, including race, interracial dating and the needs of underserved student populations. She also talked about how students could enter the entertainment industry as creators.

Rae said that aspiring writers should try and obtain a job as a writer’s production assistant.

“Research some favorite shows, find the entry level staff writers on those shows, and try to see if those writers will let you work with them even if it is for free,” Rae said.

As for being a black actress in Hollywood, Rae said that she feels extremely optimistic about the power she and her peers have when creating art.

“It’s all love, and we’re all supporting each other,” Rae said. “People are making a conscious effort to empower other voices behind the scenes. It feels like a ‘black people’s’ time, a women’s time.”

Toutant, who planned the talk, said her goal was to plan an event that not only allowed people to listen to a discussion on the black experience, but allowed them to participate in the discussion.

“We didn’t want to bring someone here and put all of the pressure on them to talk,” Toutant said.

Rae also came to USC last November as a part of the USC Annenberg-HBO Diverse Voices Forum, where she talked about her career as a creator and how being a black woman impacted it.

When setting out to plan the event, Toutant said she was hoping to do more than just bring another speaker to campus.

“[Issa Rae] is someone who we see in our generation who uses their blackness as a platform to bring issues to light in the black community,” Toutant said.

Not only did she believes the fact that Rae being a millenial made her more relatable to USC students, but she also believed the popularity of Insecure made Rae more appealing to diverse audiences.

“I know people that watch her show that are in their 40s, 50s and 60s,” Toutant said. “I also know people that watch her show who are in high school and college, so she breaks a lot of barriers when it comes to the communities in which she speaks.”

Toutant said she wanted people to witness a conversation that related to the black experience and to create an environment where race could be talked about openly.

“If we can create a space where we critically talk about race, it’s not only going to make us think about our different perspectives and experiences but it’s going to allow us to be a more cohesive community,” Toutant said. “And that way we can talk about the issues that we face every single day.”