Culture / News / Portfolio

Hilton-Jacobs speaks about importance, need for racial diversity in entertainment


Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs and I.

When I found out I would be able to meet and interview Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs (Cochise from Cooley High) I almost had a panic attack, no lie. I had been a fan since I was a youngin’ and was too hype to get the chance to meet him.

He came to Syracuse University while I was a graduate student in 2012. Not only did we delve into deep discussion over dinner (the presence of other students and faculty killed our vibe) but I interviewed him personally and nervously. Please believe my evening was made.

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Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs empowered an enthusiastic audience of students and faculty in a discussion on the importance of media diversity Wednesday evening in the Halmi Screening Room.

Hilton-Jacobs, an actor and producer, was the guest of honor at the 11th annual Conversation on Race in Entertainment Media.

He spoke on how to thrive in the entertainment industry, beginning the discussion with a Q-and-A with Richard Dubin, host of the discussion and professor of practice at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.

Hilton-Jacobs began by saying, ‘I was 14 when I started. … I was going to be an artist,’ before answering several questions about his roles in films ‘Claudine’ and ‘Cooley High.’

The response to his wit, frank humor and intelligent discourse was well received. Murmurs of affirmation, nodding heads and a constant sea of laughter were hard to ignore as he spoke about his role in the popular ABC TV series ‘Welcome Back, Kotter’ and told stories from his life in showbiz.

Hilton-Jacobs also spoke on the lack of diversity and stagnant nature of the business.

‘I have 43 years of being in the game,’ he said. ‘Not much has changed.’

Making it in the entertainment industry hasn’t been an easy road for people of color, Hilton-Jacobs said, but students should be inspired, not discouraged.

‘Hollywood is a segregated business,’ Dubin said. ‘It’s as segregated as it was in the ‘60s.’

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