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‘Central Ave’ Is Centralizing Women Of Color In Entertainment One Show At A Time

Get to know the ladies behind "the right show for right now."

Culture & Entertainment

What happens when a four-time Olympic gold medalist champion and a veteran television host of BET's 106 & Park walk into a room? They get together, turn the cameras on and star as the co-hosts for Will Packer's Central Ave. Sanya Richards-Ross and Julissa Bermudez have made history as the first two women of color to host an entertainment magazine show - and this is only the beginning for these two ladies bringing us "the right show for right now," as said in their description.

xoNecole had the chance to speak with the ladies of Central Ave about their working chemistry with one another, how their backgrounds led them to where they are today and their hopes for the future of Central Ave in the realm of entertainment and media. Here's what Sanya and Julissa had to say.

On their individual career paths and how it led to co-hosting ‘Central Ave’:

Sanya Richards-Ross: It's so funny and Julissa has said this so often but it's the truth - you never know who's watching. I was on the track for the majority of my life. My dad would always tell me and make me really focus on my interviews as part of my job. When I transitioned out of sports, I kept saying that I'd love to commentate for track and field because that's my love, but I didn't want to get boxed into doing just sports. I was very prayerful about other opportunities coming. I literally couldn't believe when Will Packer and Monique Chenault asked my agent to ask me to audition for Central Ave because this is a dream job for me to contribute to pop culture. Talking about topics that I care about outside of sports feels like a real blessing so I have to say that it was a lot of hard work, a little bit of luck that Monique Chenault was a track fan, saw me on the track and appreciated my interviews, and allowed me to have this great opportunity.

Julissa Bermudez: Personally, it's just been leading up to this point in a sense. I've been sort of wishing for a show like Central Ave to come around and to be part of it is even more special. As a TV personality and host, you dream of a gig like this. That's why when I say, "I've been waiting for a gig like this to come around like this," I've never really had an opportunity. I've kind of co-hosted as a guest on different entertainment news shows, but to be the actual co-host of a show where I can lend my flavor, personality, who I am and represent where I'm from on a weekly basis is very special and different. The opportunity came when my agent called and said the same thing when Will Packer and Monique Chenault wanted me to audition. It snowballed from there.

"I've kind of co-hosted as a guest on different entertainment news shows, but to be the actual co-host of a show where I can lend my flavor, personality, who I am and represent where I'm from on a weekly basis is very special and different."

On the chemistry the two share on and off the set: 

Julissa: Off set, we are FaceTiming each other, checking in with each other, encouraging each other as much as we can - a lot more relaxed obviously. On set, we try to have as much fun as possible and we've actually learned to figure out how we work. She can be very pumped up with music, ready for the day and as I would imagine getting ready to run a race. I could be a lot more moody, I can own that. There [are] some days where I'm the same way and other days I wake up super focused, I don't want to hear music and I'm in my own zone. That can be challenging when you have to work with someone, but I think we've managed to figure out our rhythm.

Sanya: I have to say that for me, especially coming into this space as a newbie, Julissa has completely taken me under her wing and I feel so supported and inspired every single day. We both understand that chemistry is something that grows and builds and I could say that every single day we get on set, we can feel it happening. I'm finishing her sentences, I can tell what she's gonna say and I can't wait to see where we go from here but the starting point has been really magical. I'm so excited to be working with someone who has so much experience, is willing to teach me and allows me to grow at the same time.

"We both understand that chemistry is something that grows and builds and I could say that every single day we get on set, we can feel it happening. I'm finishing her sentences, I can tell what she's gonna say and I can't wait to see where we go from here but the starting point has been really magical."

On being the first two women of color to host an entertainment magazine show:

Sanya: Many times when you're the first at something or you look and say, "It's 2020, how come this hasn't happened before?" It just reminds you of how important and significant this time is. Obviously, we couldn't orchestrate any of the things that are happening right now that really does make it feel like the right show for right now. I take this as a huge responsibility as a Black woman to represent us well, make the most of the opportunity and continue to open doors for other women of color. It's not until you hear this that you'll realize that opportunities are very limited, we're overqualified to have many of these opportunities and we don't get them. I feel so blessed and honored to have this opportunity. I pray Black girls and brown girls will look at their TVs and say, "That can be me one day," and then aspire to be even greater than we are.

"I take this as a huge responsibility as a Black woman to represent us well, make the most of the opportunity and continue to open doors for other women of color. It's not until you hear this that you'll realize that opportunities are very limited, we're overqualified to have many of these opportunities and we don't get them."

Julissa: The people have to watch! That's the only way it can happen and the only way that we're going to continue to have opportunities like this and for future generations, other women and anyone considered a minority. Numbers don't lie and at the end of the day we are an entertainment business with an emphasis on business. When shows like this are on the air and they're not supported, that business aspect of it kicks in big time. That's why it's so important to put out a show we can be proud of, where we can be seen, heard, and represented, and once you tune in, you stay locked in. At the end of the day, we can only do this as a collective.

For more information on Central Ave, check out their official website and Instagram page. Follow Julissa on her Instagram and follow Sanya on her Instagram.

*Some answers have been edited for length and clarity.

Featured Image Courtesy of Central Ave/Allied Moxy Marketing Group

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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Featured image by Shutterstock

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