Black News, Entertainment, Style and Culture - HuffPost Black Voices
iOS app Android app More
December 19, 2014

'We, As A Nation, Have Failed'

Angelo Merendino via Getty Images

What Happens When We Send Minors To Adult Prisons

Black Jail
Dietmar Klement via Getty Images

Al Sharpton Calls For Action Against Sony Executive

Al Sharpton
Raymond Hall via Getty Images

Scott Walker Ready To Call In National Guard To Respond To Dontre Hamilton Protests

Scott Walker
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Obama Talks About His Own Experience With Racial Profiling

Barack And Michelle Obama
Kevin Mazur via Getty Images

Michael Brown's Father: 'I'm Real Tired Of Our Kids Getting Misused And Abused'

Michael Brown
Michael McLaughlin/The Huffington Post
HuffPost Reports

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz Takes Powerful Step To Discuss Race With Employees

Starbucks
Zhang Peng via Getty Images

14-Year-Old Wrongly Convicted Of Murder Exonerated 70 Years Later

George Stinney
ASSOCIATED PRESS

The Passing of Natural Hair Pioneer Titi Branch

Titi Branch
Getty

America's Oldest Black College Could Face Financial Collapse

College
Creatas Images via Getty Images

Key Witness In Michael Brown Case May Not Have Actually Seen Him Die, Report Says

Darren Wilson
AP

Jon Stewart Hits Back After Hannity Calls Jay Z A 'Crack Dealer'

Jon Stewart
Comedy Central

UPenn Fraternity Suspended For Using Beyonce Blow Up Doll In Photo

Blowupdoll
Phi Delta Theta

Obama Applauds LeBron James For Wearing 'I Can't Breathe' T-Shirt

Lebron James Obama
Mark Wilson via Getty Images

How Giving Cameras To Formerly Homeless Detroiters Also Gave Them A Voice

Lucretia Portrait
HuffPost

49ers Player 'Terminated' Amid Sexual Assault Investigation

Ray Mcdonald
Thearon W. Henderson via Getty Images

Cop Designs 'Breathe Easy, Don't Break The Law' T-Shirts

Breathe
Facebook: South Bend Uniform Co.

Hillary Clinton: 'Black Lives Matter'

Hillary Clinton
Kevin Mazur via Getty Images

An Open Letter to Penn's Phi Delta Theta Fraternity for Their 'Beyonce' Blow-Up Doll Holiday Card

Racism
chris2766 via Getty Images

U.S. Wealth Gap Hits Record High

Pew Research Center
Pew Research Center

Protester: We Can't Be Silent When Women Are Shot By Police

Aura Rosser
Aura Rosser

NFL Player Emotionally Explains Why He Won't Apologize For Protest

Andrew Hawkins
Joe Robbins via Getty Images

Group Slams Bill Cosby For Comment About 'Black Media' Coverage Of Rape Allegations

Bill Cosby
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Race In Film: 'Criminality From People Of Color Is Viewed As Inherent'

Breakfast At Tiffany
Paramount Pictures

John Crawford III's Family Sues

John Crawford Iii
ASSOCIATED PRESS

9 Absurd Justifications For Police Killings Of Unarmed Black Males

Protests
AP

How School Suspensions Disproportionately Target Black Girls

Black Teens In Class
Weston Colton via Getty Images

Bill Cosby's Daughter Addresses Sexual Assault Allegations

Bill Cosby Daughter
Bryan Bedder via Getty Images

When White People See Themselves With Black Skin, Something Interesting Happens

African American Face
JGI/Jamie Grill via Getty Images

Teen Boy Fatally Shot While Defending Twin Brother During Robbery

Demario Bailey Shot
Photo provided

Cleveland Police Union Refuses To Back Down From Criticism Of NFL Player For Tamir Rice Shirt

Andrew Hawkins
Diamond Images via Getty Images

Artist Collective Takes Responsibility For UC Berkeley Lynching Effigies

Noose
Jan Stromme via Getty Images

Student Allegedly Pulled Over For Playing 'F--k The Police'

Fuck The Police
YouTube: New Yenc

Artists Explore The Many Influences Of Ebony And Jet Magazines

Jet

Protesters Chain Themselves To Oakland Police Headquarters

Oakland Police Flag
bjay707 / Instagram

This Is What It Looks Like When New York City Erupts With Cries For Justice

Millions March Nyc
Emily Kassie

Bill Cosby Says He Expects 'Black Media' To Remain 'Neutral'

Bill Cosby
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Police Nationwide Alter Tactics, Bolster Arsenal After Protests, Killings

Protests Police
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Black Churches Pray In Protest Of Police Brutality

Black Church
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Half of Black College Students Graduate $25,000 in Debt

Tamir Rice's Mom: I'm Looking For A 'Change For The Nation'

Tamir Rice

VIDEO
John Crawford's Girlfriend Aggressively Questioned After Fatal Shooting

Joe Crawford Iii
H/O

'It Doesn't Matter Where You're At -- People Have Guns Everywhere'

Newtown Anniversary
Twitter: VPCGLA

Shakeup In Haiti

Lamothe
HECTOR RETAMAL via Getty Images

NBA Veteran Graduates From College, Nine Pro Seasons Later

Jarrett Jack Nets
Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Pamela Wright's Son Was Shot Dead A Month After Newtown. This Is Her Story.

Pamela Wright
Everytown For Gun Safety

The Ezell Ford Autopsy Report Casts Another Glare on the Autopsy Debate

Ezell Ford
Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Michel Du Cille's Stories Live On

Michel Du Cille
The Washington Post via Getty Images

Mississippi Women Plead Guilty To Hate Crimes

James Craig Anderson
Facebook

In Wake Of Troubling VA Report, Group Promises Nearly 2,000 Homes For Homeless Vets

Homeless Veteran
Bloomberg via Getty Images

After Honoring Eric Garner, LeBron's Voice Could Have Been Louder

Lebron James
AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

Police Arrest Suspect In Shooting Death Of Auburn Player

Jakell Mitchell Suspect
AP

Thousands March On NYPD Headquarters To Protest Police Killings

Washington Square
raphaelangenscheidt/Instagram

These Powerful Signs Illustrate The True Diversity Of The #BlackLivesMatter Movement

Millions March
Sebastian Murdock

Interfaith Efforts Work For Reconciliation In The Central African Republic

Central African Republic
ASSOCIATED PRESS

45 Arrested After Protests In Oakland

Oakland Protests
Elijah Nouvelage via Getty Images

WATCH
Grieving Mothers: My Son Would Still Be Alive If He Were White

Eric Garner
CNN

16 Quotes To Remind America That Black Lives Matter

What Happened When Two Students, One Black and One White, Participated in a Peaceful Protest

Alex Q Arbuckle
Alex Q. Arbuckle

Do You Think Bill Cosby's Rape Allegations Are a Conspiracy?

Sexual Assault
Daniel Korzeniewski via Getty Images

FBI Investigating Hanging Death Of Black Teen

Swingset
Stephen Mallon via Getty Images

'My Name Is Michael Sam, And I Am Unbroken'

Michael Sam Unbroken Video
YouTube

Maine High School Displays Poster Protesting Grand Jury Decisions

Lewiston High School
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Tamir Rice Death Declared Homicide In Newly Released Autopsy

Tamir Rice
Justice For Tamir Rice

Michel Du Cille, Pulitzer Prize-Winning Photographer, Dies At 58

Michel Du Cille
The Washington Post via Getty Images

Undercover Cop Points Gun At California Protesters

Oakland Protesters
Elijah Nouvelage via Getty Images

John Crawford's Family To Join March In Washington

Joe Crawford Iii
H/O

FOLLOW HUFFPOST

    1. HuffPost
    2. Black Voices
    1. HuffPost
    2. Black Voices
    1. HuffPost
    2. Black Voices
    3. View all RSS feeds

12 Gifts For Dad, The Most Impossible Person On Your Shopping List

Pizza Cone
Amazon

There's No One Reason To Dance. In Fact, Here Are 39 Of Them

Whyidance

The Incredible Christmas Oprah Will Never Forget

Own Oprah Where Are They Now Christmas Kindness
OWN

Jill Scott Set To Receive Major Honor

Jill Scott
Earl Gibson/BET via Getty Images

23 Beyoncé-Inspired Gifts To Make Your Home Look Flawless This Season

Flawless
AManicMonday/Etsy

'Shmoney Dance' Rapper Arrested

Bobby Shmurda
Mike Pont via Getty Images

Vivica Brings Hollywood Glam To The 'World's Leading Luxury Island Destination'

Vivica A Fox
Courtesy of The Britto Agency

The Impact Of 'Black Messiah' on R&B

Dangelo
Mark Metcalfe via Getty Images

NeNe Says No Atlanta Housewives Have Seen 'Cinderella': ‘The Hate Is Real'

Nene Leakes
HuffPost Live

Kendrick Lamar Debuts New Song On 'The Colbert Report'

Kendrick Lamar
NBC via Getty Images

Obama Names His Favorite Movie Of The Year

Obama Smiling
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Analyzing J. Cole's '2014 Forest Hills Drive' And His Place In Hip Hop

J Cole
Leon Bennett via Getty Images

Chris Brown's Bodyguard Sentenced For Assault

Chris Brown Bodyguard
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Model Says Bill Cosby Drugged Her And Licked Her Toes In 2008

Bill Cosby
ASSOCIATED PRESS

45 Fashion Gift Ideas Under $100

Fashion Gift Ideas
Boy Meets Girl/Misguided/Charm&Chain

'Selma' Star David Oyelowo: 'Eric Garner Became An American Problem'

David Oyelowo
Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

Watch Mashup Of Darlene Love Singing The Best Christmas Song

Darlene Love Letterman
CBS Photo Archive via Getty Images

Oprah And Jimmy Fallon Could Almost Make You Not Hate Auto-Tune

Fallon
NBC

Black Captain America Leading Comic Book Diversity

Isaiah Bradley
Marvel

Bill Cosby's Wife Breaks Silence On Sexual Assault Allegations

Camille Cosby
Bryan Bedder via Getty Images

Titi Branch, Miss Jessie's Co-Founder, Dead At 45

Titi Branch
Getty

Angela Davis Explains How The 'Prison Industrial Complex' Profits From Black People

Angela Davis
Keystone-France via Getty Images

PHOTO: 'Selma' New York Premiere And Afterparty

Selma After Party
Dave Allocca/Starpix

'Selma' Director Ava DuVernay Slams Racist Sony Emails As 'Sad'

Ava Duvernay
Jim Spellman via Getty Images

Oprah On Protests: 'Y'all Are Not The First To Do It '

Oprah Winfrey
Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

9 Reasons Why No One Compares To Figure Skater Surya Bonaly

Surya Bonaly
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Naomi And Jourdan Land Major Campaign

Burberry Campaign
© Copyright Burberry/Testino

Listen To D'Angelo's First Album In 14 Years

Dangelo Singer
Paul Natkin via Getty Images

This Roller Skating Man Just Elevated The Ring Bearer Game

Wedding Entrance
Steve Conway Photography/Instagram

BrotherSpeak: Exploring The Lives Of Black Men

Black Man Mouth
BananaStock via Getty Images

The Lack Of Black Emoji Has Sasheer Texting Some Strange Things

Sasheer Snl
NBC

'Selma' Cast Wears 'I Can't Breathe' Shirts At Premiere

I Cant Breathe
Ray Tamarra via Getty Images

The 22 Best Movies Of 2014

Best Movies 2014
Paramount/Sony/IFC/Fox/Disney

Mayweather Says He Wants To Fight Pacquiao, Finally

Mayweather Pacquiao
AFP via Getty Images

VIDEO
Raven-Symone Gives Mentor Debbie Allen A Heartfelt Surprise

Raven Symone Debbie Allen
AOL Originals

Dave Chappelle Says He Was Once Choked By The Police

Dave Chappelle
Dan Steinberg/Invision/AP

WATCH
Beverly Johnson Describes Being Drugged By Bill Cosby

Beverly Johnson
HuffPost Live

Beyoncé Releases Powerful Short Film About Fame

Beyonce
Beyonce

Little Girl Takes Mic From Reporter, Delivers A Spot-On Broadcast At Target

Little Girl Target
My Fox Houston

Nicki Minaj Goes Full Dominatrix In New 'Only' Video

Nicki Minaj
Vevo/YouTube

Terry Crews Is Definitely One Of Our Favourite Feminists

Terry Crews
Allen Berezovsky via Getty Images

Beyonce Braves The Cold In Leggy Dress

Beyonce
Monica Schipper via Getty Images

Kevin Hart Responds To Slam In Sony Email Leak

Kevin Hart
Star Shooter/MediaPunch/IPx

Foreclosure?

Jermaine Dupri
Marc Serota/Invision/AP

Daddy-Daughter Duo Bust Serious Moves In Adorable Old School Dance Battle

Father Daughter Dance Battle

Watch Shaquille O'Neal Use An Easy-Bake Oven Like An All-Star

Shaq Easy Bake Oven
The Watercooler

Hip-Hop Moguls Urge NY Governor To Reform Justice System

Jay Z Gov Cuomo
Daniel Barry / Office of the Governor

Dr. Dre Is The Highest-Paid Musician of 2014

Dr Dre
Mike Coppola via Getty Images

'Scandal' Star Reveals Drug Abuse

Columbus Short Scandal
Eric McCandless via Getty Images

Watch Shonda Rhimes' Totally Empowering Women In Entertainment Speech

Shonda Rhimes
Invision for The Hollywood Reporter

The One Role Queen Latifah Has A Desire To Fulfill

Queen Latifah
C Flanigan via Getty Images

Kendrick Lamar Teams Up With Reebok

Kendrick Lamar Reebok
Reebok

Police Ask To Interview Floyd Mayweather For Murder Suicide Case

Floyd Mayweather
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Netflix To Produce Nina Simone Documentary

Nina Simone
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Gugu's Breakthrough Win!

Gugu Mbatharaw
Tristan Fewings via Getty Images

Director Salim Akil on 'Jumping the Broom': "The Biggest Challenge Was to Trust Myself"

Comments (16)


Salim Akil, director of Jumping the Broom

If one did a Google photo search for Salim Akil, pictures of his wife, Mara Brock Akil, are just as likely to come up in the results.

For some less enlightened men, such a close association to one's wife might be bothersome. Not for Akil though. For years, the married couple has collaborated as directors, producers and/or writers on several projects, most notably 'Girlfriends,' the CW sitcom his wife created in 2000 and its spin-off series, 'The Game,' that now airs on BET.

As a matter of fact, Akil, 46, is the first to credit his wife for his success, admitting that the biggest adjustment came when he had to tackle directing 'Jumping The Broom' - which opens in theaters today (May 6) - on his own. Akil shot the bulk of the film, which is about two families who meet at a wedding in Martha's Vineyard, on location in Nova Scotia, Canada. His wife stayed home in Los Angeles, where the two live with their young sons, age 7 and 2. "After working with my wife for so long, it really felt like I was out there alone when she wasn't around," Akil said. "I had a great cast, a great crew, and great producers, but the biggest challenge was to trust myself."

Salim Akil; director; Jumping the Broom


A quick scan of husband and wife's respective IMDB.com pages shows how intertwined their careers are, but it's clear the man of the house is unquestionably the quieter of the two. If his wife is behind the scenes, Akil is even further behind the scenes. But it's a role he kind of relishes, an extension of who he is as a person. "Mara is the more gregarious person, so you've heard a lot more about her, I'm sort of the quiet one," Akil says. "To watch her and her name blossom out there in the public makes me happy because I know she's happy."

As Akil is quick to note, "A happy wife is a happy life."

Akil isn't just comparably quieter than his wife. In the continuum of black male directors, he is often associated with or compared to Tyler Perry and Spike Lee, two of Hollywood's most outspoken figures. But Akil has always maintained a level of anonymity. He doesn't act in his own projects now and up until 'Jumping The Broom,' he's done very little press or promotion for his work. Even on the set of his own film, where directors often call shots through a megaphone, a reel of behind-the-scenes footage shows Akil walking up to cast members to give direction.

"I actually modeled my character in the film after Salim," says Laz Alonso who plays Jason Taylor, a charming but stoic groom-to-be who must help his family get along with the family of his future wife portrayed by Paula Patton. "One thing I noticed about Salim has under no circumstances, regardless of what adversities we faced, he never, ever lost his cool. He was the coolest guy on the planet."

Akil's cool demeanor was shaped during a rather rough upbringing in the Bay Area, where he learned early how to navigate a cruel world. "I literally saw my friends slaughtered – those who weren't were in prison," says Akil, who was a teenage father. He also has a son, 26, and a daughter, 32, and three grandchildren. "My mom spent some time in prison and my step-dad overdosed, and my dad for the most part wasn't around."

As a writer and director, Akil is very aware of the rich source-material his biography offers. Unlike other filmmakers who have used their lives as screen fodder (Perry's 'Madea' films; Lee's 'Crooklyn'), Akil chooses to keep that part of his life private, largely because he can barely get the details out of his mouth, let alone onto the page. "Emotionally, it's just challenging for me," he reveals. "This is the most I've ever talked about it. It just really becomes uncomfortable [to think about]. I start longing, literally, for brighter days and sunnier days."

He has slightly better memories about the path he took to get to Hollywood. In 1999, a year after he wrapped 'Drylongso,' his first indie film in which he starred and also co-produced, Akil decided to move from his hometown of Richmond, Calif., to enroll at UCLA so he could access the school's film resources. When he wasn't studying, he worked at an outpatient facility for the mentally ill. Though the job weighed on him heavily, Akil managed to keep writing scripts and maintain his filmmaking ambitions.

The person who encouraged him most then was a young Mara Brock. The two started dating when he first moved to Los Angeles after a chance meeting at a furniture store. Three months later, she proposed to him.(!) They were engaged for two years before marrying.

During their early years together, they both struggled professionally. But that time was a bit harder for Akil. While Brock got various jobs working in television, Akil said his day job hindered his creative impulses. Although she often told him to quit, Akil was stubborn. "I said, 'That's odd, a black woman asking a black man to quit his job'," he recalls. "I can't quit a job, that just doesn't make sense."

A week later, Akil was fired.

Left with no choice but to follow his passion, Akil started to talk with people about a script he wrote called 'Undertow,' a story about a bipolar schizophrenic detective. 'Undertow' was eventually optioned by Showtime, but never made it to the small screen. Instead, Akil landed an interview to write for the network's popular 'Soul Food,' a series based on George Tillman's 1997 film. By the show's final season, Akil was an executive producer and had directed two episodes. Later, he went on to direct episodes of 'Girlfriends' and 'The Game.'

These days, Akil is more than adequately skilled in his craft. He's developed a sophisticated touch and is able to tell nuanced stories about the different shades of romance. From 'Soul Food' to 'The Game' to 'Jumping the Broom,' there is a similar thread in all that addresses matters of the heart, specifically relationships between family members. "I had a lot of love from my mom, but the life I was living [as a child] was not normal," he explains. "So now, when I can get into marriage, it's interesting to me."

The stories represented in his films are a symbol of his happiness: "It is me smiling."

His wife, children and the friends around motivate him to continue making good work. The couple is preparing to shoot the fifth season of 'The Game,' and planning a remake of 'Sparkle', the classic 1976 film about the ups and downs of a R&B girl group in Harlem.

"We have a finished script that we have turned in the studio," Akil says. No actors have been attached to the project yet. The only names definitely attached are he and his wife. Whether only one or both of their names is in the final credits, Akil has no problem saying they did it together. "I don't question who's running things in our household," he says. "That's the perception people who are powerless need to have. I don't need to have that perception."

Comments: (15)

Add a comment

Page 1 of 2