Speaker and Panelist Bios for Princeton’s “For Such a Time As This” Media Conference

Princeton Theological Seminary’s For Such a Time as This Media Panel (2/19/2013) explores how the church and marketplace ministers can “step up to bat” with relevance and engagement.

God’s call to Esther was one of urgency.  In order to save a generation from extermination, God strategically positioned Esther in a key leadership position. Can the Church reposition its voices to effectively address the important questions of morality and Christian values in this generation?

by Princeton Association of Black Seminarians

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DeVon Franklin, Senior VP for Production. Columbia-Tristar Pictures

DeVon Franklin – DeVon didn’t have the constant positive presence of his father growing up in California. His parents were married young and, after quickly climbing the corporate ladder, the social aspects of the job started taking their toll on his father, Donald.

Donald’s drinking got out of control, he lost his job and left the family. His mom, Paula, got a job working at a day care and started going to school to earn her degree. Donald floated in and out of his children’s lives and soon began to get his life on track. Slowly Paula allowed Donald to visit the family more often.

One night in 1988, Paula received a phone call: Donald had a heart attack and was in the hospital. The next day, Donald suffered another massive heart attack and passed

away. DeVon, 9, struggled with this. How could God take my father away from me just as he was getting his life together?” “To see your father alive one day, and the next day he’s laid out in the morgue, and you don’t get to say goodbye, no words can describe this type of hurt,” says DeVon. “It was a difficult experience that made me extremely self-reliant.” Even today, DeVon struggles with the fallout of his fatherlessness.

The entertainment field became an outlet for DeVon. He became obsessed with learning everything he could about how the entertainment industry worked, particularly movies. In 1996, DeVon became an intern at Handprint Entertainment. In 1998, he joined Overbrook Entertainment where he learned more about the business and got to know Will Smith and James Lassiter, founders of the company.

860323_10151238003761986_184417302_oIn 2000, DeVon became James’ second assistant where he attended meetings, read scripts and earned good money. DeVon was hoping to make the jump from assistant to executive but by fall 2001, he was frustrated and depressed. In 2002, DeVon dropped an ultimatum on God. He got up from his cubicle and went to the bathroom and prayed. Later that day, James called DeVon into his office. He told DeVon that Will and he knew DeVon had hit a wall career-wise. James offered to help him find a new job with no time limits so DeVon could still work at Overbrook.

After several months of searching, DeVon gave 2 weeks notice on faith. He prayed and he fasted. “I had faith and believed God was in control,” says DeVon. “…but sometimes the only way to reach a goal is to surrender to God.” On his first day of unemployment, DeVon got a job offer from Edmonds Entertainment to become a junior executive in Development. He was faithful in his job, but one morning out of the blue in 2003, DeVon got a call for a job offer as a studio executive at MGM. Six months into the new job, word got around that MGM was trying to sell the company. Soon, Sony Corporation closed the deal and asked DeVon to say with them.

For DeVon, the temptations are never what people traditionally think. “When you’re in a high stakes/high pressure business, your ambition gets the best of you,” says DeVon. “So I stayed prayed up and kept people around me to focus.” On production sets, DeVon, a 7th Day Adventist, is adamant about unplugging his life at sunset every Friday until Saturday at sunset to study his Bible, attend church, etc. “I have put my faith front and center for everyone to see…..not only has relying on my faith not harmed my career prospects, it has actually enhanced them,” says DeVon. His production, Jumping the Broom is a comedy about a wedding ceremony that forces two families to get along. The movie, distributed by Sony, was produced by T.D. Jakes, drew in $15.3 million, and landed as the weekend’s number 3 movie and its number 1 comedy.

Senior Director of Music Licensing at a Sony Music
Kobe Brown, Senior Director of Music Licensing, Sony Music

Kobe Brown – Raised in East Orange, NJ, and educated at Morehouse College, Kobie Brown is a respected music industry executive. Beginning his career working for recording artist and actress Queen Latifah, Brown has worked with artists including Naughty By Nature, Mary J. Blige, Usher, The Fugees and Lauryn Hill among others.

He currently serves as Senior Director of Music Licensing at a Sony Music. His passion for creativity; commitment to activism; and awareness of the pervasiveness and pain resulting from father absence inspired Brown to create From Fatherless to Fatherhood – a documentary film and social campaign that explores father absence in the Black community while showcasing men who, regardless of socioeconomic status, are fostering quality relationships with their children, families, and therefore, their community. Brown holds a BA in English from Morehouse College and a MFA from Rutgers University.

Robyn Greens Arrington, Senior Director of Programming & Production at TV One
Robyn Greene Arrington, Senior Director of Programming & Production at TV One

Robyn Greene Arrington – Robyn has consistently brought quality images to the screen. She is a veteran creative executive with over 20 years of varied experience in the entertainment industry, including television programming, independent film production and creative services.

The first film she produced was “Hav Plenty,” the critically acclaimed Miramax release,

executive produced by Grammy award-winning Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, which screened at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival.

In her current role as senior director of programming & production at TV One, Robyn has overseen numerous productions including but not limited to: NAACP nominated “Save My Son” and “Love Addition” (intervention series); TV One Night Only: Live from the Essence Music

Festival” (music special); “Celebrity Crime Files” and “Life After” (biography documentary series); 2008 Presidential Election and 2009 Presidential Inauguration coverage (live specials); “I Married A Baller” (the network’s first reality series); the Telly award- winning “Murder in Black & White” (a Civil Rights cold case documentary mini-series); “Breast Cancer Revealed: An African- American Perspective,” “The Color Purple: The Color of Success,” “Lessons from Little Rock: A National Report Card” and “Real Estate Realities: When the Boom Goes Bust” (documentary specials). And prior to taking the preceding position, she wrote, produced and directed two series for TV One, “Full Plate” (lifestyle series) and “Sharp Talk with Al Sharpton” (talk-show).

During the summer of 2002, she taught a digital video and computer editing workshop, funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, at her alma mater, The Harlem School of the Arts.

For over a decade, Robyn had been a frequent contributor to HBO. She worked on the launch of one of the network’s new channels, HBO Zone and continued to play an active role in its evolution. In 2001, she produced and edited both Zone’s “The Making of Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry,” hosted by “OZ” cast member, muMs and segments of “Stretch,” the celebrity talk show hosted by New York’s Hot 97.1 D.J., Angie Martinez.

Ms. Greene Arrington co-produced a HBO presentation video for the NAACP that netted a CTAM (Cable TV Advertising & Marketing) Mark Award in 1996, and was a winner at The New York Festivals, the following year.

Turning the channel, in 2000, she produced installments of both the image campaign for Lifetime Television’s highest rated (at that time) Lifetime Movie Network Preview Weekend and the network’s election issues campaign, “Every Woman Counts.”

The rest of her resume is that of a seasoned television/film production veteran: Spike Lee’s “Malcolm X,” CNN/HBO Family’s “What Matters,” the critically-acclaimed children’s newsmagazine show, A & E’s “Biography,” New York’s Metro Channels’ “Full Frontal Fashion Spring 2001” and BET.

Robyn Greene Arrington has a Bachelor of Arts in Broadcast Journalism from New York University and a Master of Science in Television/Radio/Film production from Syracuse University.

Winsome Sinclair
Winsome Sinclair, Casting Director, Winsome Sinclair and Associates, Legacy Media Group

Winsome Sinclair – One of the most sought after Casting Directors on the East Coast, Winsome Sinclair has collaborated with some of the most influential filmmakers in the world.

She has worked on a myriad of noteworthy films with directors such as Steven Spielberg, Spike Lee, Oliver Stone, John Singleton, Forrest Whitaker, Ernest Dickerson, Christopher Reeve, and Hype Williams. Along with these prominent directors, Winsome has become a part of cinematic history, for titles such as Amistad, Malcolm X, Waiting to Exhale, Inside Man, & Miracle at St. Anna, & the Academy Award winning film PRECIOUS which are destined to become classics.

Winsome began her career in casting soon after graduating from Florida A&M University, with a degree in Theatre. Upon her return to New York, she wrote to Spike Lee, asking him for the opportunity to learn. He responded by offering her an internship on the set of Mo’ Better Blues ( 22 years ago this year) in the extras casting department. From those humble beginnings, Winsome went on to cast principals and extras on some of the most popular urban dramas of our day, such as Juice, Higher Learning, Best Man,Belly, Brown Sugar, 30 Years to Life as well on such hits as Shaft25th Hour & My Brother (nominated for 2008 NAACP Image Award).

She has most recently worked TYLER PERRY on FOR COLORED GIRLS as well as with JOHN SINGLETON on the suspense thriller ABDUCTION (starring Taylor Lautner of the TWILIGHT series) and with GEOFFEREY FLETCHER on his directorial debut VIOLET & DAISY. Geoffrey is the first AFRICAN AMERICAN to win the ACADEMY AWARD for best writer 2009. At the close of 2010 she collaborated with the TYLER PERRY team on their latest project WE THE PEEPLES. In addition in 2011 WSA also contributed their casting services to the SUNDANCE award winning film PARIAH, the directorial debut for NYU student Dee Reese. PARIAH has also been nominated for 5 NAACP Awards in 2012.

In addition to running her own full service casting company for over 20 years in 2009 Winsome joined forces with her peers and formed LEGACY MEDIA GROUP. A full service production company in BROOKLYN, NY (www.legacymediagroup.org). As well as having a slate Television & film projects in production scheduled fro release in 2011 & 2012, Winsome along with her partners at LEGACY MEDIA GROUP have collaborated with MEDGAR EVERS COLLEGE to launch a PA training certificate program that trains its students to work in entry level positions in the Film & TV industry.

Also in the works is the first WSA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL slated to launch in July 2013. Winsome Sinclair founder of WSA demonstrates extraordinary casting director talent casting across nations as well as color lines. Recognized by her peers as a phenomenon and the #1 casting director for urban projects on the east coast, in 1999 Winsome was honored as one of 25 Influential Black Women in Business in the U.S and will be featured in the 2009 Edition of Who’s Who in Black NYC. In 2011 Ms Sinclair was featured in NV Magazines 2011 Movers& Shakers Issue

**2012 Ms Sinclair has 2 films premiering at the SUNDANCE Film festival.. SPIKE LEE’s “RED HOOK SUMMER” and the PBS Docudrama “SLAVERY BY ANOTHER NAME” directed by Sam Pollard.. WSA provided both PRINCIPAL & Extras Casting on both projects. **2013 Winsome Sinclair & Legacy Media Group will be partnering with Memory Layne Productions to Produce the BRITISH Action Thriller “FLOWERS DON’T GROW IN ENGLAND.”

Jeremy Bardwell, Director, Fire and Fragrance, Youth With A Mission
Jeremy Bardwell, Director, Fire and Fragrance, Youth With A Mission

Jeremy Bardwell – Fire and Fragrance Harrisburg Discipleship Training School is designed to raise up students and release them into the nations of the earth to partner with and plant communities prioritizing worship and intercession and allowing it to flow into outreach fueled by the power of God. Jeremy desires to see a whole generation raised up across the earth who would walk in an unapologetic Fire for the Presence of God, worship, and intercession that automatically flows into becoming the very Fragrance of Christ to the lost.

Jeremy believes that the presence of God is the source of all strategy and the power that releases effective outreach. God is searching for a generation that would give themselves whole heartedly to the place of intimate communion, zealous passion, and faith filled evangelism.

Imagine communities raised up all over the world; closed countries, slums, refugee camps, orphanages, urban centers, and remote villages; all walking in a dynamic marriage of prayer and missions, the monastic and the missional, intimacy and advocacy. Such communities and values have shaped history, and we are in a day where this model of transformation is being released once again! This is Jeremy’s heart desire.

Jeremy Bardwell also works as an artist and an entrepreneur who has a passion for design. He has found graphic design as a profession where he can combine his skill as an artist and communicator with his mind for business and leadership. Jeremy Bardwell has been mentored in design by a senior designer named John Burns. John burns designed many logos that you see everyday, Intel, Lays, Ruffles, Baby Ruth, Sarah Lee, Downey, and many more. Jeremy carries on core values for creativity simplicity and excellence from his mentorship.

Solomon Starr, speaker, lyricist/poet, scholar,  music producer, and filmmaker.
Solomon Starr, speaker, lyricist/poet, scholar, music producer, and filmmaker.

Solomon Starr – Solomon Starr is a gifted speaker, lyricist/poet, scholar and music producer. Born and Raised in New York City, Solomon began performing at age nine during the height of a Crack Epidemic. Threatened by robberies, drug sales and murder he transformed his confusion and anxiety into street poetry.

Healing words eased the agony of adolescence, yet much of the relief he received came from the spiritual guidance and justice leadership training he gained through active involvement in a local church. His engagement with spirituality and justice increased his desire to positively impact his peers.

However, Solomon confronted the challenge of promoting spiritual growth and social revolution to teens who suffered silently in crime and poverty. Motivated by this bitter reality, Solomon channeled his spiritual knowledge into grassroots organizing. While attending Central College, in Pella, Iowa Solomon formed the “Last Liberation Movement”. As founder and lead organizer Solomon mobilized students on campus to create institutional change by advocating for racial justice in curriculum, personnel and public representation.

In 2004, Solomon founded Sanctify Entertainment. Since then he has been on a mission to organize and empower groups across the country to create social change combining performing arts and social action. Solomon also serves as a member of StoryTellas, a gospel music group that provides support to disempowered youth in prisons, churches and devastated communities throughout the tri-state area.

In addition, Solomon has given speeches and performed at such events as the acclaimed Rap Fest, The Holy-Hip Hop Awards, Flavor Fest and The Zulu Nation 30th Anniversary sharing stages with such artists as the Cross Movement, The Truth, K-Drama, Lecrae, Percy P and many others.Solomon is also a resource for filmmakers. He composed original music for “Artistic Closure” an independent film featured in the 2008 New York Film Festival.

As a scholar, Solomon Starr received a Masters in Divinity from New Brunswick Theological Seminary; he graduated with honors and is now currently pursuing a Doctorate in Urban Ministry at New Brunswick Seminary. Although he has shared stages with influential Hip-Hop acts such as The Roots, Kurtis Blow, Dead Prez, and Wu-Tang Clan, Solomon Starr finds no greater satisfaction than helping to transform people through the powerful gifts of word and music.

Nicole Heyward, CEO, Creative Classic Agency
Nicole Heyward, CEO, Creative Classic Agency

Nicole Heyward – Nicole is CEO of Creative Classic Agency, a boutique management, marketing and PR firm specializing in brand- building for the urban and faith- based market. Nicole has 11 years Music Industry experience and worked 4 1⁄2 years at Music World Entertainment, the multi-million dollar company owned and operated by music mogul Mathew Knowles.

Creative Classic Agency campaigns have garnered multiple Dove Award wins and award nominations including Grammy, Stellar and BET Awards.  Creative Classic Agency past and present clients include Al Mac Will and Urban Country Gospel, LaTonya Blige, Mary Mary, Michelle Williams (of Destiny’s Child), BowTie World Music, Brandon Avery Smith, Brian Courtney Wilson, Darwin Hobbs, DJ Static, Dr. Dorinda Clark-Cole Singers & Musicians Conference Min. Durward Davis (Top 3 BET Sunday Best finalist), Fighting Temptations (Movie soundtrack), Gerald Scott & Co, G.I., Wess Morgan, Golden Legacy Sports, Halo Tu Beauty, Higher Ground Record Pool DJ Conference, James Fortune & FIYA, Joimel, Kierre Bjorn, Min. Ron Summers, New Orleans Hornets, New York Knicks, Pastor Gregg Patrick, Pastor Rudy Rasmus (Music project & book: TOUCH), Ramiyah, Roll Bounce (Movie soundtrack), Shawn McLemore, Shawni Richardson, Soulfruit, Spirit Rising Music (now Music World Gospel), Stan Jones & STANtastic Ent., Syreeta Thompson and Mission Music, Ted & Sheri, Thomasina “GooGoo” Atkins, Trin-i-tee 5:7, and Yunek.

Gary David Stratton, Bethel University and  TwoHandedWarriors.com
Gary David Stratton,

Gary David Stratton, PhD – Gary combines a deep passion for transforming culture through higher education and the arts with a lifelong commitment to spiritual formation. His commitment to integrate the life of the mind, the life of the Spirit, and the life of the arts has propelled him to an unusual career of developing cultural leaders from Hollywood to the Ivy League.

In Higher Education, Gary is Lead Teacher for Worldview Formation at Bethel University, and has served as a VP, Dean, and professor at 8 universities in the U.S. and China. Gary holds a PhD in Education with a dissertation on the impact of Jonathan Edwards’ theology in

American Higher Education. He is Senior Fellow for ABHE as well as a featured campus speaker for Compassion International. Recent/ upcoming engagements include: Columbia University, Princeton Theological Seminary, Regent University, Messiah, Geneva, and Bryan Colleges.

In Hollywood, Gary is a spiritual formation mentor, a theology/ worldview story consultant, and served as executive director of Act One, a nonprofit organization training Christians for careers in mainstream media. Act One graduates include creative staff and producers for films such as “The Blind Side,” and 2012 Academy Award-winner “The Artist,” the Emmy Award-winning producer of “Intervention” (A&E), and writers for shows such as “Justified” (FX), “Revolution” (NBC), and “Hawaii Five-O” (CBS).

Gary has helped engineer a number of innovative spiritual formation based training programs, including the Institute for Campus Revival and Awakening at Yale University, Conquest National Youth Missions Conference at Azusa Pacific University, the Center for Christian Formation at Crown College, the Winter Writing Seminar and Advanced Writing Workshops for Act One Hollywood, and TwoHandedWarriors.com: an online community of filmmakers, educators, ministry leaders, and philanthropists seeking to reimagine faith and culture one story at a time.

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