The Black Entertainment and Sports Lawyers Association (“BESLA”), a nationally recognized leader in legal education and professional development for diverse lawyers and professionals in the entertainment, sports and related industries, held its 35th Annual Conference from October 21 – 15, 2015 in Montego Bay, Jamaica. NBCUniversal was honored at the event, receiving the 2015 BESLA Corporate Diversity Award for its efforts to be an industry leader in recruiting, retaining and developing diverse employees and executives. Tamara Woolfork accepted the award on behalf of NBCUniversal. The video tribute in NBCUniversal’s honor focused on its diversity and inclusion efforts and made it clear that NBCUniversal employees work for one of the most diverse companies in the entertainment industry.
Pictured (L-R): Adrienne Byrd, George Cheeks, Tamara Woolfork, Jakgeem Mays and Joi Thomas.
Also pictured: Tamela Cash-Curry, BESLA Immediate Past Chairwoman.
The conference theme – EXCEEDING THE VISION: Honoring the Past, Treasuring the Present, Shaping Our Future – set the tone for a series of thought-provoking panels that offered insight on current industry issues. The founders of BESLA returned for the occasion and participated in a Legends Luncheon, where they discussed the challenges they faced early in their careers, as well as their efforts to improve diversity and inclusion for lawyers in the entertainment, sports and related industries. Attendees at the conference included George Cheeks (EVP, Business Operations, NBC Entertainment), Tamara Woolfork (SVP, Business & Legal Affairs, UPG Partnerships and Licensing), Adrienne Byrd (SVP, Business & Legal Affairs, Sprout), Joi Thomas (Counsel, Business & Legal Affairs, Sprout), Jakgeem Mays (Specialist, Legal Affairs, Cable Entertainment) and Porcsha Daniels (Coordinator, Business Affairs, Cable Entertainment).
George Cheeks was featured on a panel entitled “Where’s the Money? How Does Your Client Get a Share of the Back End?” Jakgeem Mays was on a panel entitled “Understanding Digital Content Distribution in the Age of Hulu, Netflix, and Crackle” and moderated a breakout session for BESLA’s newly-formed Young Lawyers Division (which he chairs).
Pictured (right): Jakgeem Mays, panelist.
Pictured (right): George Cheeks, panelist.
Other panels of note included: “Playing in the Big Data Leagues: Mining Consumer Data and the Importance of Corporate Data Security and Compliance” (sponsored by Microsoft), “Scripted TV Stars, Digital Media Giants, Reality TV Personalities – The Changing Landscape of Representing Talent “(sponsored by TV One) and “Digitalized Music Streaming: Managing It, Monetizing It, Protecting It” (sponsored by SoundExchange).
The highlight of the conference was the Awards Gala and Auction emceed by actress Vanessa Williams (New Jack City, Soul Food, The Flash), where Theresa Cropper (Chief Diversity Officer, Perkins Coie and advisor to Stevie Wonder), Nancy Taylor, Esq. (former music industry executive at MCA, Universal, Sony, Warner Bros) and Joi Huckaby-Rideout (Co-Head and VP, Business & Legal Affairs, Telepictures Productions [a division of Warner Bros]) were inducted into BESLA’s Hall of Fame.
Pictured (L-R): Joi Thomas, Adrienne Byrd, Jakgeem Mays, Tamara Woolfork and Porcsha Daniels
with the 2015 BESLA Corporate Diversity Award.
Overall, the conference provided a unique opportunity for attendees to meet and network with top executives in the industry. It was engaging and enjoyed by all.