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Panel discussion features minorities in high-level positions in entertainment media

A-List Speaker Series connects Chicago-area minority youth with entertainment professionals
Last year's panelists for the inaugural A-List Speaker Series event at Thorne Auditorium at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law.

EVANSTON - Seeking to make the seemingly inaccessible accessible, the second annual A-List Speaker Series will connect Chicago-area minority youth with a group of minority entertainment media elites, from Oprah Winfrey’s former publicist to an Emmy Award-winning on-air personality.   

The speaker series, created to inspire minority youth interested in working in the entertainment industry, will take place from 12:30 to 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 21, at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law’s Thorne Auditorium, 375. E. Chicago Ave. in Chicago. It is free and open to the public.

Geared toward minority youth ages 14 to 24, the event is co-sponsored by the Northwestern Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion, Cinespace Chicago Film Studios, Embarc and the Bahamas Consulate Chicago.

“The A-List Speaker Series provides a unique opportunity for Chicago youth to engage with leaders in the entertainment industry,” said Jabbar Bennett, associate provost and chief diversity officer at Northwestern. “It’s a pleasure partnering with A-List Speaker Series to host this event in Chicago and for Chicago. Investing in our youth today helps to ensure the vibrancy, innovation and vitality of our communities tomorrow.”

Lisa Marie Boykin
Lisa Marie Boykin
Doors open at 12:30 p.m. for a half-hour music “TAKEOVER” by 220 Studios, which also includes giveaways, movie trivia and more. Lisa Marie Boykin, a high-ranking television lawyer at Annapurna Pictures, will deliver the keynote address at 1 p.m. Later, a three-person panel of industry insiders will cover strategies for achieving success in entertainment, focusing on topics such as contract negotiations, working with agents and building a personal brand.

The panel will be moderated by Emmy Award-winning TV host and reporter Jeanne Sparrow. 

Jeanne Sparrow
Jeanne Sparrow

“We want our youth who are interested in achieving success in the entertainment business to not only see black and brown people who are movers and shakers, but also to connect with their road to success,” said Imani Khayyuh, who founded the speaker series. “We’re excited to be back at Northwestern University and bring this much-needed dialogue to the Chicago community.” 

More information on Boykin, Sparrow and the three panelists follow. 

Lisa Marie Boykin, senior vice president (keynote speaker)

Boykin is senior vice president for business and legal affairs, television division at Annapurna Pictures, which produced the major films “Zero Dark Thirty,” “Detroit,” “American Hustle” and “Joy.” In her role, Boykin negotiates talent deals with writers, directors and performers for television series. She also negotiates distribution deals with premium cable and new media platforms.

Boykin previously worked as an attorney at The Walt Disney Company, Paramount Pictures and PBS. 

Jeanne Sparrow (panel moderator) 

An Emmy Award-winning television host, reporter and radio personality, Sparrow’s career in media spans more than three decades. She previously hosted the morning show for Chicago’s WCIU, “You and Me,” for eight years. Sparrow received a master’s in communication from Northwestern.


Parrish Lewis, photographer and director 
Parrish Lewis
Parrish Lewis

Based in Chicago, Lewis has more than 16 years of experience as a photographer and director. He has photographed numerous celebrities around the world, including President Barack Obama, LeBron James, Derrick Rose, Beyoncé Knowles, Kanye West and R. Kelly. He carries an extensive corporate client roster, including entertainment businesses Sony Music and Atlantic Records.

Robin Beaman, president, Beaman Incorporated 

Robin Beaman
Robin Beaman

President and founder of her own PR firm, Beaman Incorporated, Beaman has 25 years of entertainment and corporate public relations experience. She previously developed national and international public relations strategies for “The Oprah Winfrey Show” for five seasons and created BET’s first public relations division, eventually earning a promotion to director of consumer marketing and public relations at BET.

Noel Occomy, editor and cinematographer 
Noel Occomy
Noel Occomy

Occomy is executive producer and director of photography of “Chi-Raq the Series,” an online TV drama series set in Chicago’s South and West sides. Following seven years of teaching in Chicago Public Schools and shooting documentaries on the side, one of Occomy’s documentaries won a local Emmy. He later created a 2012 documentary on President Obama’s favorite military drill team. Occomy also has worked as an editor for NBC and the Home Shopping Network.