The Black Godfather
An influential man you've never heard of
By Casey Lee
Of the many names there are in ‘Black’ popular culture, there is one that many may not have heard of. Yet, in this illuminating documentary interviewing African American luminaries in music, sports, movies, civil rights, and politics, from the 60s to the present, it is a name spoken with reverence, love, and admiration. That name is Clarence Avant.
For a man whose Wikipedia entry sheds little light on the massive influence he has had in elevating and turning African American pop culture into the mainstream, ‘The Black Godfather’ lets those who had the pleasure of knowing the man, some even owing their careers to him, speak of his contributions. And it's both a massive and impressive list that starts with major music producers (L.A Reid), musicians (Lionel Richie, Sean 'Diddy' Combs, Snopp Dog), comedians (Jamie Fox), pro athletes (NFL Hall of Famer Jim Brown), to presidents (Barrack Obama, Bill Clinton). Director Reggie Hudlin's nearly two hour long documentary did not need to innovate on the format when it had a subject as fascinating as Clarence Avant.
Charting the man's life from his impoverished upbringing in Greensboro to stumbling into the agency business during the mob days of post-Prohibition, to en route of getting his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, The Black Godfather describes a man that has an uncanny ability to make connections, strike deals, and bring out the talents that would define cultural aspects of African American life. The stories only escalate in scope when his influence extends beyond the music industry, painting a picture of a man who has his thumb in almost every pie.
For a man who talks that life is driven and all about the numbers, the legacy of Clarence Avant would be incalculable and not meant for monuments but in the lives it has touched. The Black Godfather explores not just an unspoken hero in a missing chapter of ‘Black’ culture, but a powerful demonstration of networking.