The senior pastor and entertainment mogul spoke to Black journalists this week about his growing showbiz portfolio. (Olu Alemoru/Los Angeles Wave)
As if to underscore the growing impact of faith-oriented content in Hollywood, Dallas-based mega-church founder T.D. Jakes swapped his pulpit for the Miracle Mile earlier this week when he unveiled a number of projects that point to his showbiz acumen.
Jakes (Thomas Dexter), 56, prolific author, film and theatre producer and music label mogul, acquired the rights and will be releasing "Winnie," the Winnie Mandela biopic later this fall, starring in his own talk-show, "Mind, Body & Soul," on BET and bringing back the iconic global faith festival, Megafest, last held in South Africa in 2006.
An expected 50,000 people from 40 countries are scheduled to attend the three-day inspirational event from Aug. 29 to 31, which will be held at the Dallas Convention Center, American Airlines Center and other prominent venues throughout the city.
On Monday, Jakes met local Black journalists at the Regus business suites, 5760 Wilshire Blvd., to expound on the three upcoming projects as well as the Trayvon Martin case, the impact of Tyler Perry and opening up the entertainment industry.
What can we expect from this year's Megafest?
The last time in Soweto it got a tremendous response -- we actually carried five or six planeloads of Americans to South Africa -- and prior to that it had always been held in Atlanta. Now we're bringing it to Dallas for the first time, which is logistically better. It's really going to be a great event; there are going to be health fairs for early detection of AIDS and autism and a whole plethora of health maladies that are prevalent in the African-American community.
There will be a great deal of empowerment sessions, for instance helping people in management with skills to move up and new features like an international faith and family film festival. [Meanwhile] Oprah Winfrey will bring her life class to Megafest for an important topic dear to both are hearts -- fatherlessness.
Given the controversy over "Winnie," which stars Jennifer Hudson and Terence Howard, its negative, critical reception and charges from Winnie Mandela that she wasn't consulted on the film, why did you want to get involved?
Well, all that happened before I came on board. First of all I love South Africa, there's some strong synergy between the history of South African and the U.S., particular as it relates to how people of color were handled and I think the more important issue to focus on is the disparity among African-Americans as it relates to the knowledge and understanding about South Africa and all of the African continent.
One of the best ways to bring knowledge and education about the struggles that exist in South Africa is to do it on the silver screen, so that is the canvas that the love story is painted on. I would hope that nothing in the film would be anything but respectful; I have the utmost respect for Winnie Mandela and my respect for Nelson is incalculable.
What do you think the acquittal of George Zimmerman says about America?
I think the verdict says to us that we need to be far more engaged in state and federal laws and need to look into the nuance of those laws that are often created to stop one problem, but lead to others. We can't be dis-engaged from the process and need more people who look, think and understand like us, to make sure the laws that are being put in place are reflective of our concerns as well.
I think the greatest message is not so much in the verdict as it is in how the verdict was derived and the demographic of the jury with the controversy that has spawned. It's certainly a painful reminder that we're not there yet on so many levels. Our deepest work is to create understanding of all peoples.
That being said, will your BET chat show feature controversial topics?
Yes. I'm not the kind of chat show host who will be talking about who's cute. Some of it has already been shot in Atlanta. We did a show on gun violence and we brought in mothers that had lost their sons and a young man in Chicago, whose baby died in his arms in the car when he was changing him. When we give these stats on gun violence we see numbers, but when we put the victims on TV we see the pain and broken hearts.
We also did shows on weight loss and eating healthy and humorous shows on how we date and love. This is a secular, not a gospel show.
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SOURCE: Los Angeles WAVE