4:00pm February 2, 2012

Digital Hollywood Takes Beltway by Storm


As Tinsel town pays tribute to Viola Davis, Idris Elba, Octavia Spencer, and Morgan Freeman for their work on the silver screen, the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council solidified its commitment to diversity in media and communications by honoring three trailblazers in digital media.

Dennis Leoni, acclaimed director of Resurrection Boulevard and Los Americans, and Issa Rae, Creator of Misadventures of an Awkward Black Girl, received MMTC’s Digital Media Pioneer for Social Justice Awards.  Tanya Lombard, Assistant Vice President for Public Affairs, AT&T, was bestowed with the Champion of Digital Equality Award.

Leoni, whose career in storytelling has evolved over the past 25 years to include writing, directing, producing and marketing films and television series, has a unique way of capturing the Latino aesthetic.  Inspired by his grandmother, whose love for country Westerns served as fodder for his exploration of the arts, Leoni’s work with Los Americans is a testament to the power of relevant programming to change outcomes in people’s lives.  In addition to being entertaining, Los Americans chronicles the lives of a middle-income Latino family living in Los Angeles trying to make ends meet. Themes like unemployment, dignity, immigration and family unity are interwoven throughout a compelling narrative.

Lombard, one of the driving forces behind The Black List – portraits of 50 of the nation’s most distinguished African Americans – has been a long-time advocate for telling the stories not often seen in mainstream media.     “She’s changing the face of Black America,” said Marc Morial, President & CEO of the National Urban League, “and she’s helping to make our communities more visible on the national stage.”  Lombard also worked with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in promoting In the Hive, Robert Townsend’s latest  film focused on the ability of education, technology and community to empower young black boys to become successful men, despite the odds against them.  Most recently, she collaborated with Forrest Whittaker in creating public service announcements about the transformative power of broadband and its potential to positively impact communities of color. “In a word,” Rev. Al Sharpton, President of the National Action Network, told Politic365, “she’s dynamic, and a force to be reckoned with.  She knows this space, and plays in it well.”  Through her efforts, it is clear Lombard is committed to ensuring minority communities understand the power of broadband and use it as a tool of self-improvement and empowerment.

Like Leoni and Lombard, Rae has taken her passion for creating entertaining representations of people who look and think like her and turned it into one of the most popular web series online.  Boasting more than five million viewers, Misadventures of an Awkward Black Girl has struck a unique chord with people across the country seeking something different than the cookie-cutter flavor of the week often found on network television.  Creating a model that is funded by its viewers, ABG (as its affectionately called by fans) exemplifies how entertainment and entrepreneurship can coexist in our increasingly digital economy.

By honoring Leoni, Lombard and Rae, MMTC looks to reaffirm the importance of the extraordinary work by people like them in positively changing how we see ourselves and how other people perceive us as well.

The work of MMTC’s Digital Pioneer and Champion of Digital Equality recipients lays the foundation for creating stronger communities in a digital era.

About the Author

Kristal High
Kristal Lauren High co-founded and serves as Editor in Chief of Politic365. She also operates her own communications and creative engagement company. Prior to launching the publication, Kristal developed an expertise in broadband adoption among minority, low-income and underserved populations through her work with the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council and the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies’ Media & Technology Institute. Throughout her career, Kristal has worked with national civil rights and civic associations, business leaders, minority elected officials, and Fortune 500 brands on an array of issues pertaining to the leveraged use of the Internet for online coalition building, stakeholder outreach, political advocacy and multimedia production. For her efforts in online advocacy and web publishing, Kristal received the New York Urban League Young Professionals Digital Renaissance Award and the NAACP’s Leadership 500 Chairman’s Leadership Award. She was also named to the Digital Sisterhood Network’s Top 100 Digital Sisters of the Year and received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Black Broadcaster’s Association. Kristal is also the recipient of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation's Excellence in Communications award, and has been named to two top 40 Under 40 lists - the Lawyers of Color Hot List and the National Bar Association's/IMPACT Nation's Best Advocates list.



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  1. Melanie

    Yes, the time has come for a new generation of awards….Not just Digital Awards but Digital Awards focusing on Diversity! MMTC really made some great choices this year. Not just focusing on the product, but the men and women behind the product.

  2. LIsa Revell

    LOVED, LOVED, LOVED "In the Hive." So happy to have people working to get inspirational films like this in front of our kids. Having worked in a facility for at risk boys, I sure wish this film had been available to them. Wish we had more people committed to the causes that MMTC is highlighting. Hopefully, these recipients will inspire others to spread the message on the power of broadband and how it can help communities/individuals achieve more. I'm inspired!

  3. Moore

    There are so many untold stories of people overcoming social, educational and economic odds. I’m glad to read about Lombard’s role in promoting projects like In the Hive.

  4. Summer

    Congratulations to Tanya Lombard an the other recipients. I agree, there is an over abundance of untold stories and hopefully they will come to the forefront because of these creative individuals and others like them.

  5. Joseline

    We hear so much about awards given out for solely entertainment purposes that it is nice to hear about an award giving to people who are actually making a difference in the world. Congratulations to the winners.

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