Project 21 isn’t your typical black organization.
The group is sponsored by the National Center for Public Policy Research, a “communications and research foundation supportive of a strong national defense and dedicated to providing free market solutions to today’s public policy problems.”
The group, while officially nonpartisan, embraces values more typically associated with right-of-center Americans.
This week, Project 21 followed the lead of other black groups in the wake of the George Floyd protests. The organization wants change, targeting an august creative body and an Emmy winner in the process.
The group formally asked The Kennedy Center to rescind the Mark Twain Prize from 2010 recipient Tina Fey. The Saturday Night Live alum earned the honor for her work on that legendary show, her NBC sitcom 30 Rock and feature films like Mean Girls.
The group sent a letter to the D.C. based Kennedy Center requesting it take back the Mark Twain comedy prize from Fey “in light of the use of blackface on her television show and her recent request to remove that content from circulation.”
“We are not trying to cancel Tina Fey. Tina Fey cancelled herself when she asked Hulu to purge offensive episodes of 30 Rock, calling the fruits of her creativity ‘ugliness,'” said Project 21 member Horace Cooper in the June 26 letter. “We are simply alerting the Kennedy Center -- which has acted in the past to protect itself and the integrity of the Twain Prize -- to do so again in light of Tina Fey’s admission.”
The group insists it’s not joining the Cancel Culture wave nor does it wish Fey to lose any particular gig.
“Instead, we are asking you to act to preserve the integrity of the Twain Prize and the Kennedy Center itself,” the letter said.
Fey asked Hulu to remove four episodes of her 30 Rock series that featured white characters donning blackface. The streamer complied with Fey’s request, one of many such pop culture erasures in recent days. The comic star co-wrote two of the episodes in question.
Here is part of Fey’s statement on the matter:
‘As we strive to do the work and do better in regards to race in America, we believe that these episodes featuring actors in race-changing makeup are best taken out of circulation,’ she wrote.
‘I understand now that ‘intent’ is not a free pass for white people to use these images. I apologize for pain they have caused.
“[i]t is her newly-announced standard to which she should be held,” Project 21 concluded.
The request wouldn’t be unprecedented. The Kennedy Center rescinded its comedy prize from previous winner Bill Cosby in light of his incarceration for drugging and raping a woman roughly 16 years ago.
Fey’s “missteps,” the letter alleges, “occurred within the field and thus directly reflect on the honor of the institution.”
Traditionally media outlets would scramble to cover such a story, particularly at a time when race is at the forefront of the national conversation. A good faith Google News search found a few mainstream sources, like The New York Daily News and The Daily Mail, tackling this story. Most avoided it.
Variety, Deadline.com, The Hollywood Reporter and TheWrap.com similarly chose to ignore it.