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Black Stories Matter: Ghana to host International Master Class September 30



Under the auspices of the Ministry of Tourism, Arts & Culture, ‘Beyond the Return’ presents one of the biggest and elaborate Master Classes ever organized in the Ghanaian creative space.

Under the theme, ‘Black Stories Matter: Forging Collaborations for the Development of Ghana’s Creative Industry’ – a legion of international greats, accomplished in their varied endeavours would partake in the Master Class as panelists.

Professor Eleanor Earl, a Film Lecturer at the Hampton University and TV host, Ivy Prosper, would moderate a panel that would include Chris Roland, Vasall Benford, Lamman Rucker, Baron Davis, Etu Evans, Shelby Stone, Asante Bradford, RJ Bucaria and Philonese West.

The event comes off on Wednesday, September 30, 2020 at 4pm GMT, and would be streamed live on Facebook and Instagram on @beyondthereturn, @Ghanatourismauthority and @yearofreturn. It would also be broadcast live on Hitz 103.9FM.


The speakers and panelists include:


Lamman Rucker is an American actor who has starred in Tyler Perry’s films Why Did I Get Married?, Why Did I Get Married Too?, and Meet the Browns, and its television adaptation. In 2016, he began starring as Jacob Greenleaf in the Oprah Winfrey Network drama series, Greenleaf.  He played Jacob Greenleaf, the eldest son of Lynn Whitfield’ and Keith David’s characters until the series ended in 2020. He continues to act in several features films and has also been very successful in producing original content  for film and television



Shelby Stone is an Emmy winning, Golden Globe and NAACP winner producer who is currently the President of Production for the Narrative Film Group, formerly known as Freedom Road Productions, Common and Derek Dudley’s company. They have numerous projects with ABC, Showtime, Starz , Amazon and many other distribution outlets. The production company Executive Produces Lena Waithe’s hit show, The Chi, which is inits third season. Ms. Stone has produced over 80 hours of television, including the critically acclaimed and multiple award-winning Bessie, Lackawanna Blues, Life Support, Single Ladies and more. She is the recipient of over 60 awards and nominations, including Emmys, Golden Globes, People’s Choice, GLAAD, George F. Peabody Awards, the Humanitas Award and NAACP awards. Stone is an active member of Women in Film, where she served on the Board, as well as the Producers Guild, Women in Media and Film Independent, where she taught in the Producing Lab. 


Baron Davis is an entrepreneur, investor, and two-time NBA All-Star and record-holder, over a thirteen-year career. Baron Davis played for the Charlotte Hornets, the Golden State Warriors, the Los Angeles Clippers, the Cleveland Cavaliers, and the New York Knicks. Known for his electrifying style on the court, Davis was a powerful point guard, who won national acclaim for executing in crucial, high-pressure moments, when his team needed him the most. As a businessman, Baron was one of the original investors for Vitamin water and helped launch Thrive Market. Baron is also the founder of several companies, including Sports and Lifestyle in Culture (SLIC), The Black Santa Company, BIG and No Label—each with the objective of combining creative talent with original publication and production to develop and provide educational and heartwarming stories that appeal to global audiences of all ages.



Etu Evans is a shoe, clothing and accessory designer, interior design consultant and philanthropist. Etu Evans has made a name for himself as a tastemaker to celebrities.  His parent company, The Evans Guild (TEG), is a lifestyle brand with high-end execution and specialization in Fashion, Furniture, Film, Farming and Foundation. In the design space, including fashion and furniture, Etu has garnered a celebrity following and has been featured in several international print publications and on major television networks. He has served as a consultant to Harlem Textile Works, designed for Ducati in Italy and featured on the “Hottest Designer” segment on the popular television show, “The View.” His style and design impact led to his appointment as a brand ambassador of a premium French spirits brand.

The New York Daily states “He’s one of the hottest shoe designers in the business and has turned the world upside down on its stiletto heel. Beyoncé bounces in his footwear, Tyra Banks says she’s a fan and Lil Kim strapped on some boots for a sexy photo shoot.” Footwear News has hailed Etu and his purple bottoms as, “the Prince of luxe footwear.” Evans’ designs have graced the pages of German Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Marie Claire, Essence, GQ, In Style, Ebony (30 Leaders of The Future) and Black Enterprise. His designs have adorned Halle Berry, Sharon Stone, Queen Latifah, Cynthia Bailey, Michael B. Jordan and John Singleton, just to name a few.


Evans is focused on the cultivation of fashion, style and beauty content for the mediums of film and television. He created the “Republic of Style” television show for WBLS radio and internet in New York; and, serves as the Creative Director of Harlem World Magazine.  Evans has an additional talent of public speaking; and, is often called upon to contribute as a style correspondent to major networks; and, has opened up for motivational guru Les Brown.  Most recently, he delivered a thought-provoking talk- Leaving a Footprint– when featured on the Tedx platform.



Vassal Gradington Benford III is an American music mogul, ffilm pproducer and investor.  Benford has stamped his indelible imprint on the music scene as one of the world’s most prolific producers in the entertainment industry today.  In 2017 Benford landed a platinum EDM pop hit with 2x Grammy Award winner DJ Diplo (Justin Bieber, Skrillex) song titled “Be Right There, also performed by superstar DJ’s Marshmellow and Major Lazer generating over 1 billion internet streams. In 2019 Benford executive produced the hit film “After”. The film was a commercial success after grossing 70 million at the Box office.  Combined, Benford’s productions has generated over $400 million in sales revenue for such companies as Universal, Sony, BMG and Warner Bros.  Benford is Chairman/CEO of The Benford Company(TBC), which is distributed by Universal with Mark Canton( Partner/film producer of the 2018 box office Blockbusters “300: Den Of Thieves” “Immortals” and the hit TV show “Power”). TBC capitalizes on mMusic, film, Iinnovative technologies and ddigital mmedia platforms.

Benford’s production has helped create platinum hits for superstar talents DJ Diplo, Major Lazer, Toni Braxton, NAS, Marshmellow, Flo Rida, Fat Joe & Remy Ma,Queen




RJ Bucaria is Co-Founder and C.E.O. of Prolific Media Holdings LLC.He has been a trusted advisor and consultant to companies ranging from top Fortune 100 with over US $300 million in revenues to start-ups. He has also had the pleasure of compiling a client list of the entertainment industry’s top names such as Sony Records, Universal Music, Warner/Chappell Music, Sony/ATV, Radio City Music Hall, Charlie Murphy, Nokia, MPL Communications, Wyclef Jean, NBA, Discovery Channel, A&E, E!, Comedy Central, Warner Bros. Pictures and many more. Prolific’s operations, deal flow and investment targets typically fall inside of 5 core verticals which include: Music, Film & Television, Facilities & Venues, Entertainment Marketing, and Entertainment Technology & IP.  Creativity in the Arts has always been a central part of his life. By the time he was 17, he had already recorded 3 full-length albums, performed Off Broadway, produced 3 benefit concerts, written/directed/scored 2 original plays, was the chief lighting designer for over 20 stage productions, and had added over 15 instruments to his performance repartee. Through his 20+ year journey in the business of the entertainment industry, he has held positions as A&R, Talent Management, Music Supervision, Producer, Executive Producer, Director, C-Level Executive and as a member of the Board of Directors for public, private and non-profit organizations. He has had the great pleasure of working with a large number of companies and talent from both the “A list” and those who have yet to make it on any list. Bucaria has said, “I have a very deep passion for every aspect of what I do and always look forward to the challenge of tomorrow.”


Professor Eleanor Earl is a film and television content producer, entrepreneur and educator who has an unwavering commitment to making the world a better place through education, entrepreneurship and the creative arts. Since 2003 Earl has been an Assistant Professor of English and Film Studies in the School of Liberal Arts & Education, at Hampton University, an HBCU, ; and, has served as the Film Studies Program Director since 2007.  In 2009 she received the      E. L. Hamm, Sr. Distinguished Teaching Award.  Earl served as director, writer and sometimes host of a regional newsmagazine/talk show, with over 100 episodes completed during her tenure. from 2010- 2019. Prior to joining the faculty at Hampton University, Earl spent six years in Los Angeles, CA.  She produced the feature-length documentary, Searching for Shaniqua, which won the HBO Best Documentary Award at Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival in 2016.  Currently, she is executive producer on the feature film adaptation of Dr. Van Whitfield’s best-selling novel, “Something’s Wrong With Your Scale” and several other independent film and television projects that are in various stages of development with legendary film producer and mentor, Reuben Cannon of Reuben Cannon  & Associates. Most recently, Professor Earl partnered with music mogul and filmmaker, Mr. Vassal Benford of The Benford Company ,and continues a more than 10-year partnership with Shomi Patwary, an award-winning video director, of Illusive Media. She took undergraduate and graduate degrees, respectively, from New York University, Old Dominion University (with graduate credits in English Literature from a program held at St. Anne’s College, Oxford University, in Oxford, England) and The University of Virginia.



Asante Bradford is Project Manager for Digital Entertainment and Media for the Georgia Department of Economic Development, the sales and marketing arm of the State of Georgia.  The Global Commerce Division conducts extensive business development, sales, marketing and promotional activities in order to attract entertainment projects and businesses to the state. The division’s team also assists the local, national and international entertainment industries with information, expertise and resources.

Asante helps promote the growth of the digital media industry as well as identify initiatives that will help grow businesses for the state of Georgia in interactive entertainment. He also helps educate potential prospects and provide clients with information about the Georgia Entertainment Industry Incentives Act.

His area of concentration with the Global Commerce office is to increase the impact of interactive entertainment for the State of Georgia as well as being a dedicated liaison to assist with promotions, logistics and business development for attracting digital media companies outside the state to relocate in Georgia.


Asante was the Digital Entertainment Liaison for the Georgia Film, Music & Digital Entertainmentdivision of the Georgia Department of Economic Development from 2007-2010 which helped Georgia become known as a center for video game development, animation and digital media. The economic impact of the entertainment industry in Georgia jumped from $413 million to $2.4 billion in that time span.



Philonese West Is a Celebrity Hair Stylist with over 30 years of experience in the hair care industry having worked in Hollywood, Atlanta, South Africa and many others Philonese has travelled  Internationally teaching Natural Hair Care with Aunt Jackie’s including  The UK, South Africa and Nigeria.
Philonese currently works Behind  the Scenes with the Film & Television Industry where she has worked on shows such as Tyler Perry’s “ If Loving you is Wrong”, FX Atlanta with Childish Gambino, HBO The Watchmen as a personal stylist for Regina King which led her to The Golden Globes and The Oscar Awards bringing her career to its highest peak.



Chris Roland is an award-winning American producer, director, and writer living and working in Cape Town, and has been involved in 80+ productions. In September 2020 Chris’ latest film Santana was ranked #1 in the world on Netflix for six straight days. Chris owns My Movies, a sales and distribution company, and previously owned ZenHQ Films and The Imaginarium, both leading production companies, and the South Africa Film Finance Corporation (production financing), and Basecamp Logistics (unit equipment rentals). As a consultant, Chris provides a wealth of experience that helps turn challenges into opportunities and ideas and dreams into realities.


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