Atlanta artist T.I. gave an emotional tribute to slain rapper Nipsey Hussle during the Atlanta Film Society’s 2019 Image Film Awards Gala. One of four honorees at the Wednesday night event, T.I. turned his his acceptance speech into a tribute.
“I’m going to dedicate this award to my brother, my fallen soldier Nipsey Hussle,” he said. “To be quite honest, our histories are quite similar. Our initiatives are quite similar. Our messages are quite similar. I really don’t have the answer as to why he was taken before his time and I’m still here to accept this award. For now, I dedicate this award to him and others like him.”
Los Angeles authorities have arrested a suspect in the Sunday shooting of the late rapper, whose given name was Ermias Asghedom. He and Eric Holder, 29, knew each other and had some sort of dispute before the incident, officials say.
“It’s been a pretty tough week,” said T.I., whose given name is Clifford Harris Jr. “We don’t know how long we have. Life is short. Nothing is promised.”
T.I.’s movie credits include roles in the Marvel movies “Ant-Man” and “Ant-Man and the Wasp,” which both filmed in Atlanta. He was recognized in honor of both his film achievements and his work in the community.
His non-profit organization, the Harris Community Foundation, holds events such as last fall’s pre-Thanksgiving turkey donations to seniors raising their grandchildren. He and Walmart teamed up for a “Black Panther” ticket giveaway last year as well. Before the 2019 legislative session ended this week he was honored for his nonprofits Harris Community Works, which works with the disadvantaged, and For The Love Of Our Fathers, which works with people with Alzheimer's and dementia.
“T.I. has become an activist and dominant voice in social issues,” said
Emory University Film & Media Studies department chair and professor Matthew H. Bernstein said in introducing him on Wednesday.
T.I. was humbled at the recognition.
“I hate being called an activist. There are so many people who make far less than me, who have boots on the ground, they are the true activists,” he said. “I do the things I do because I was once one of the underserved and seemingly forgotten people who live in places like Bankhead, Mechanicsville .. places we all know could use more opportunities, education. I always wondered why no one took time to come and see about us. I try to be the change I hope to see.”
Also honored on Wednesday were State Rep. Betsy Holland, who is director of culture and engagement at Turner Broadcasting; “The Walking Dead” executive producer Tom Luse and Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr. His previous role was as head of Georgia’s Department of Economic Development, whose agencies include film and entertainment.
“When I was younger I was going to be a world famous, Academy Award- winning actor,” Carr said. Although he landed a role as a Christmas elf in a second-grade school play, his career took another path. “Here’s the spoiler alert: I didn’t end up being an Academy Award-winning actor.”
Working with folks who have propelled Georgia’s film industry over the years has been the next best thing.
“To be able to work with them and everyone in this room to build this industry was unbelievable,” Carr said. “I was proud to be one small part of it.”
Georgia’s film industry is a point of bipartisan pride. Gov. Brian Kemp attended the 2019 Film Day event like his predecessor Gov. Nathan Deal did in years past, signaling strong support for the enticing tax credits that have lured so many productions here.
The passage of the “heartbeat bill,” outlawing most abortions after a doctor detects a fetal heartbeat, led some entertainers to call for filmmaking to leave Georgia. A letter signed by 40 artists including Alec Baldwin, Mia Farrow and Rosie O’Donnell urged opposition to the bill and actress Alyssa Milano appeared at the Georgia State Capitol to speak out against it.
The issue didn’t come up during Wednesday’s gala, although Holland referenced the debate during her acceptance speech.
“We are a state that welcomes everyone,” she said. “We have created a place that hopefully is bring together the next generation of storytellers.”
Luse thanked a lot list of people who have inspired and mentored him through his long career, and ended with an anecdote about “The Walking Dead.”
“In July 2010, we took over downtown Atlanta. We were given permission to take over eight blocks in the Fairlie Poplar area,” he said. “Somehow our art department was able to take a vibrant area and turn it into a wasteland apocalypse.”
Achieving the right look meant erasing all signs of modern convenience, such as traffic lights and street lights. Not only did the city of Atlanta agree to temporarily turn them off, but area businesses also agreed to turn off their lights during the nights of filming. With no ambient light, “The Walking Dead” scenes felt more authentic.
“I don’t think there’s another place on this earth that would let that happen except Atlanta, Ga.,” Luse said.
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