Joyful noise filled the Linwood Dunn Theatre in Hollywood, Los Angeles, as guests eagerly awaited to watch the remake of the American masterpiece, The Color Purple on December 3rd. The exclusive screening was provided by The Black Excellence Brunch series and the mastermind behind it, Trell Thomas. In August 2018, the South Carolina native created the brunch collective after the family-style Sunday dinners that were a staple in his community, hoping to celebrate and uplift the Black professionals in Los Angeles and beyond who are elevating within their fields. So far, the Black Excellence Brunch series has expanded from Los Angeles to Atlanta, Florida, and even Ghana with two missions: to connect like-minded individuals and unapologetically celebrate their collective excellence.
However, Sunday’s Los Angeles screening and the brunch event did resemble more of a down-home, church, and southern feel, even in the middle of Hollywood. To achieve this, Thomas teamed up with Warner Bros. to curate an “awe-inspiring” experience that included a private viewing of The Color Purple (2023) followed by a catered brunch with Southern favorites like fried chicken, buttermilk biscuits, and home fries presented by Chef Joe at the luxury venue, Serra On Vine.
Event producer Cornelius Humphries, founder of The Shaunta Brand, worked tirelessly to create a purple enclave, which included intentional and delicious crafted cocktails and mocktails like “Sister’s Keeper” sponsored by Diageo, which followed the theme of the film. Upon entering the venue, guests were blessed with angelic voices from a gospel choir, who sang classics by gospel luminaries like Kirk Franklin, The Clark Sisters, and Tye Tribbett, truly taking us all to church.
In addition to the majority of the film’s cast in attendance (Fantasia, Taraji P Henson, Danielle Brooks), director Blitz Bazawule was present, as well as notable celebrities, costar of the upcoming film Aba Arthur, Billboard Award Winner Da Brat, CEO and social media influencer Tabitha Brown, and Actor/Comedian Kevin On Stage to name a few.
Humphries relied heavily on the film for inspiration when asked about the event conceptualization. “I saw the film trailer, and I got the inspiration from there. I tried to bring people into that world. When I create these events, I aim to develop experiences for people, not just moments but experiences that will last a lifetime. So, what better way to pull people into the movie with beautiful church-based decor,” he said to ESSENCE.
Thomas’s purpose and intention for this brunch was to honor and celebrate a film he’s held dear to him since childhood. “I just feel blessed. This film was such an important part of my childhood, so to have it as a part of my adulthood in this way is a full-circle moment. The Color Purple is a sacred film, and the Black Excellence Brunch is a sacred space,” he said to ESSENCE.
It’s a sacred, indeed. Another highlight of the brunch was the fireside chat component with Taraji P Henson, Danielle Brooks, Fantasia, and Blitz Bazawule. All eyes were transfixed on the stage as Thomas led an insightful chat about the importance of faith-building, sisterhood, community, and pushing past your fears, especially against the backdrop of Hollywood and a fickle entertainment industry. Plenty of gems were dropped from Fantasia trusting in her faith to get her through dark and turbulent moments, Henson attributing her circle of sisters to keep her grounded, Bazawule paying homage to his Ghanaian roots for his success, and Brooks saying a big “hell no” to her fears while carrying the torch after being hand selected by Oprah to step into the iconic role she originated in 1985.
Brooks also made sure to define what Black Excellence means to her during the fireside chat, “It’s standing in your power, knowing who you are. It’s honoring the ancestors, the people that came before you and making them proud. That’s what Black Excellence means to me,” she said to brunch attendees.
Curating an authentic space rooted in familial values is challenging. Still, Thomas and his team did it seamlessly this past Sunday, encouraging us to live truthfully while uplifting others. “It’s such an authentic space. And it’s a space where we can show up genuinely and fully. So, whenever I sit down with people, I want to talk to them about things they’re not talking to everybody else about. I want them to feel safe, like when they’re around the family, around their kitchen tables. That’s the conversation that I want to have. So when I think about my brunches, I think about things like, ‘What would we talk about if we were home around Sunday dinner table?’”
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