The inaugural Black Movie Hall of Fame launched yesterday to highlight Black trailblazers and icons in film who have roots in Kansas City.
The Black Movie Hall of Fame is a product of the partnership between the Critics Choice Association, KC Film Fest International and the Boone Theater, where the Black Movie Hall of Fame will be housed permanently.
Yesterday, Black Movie Hall of Fame Director Shawn Edwards unveiled the 10 initial inductees:
- Oscar Micheaux: The grandfather of Black cinema, Micheaux was the first Black person to direct and produce a feature film, “The Homesteader” in 1909. He’s credited with directing and producing more than 40 films. Micheaux grew up in Great Bend, KS.
- Hattie McDaniel: Born and raised in Wichita, KS, McDaniel is the first Black person to win an Oscar. She won Best Supporting Actress for “Gone With the Wind” in 1940.
- Gordon Parks: Born in Fort Scott, KS, Parks is known as a pioneering filmmaker, photographer and novelist. He directed “Shaft” and “The Learning Tree.”
- Tressie Souders: From Frankfurt, KS, Souders is the first Black woman to direct and produce a feature film for her 1922 “A Woman’s Error.”
- Janelle Monae: Originally from Kansas City, KS, Monae is known for her roles in “Moonlight” and “Hidden Figures” as well as her music.
- Kevin Willmott: Still teaching film at the University of Kansas, Willmott is known for his collaboration with director Spike Lee on movies “BlacKkKlansman” and “Da 5 Bloods.” He’s an Oscar winning screenwriter and director.
- Don Cheadle: Born in Kansas City, MO, Cheadle has had major, starring roles in “Iron Man 2,” “Hotel Rwanda” and the “Avengers” movies.
- Harry Belafonte: Notorious actor who played real-life Kansas City gangster Ivory “Seldom Seen” Johnson in Robert Altman’s 1996 movie “Kansas City.”
- Chadwick Boseman: Award-winning actor who played baseball player Jackie Robinson, who got his start with the Kansas City Monarchs before breaking the baseball league’s color barrier in the 2013 movie “42.”
- Forest Whitaker: In 1988, Whitaker played the famed Kansas City saxophonist Charlie Bird in Clint Eastwood’s movie “Bird.”
Each inductee is honored with an original portrait by local artist Warren “Stylez” Harvey. Prints of the paintings are available for purchase here: https://www.boonetheaterkc.com/bmhf.
The Boone Theater is currently under renovations, but upon its completion will house the Black Movie Hall of Fame portraits, digital media labs, office space and the Black Repertory Theater of Kansas City. Construction should start by the end of this year and be completed by the end of 2023.
Developer of the Boone Theater, Vine Street Collaborative is hoping to bring life back to the historic Jazz District where there have been ongoing economic challenges.
The theater was boarded up in the 1950s and sat vacant for years. Last year, the city chose Vine Street Collaborative’s proposal to rehabilitate the historic theater.
The 45,000 square foot Boone Theater opened as The New Rialto Theater in 1924. It served as a vital core to the commercial and entertainment center created by the Black community in the Historic Jazz District. In 1929, it was renamed the Boone Theater in honor of John “Blind” Boone, a blind Black composer and concert pianist from Missouri whose music influenced Kansas City jazz. Boone died in 1927.
Learn more about the Boone Theater here: https://www.boonetheaterkc.com/