Kaitz Commentary: A Message from Michelle Ray

Michelle Ray Headshot

In September 2019, many of you joined me and nearly 900 of our colleagues for the 36th Annual Walter Kaitz Foundation Dinner in New York City. Under the unifying theme We Are All In, we celebrated the work of City Year and Comcast NBCUniversal for their ardent commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. By the end of the night, we raised more than $1.4 million dollars to support grants distributed to front line diversity organizations in our industry.

Just seven months later, our world has been transformed. In less than 30 days, the COVID-19 pandemic has halted our progress more dramatically than an unexpected plot twist. The television, digital and film industry was forecasted to generate more than $30 billion dollars of revenue in 2020. Now studios are shuttered, productions are on indefinite hiatus, many of our colleagues are rendered unemployed or furloughed, and we’re all concerned with our health and the well-being of our families and friends.

Here at the Walter Kaitz Foundation, we have received your feedback and listened to concerns from our sponsors, participants and key stakeholders. We decided to cancel the Hollywood Creative Forum scheduled for April 28–29, 2020. We’re with you, navigating the fears, worries and disruptions in this unprecedented climate of uncertainty. We felt like it was necessary to press pause.

The cable industry has a long history of prioritizing diversity and inclusion behind the scenes to help serve the broad spectrum of viewers who rely on our industry’s content and services. We know that in-person networking at the Hollywood Creative Forum is an integral part of the experience and when COVID-19 is no longer a threat, we intend to reschedule what has become a signature Walter Kaitz Foundation event to resume the face-to-face interaction that drives Hollywood’s creative economy. Our heartfelt thanks go out to our HCF sponsors—Charter Communications, GCI, PlanetDMA and our annual sponsor, A+E—for their loyal support.

Together, our work and resilience are rooted in the extraordinary ability to pivot. Cable internet service providers are evaluating how networks will handle the increased demand and intensely focused on delivering superior network performance. In addition to ensuring fast and reliable internet service, we are proud of the new measures the industry is creating to expand internet access, especially for low-income households and families with students who are now learning from home.

Like you, we remain focused on our mission to advance diversity, equity and inclusion at every level of engagement. The current economic environment requires us to adjust some of our philanthropic criteria in the interim but we will continue to support our grantees’ needs. In this temporary new practice of social distancing, our industry will continue to evolve while keeping everyone connected at the swipe of a screen, through a voice-activated remote and on our mobile devices.

I have faith that we’ll come out of this crisis stronger and better. In the here and now, we must continue our work to reinvigorate the communities, businesses and households we serve. We may not be on the front lines of saving lives, but we play a tremendous part in the quality of those lives.

We value your continued support of the Walter Kaitz Foundation and its rich legacy of serving the industry through targeted grants and scholarships. Together, let’s stay dedicated to advancing diversity and inclusion while looking out for each other.

In the words of my Jamaican forefathers, Walk Good!

Michelle Ray

Walk Good is a friendly departing salutation meaning be well and take care.