Critically acclaimed writer and producer Kenya Barris, most famously known as the creator behind ABC’s smash-hit comedy “black-ish,” said he’s unfazed by some the push back he’s received from viewers who feel his show has become too focused on race following the election of contested president Donald Trump.
“I love any and all feedback,” Barris said. “Someone said a long time ago, like, ‘If you believe any of it, you believe all of it.’ So I listen to it all, [but] I do not allow it to sort of define what we do.
Barris’ comments came during Clark Atlanta University’s ninth annual Spirit of Greatness gala on Saturday, March 18, where he was one of six alumni and pioneers honored. The seasoned TV producer, who graduated from the historically Black university in 1996, was the recipient of the Pathways to Excellence award for his outstanding work in the entertainment industry, as well as other positive work he’s done throughout the nation.
“I think everyone is entitled to their opinion and, you know, I don’t like everything on that’s Black — not in any way, shape or form,” Barris continued. “And I don’t know if I would like if everyone did like [the show]. I feel it’s important that the rubber hits the road sometimes and it rubs people the wrong way, because something that sometimes rubs you the wrong way actually causes more change than something people really enjoy.
“So, I’m okay with all that.”
From TV favorites like “Girlfriends” and “America’s Next Top Model,” to Hulu’s first half-hour comedy series “We Got Next,” the seasoned producer has worked on a number of TV’s most popular shows, pitching pilots to nearly every network in the TV guide. Barris’ “black-ish” was cemented as a family favorite soon after its 2014 season debut, touting award-winning actors Anthony Anderson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Jenifer Lewis and Laurence Fishburne, along with newcomers Yara Shahidi, Marcus Scribner, Marsai Martin and Miles Brown.
Other notable recipients of CAU’s Pathways to Excellence Award included Fulton County State Court Senior Judge Brenda Hill Cole; Steve Ewing, president and owner of Wade Ford; world-renowned photographer Horace Henry; Al B. Reid, vice president of corporate development at Abbot Laboratories; and Emmy Award-winning journalist and videographer Anthony White.
Alumni, Dignitaries and Celebrities Fill Omni Hotel to Raise Scholarships for #CAU https://t.co/WXedfMMQzJ #HBCU #CAU_RYS17 pic.twitter.com/FqQQ00pIHj
— Clark Atlanta Univ. (@CAU) March 19, 2017
Each year, CAU’s Alumni Association, Inc. hosts the signature black-tie event, which stands to benefit the university’s scholarship fund. Since its inception, the formal gala has raised over $1.5 million for CAU students.
“The Clark Atlanta University Alumni Association, Inc. takes pride in honoring our distinguished alumni and nation’s trailblazers each year, while raising funds to support the next generation of leaders who are currently matriculating through CAU,” Marsahll Taggart, president of CAUAA, said in a statement.
“Each year, the number of students with unmet financial needs increases,” Taggart added. “This event helps bridge the gap, and we are proud to make a difference.”
During the event, Barris also discussed his time as a student at Clark Atlanta and said that attending an HBCU ultimately prepared him for the work he does today.
“[CAU] gave me a place to feel like I could be myself,” Barris said. “It gave me a safe space. It allowed me to grow during a time when I needed to grow. … I didn’t have [to face] the other pressures of sort of feeling like an outsider.”