Our observance of Mother's Day is a time to honor those women who give life and bring us into the world. Those women who nourish, protect, comfort us, and shelter us as we grow. Those women, be they our biological mothers, grand-mothers, or mothers by adoption, step-moms, foster-moms, or by default-moms, become the anchors in our lives even after they have gone from this earthly realm to the next and become our heavenly mothers.
We cherish them for all of these reasons. I want to pay tribute to mothers all over the world, and to my heavenly mother - Rose Bell Walker, by spotlighting a mother and her two daughters whom each have inspired me on so many different levels.
These women inspire others through their work and ethics, and compassion. They are the McFarlins and this is my special Mother's Day salute to them, and to all of you moms around the globe.
Murdell McFarlin (The Matriarch) - has a 35-year career in television as an academic and has worked with CNN, Mississippi Public TV, ABC Network, Atlanta. She has been the director of media technology at Atlanta Technical College as well as the director of public affairs. At CAU-TV, she is involved in planning programming, community affairs, and acquiring clients for production.
Ashley McFarlin (The Daughter) - A Howard University alumna Ashley (B.A. ’03) has been appointed as vice president of development at WE tv and now also handles development for Allblktv. As a graduate of the Cathy Hughes School of Communications (CHSOC), Buie gives credit to the influence and mentorship by faculty of the media, journalism and film program for helping her achieve her career goals.
Areshia McFarlin (The Daughter) - Is a classically trained Actress and Stand-up comedian with a professional career spanning over 20 years. Areshia is a writer, producer, and director of culturally relevant and responsive content. She’s a master of “joyful communication”. She has been an active member of the SAG/AFTRA for 20 plus years. She performs regularly in comedy clubs across the US and she headlined this year’s Black Women in Comedy Laff Festival in New York City.
I caught-up with both Murdell and Ashley in Atlanta leading up to this Mother's Day to have them share some of their Mother/Daughter chemistry and how they draw inspiration from each other to inspire others.
Notably absent in this feature is Areshia McFarlin, but that's Okay, you can check out my feature on her at the end of this interview! ;-)
Q&A with Murdell & Ashley
Robert Walker) When you started out in television production work, there were very few African American women working as producers. Who were some of your influences at the time and what was your first job as a producer in the business?
Murdell McFarlin) That is correct. I got my first job in television at Channel 11 Atlanta, WQXI-TV that uses the call letters: WXIA-TV. However, the station's call letters were different in 1972. I was hired by Pearl Cleage who was the first African American female television producer that I had ever met. Pearl is also a Spelman graduate and very, very intelligent. We attended a program at the University of the West Indies in Kingston, Jamaica prior to my meeting her again at WQXI-TV. I felt very fortunate to have an opportunity to work with her. I was just 21 years old and Pearl's success even then was amazing to me. She was the first African American female television producer I met in my career. She was strong in her opinions, well-versed on political, social and economic issues affecting Atlanta. The City had just elected its first African American mayor, Maynard Jackson. It was an exciting time to be a part of an emerging new sociology-political environment in Atlanta. Pearl was the Executive Producer for Public Affairs at WQXI. We produced public affairs programs for a very large diverse, city-wide viewing audience. I learned a lot from Pearl and I was influenced by her ethics, her knowledge and her approach to covering local community issues, activities, politics and a wide array of public interest topics. Throughout my years of work in television production, I have been fortunate to be able to transfer the skills I learned at WQXI-TV to producing in other genres.
RW) If you had to say one word that describes Ashley, what would that word be, and why?
MMF) Principled. Ashley is a very, very principled person and professional. She has always been focused on doing the right thing, paying attention to details, listening carefully, and producing with integrity. Ashley seems to have always been comfortable adhering to established mores of a variety of cultural environments she has sought out to experience even as a child. Even as a middle school student at Pace Academy she comfortably embraced the cultural practices and traditions of many of her classmates, most of whom came from very different backgrounds and cultures.
RW) You two ladies have witnessed the number of African American women grow in this business as producers, writers and directors over the last several years. Do you see this as a true emerging trend in the business, or just a current fad?
Ashley McFarlin) On my 40th birthday my mom gave me an anthology to read titled, "Women Who Run With Wolves". It is a collection of cultures in which women are the dominate sex through history. I often think of this material as I observe and experience to a great extent the increasing influences of African American women on the evolution of national and international politics, education, health and science. I earnestly believe that there will be an African American woman president within the next ten years.
RW) What are some of your current projects that you are excited about?
AM) I am just beginning to pick up a documentary that I put aside about fifteen years ago. It is a documentary on my hometown, Bennettsville, SC. The town is unique in its long history of producing really outstanding African Americans who have contributed significantly to many disciplines locally, regionally and nationally.
RW) If you could collaborate with any one African American female, director or producer, who would that be and why?
MMF) I would like to collaborate with Ashley on a project that explores African American women and their relationship with God. I also earned a degree in philosophy from Spelman in addition to my major in English. I studied philosophy to understand more about the human experience in an existential perspective. During my studies, I discovered that I had (and still have) a strong interest in exploring the relationship of African American women and God. Ashley has grown into a strong African American woman with a direct, specific relationship with God. We have for quite a while had wonderful conversations about God and how we each approach our relationship with her.
RW) You worked for many years as an Administrator at HBCU Clark Atlanta University's Media Arts Department and CAU-TV. What was the most rewarding aspect of that work for you?
MMF) Like almost all teachers and professors I have met, worked with or was a student under, the most rewarding aspect of that work was experiencing students come into college with wide-eyed enthusiasm and leave college competent, confident and committed to making successful careers in television production during college and after graduation. Teaching has been the most gratifying work in which I have ever engaged. I started working with young people as an adult college professional staffer when I was 24 years old at Jackson State University. Now, nearly a half century later, I have the good fortune of observing many former students' experiences and enjoy their lives as local, regional, national and international media professionals. For example, my very first student protege' Evelyn Mims, formerly the Soap Sultress of Atlanta soap operas, enjoyed a remarkable 38 year career at WXIA-TV after leaving Jackson State University. I met Evelyn when she was a junior Mass Communications major at JSU. I had just arrived in Jackson working as the Television Production Specialist for the JSU Media Center. Today, Evelyn is the only African American on the National Academy of Arts and Sciences Board of Trustees. Recently she received the coveted responsibilities of Chairman of the Academy's Membership Committee. Think about it, an African American woman recruiting members to the National Academy of Arts and Sciences! A stunning achievement! It is career advancement like Evelyn's that gives credence to my expectation that African American women are posed to be the most influential leaders affecting every aspect of our lives in just a very few years. Former Morehouse student, Bosolu Holloway, returned to his home in Lagos, Nigeria after studying television production at CAU to become the longtime CEO of Image ProFilm, LtD. in Lagos. Tony Furlow, a Morris Brown College graduate of the CAU Broadcast Management program in the early 1980's, is career videographer at CBS. Tony has been a principal White House presidential videographer for four presidents: Clinton, the Bushes and President Obama. These young people kept me humble and pushed me to keep my skills on the cutting edge of technology so that I could afford them the caliber of production they needed to have the careers they have now enjoyed throughout their professional careers.
RW) If you both were speaking to a group of grade school kids who may one day want to become a producer, or TV reporter, or go into acting, what advice would you say to them for empowerment?
AM & MMF) The advice we would give young people of all ages is to one, stay in school no matter what and get as much education as they can in as many disciplines as they can. I would urge them to become proficient learners in at least two disciplines. My own life experiences and that of many others that I know required that we all are skilled in more than one profession. The rapid growth and evolution of technology makes it critical that young people prepare themselves for a minimum of two professional skill sets. Having more than one set of skills provides opportunities for career change and advancement as life and culture changes for all generations. Second, I strongly advise young people to find their moral base. Believing in something greater than yourself can come in handy when life's challenges hit us head on. And third, I would encourage all young people to take at least two (2) courses in economics in high school and/or in college. While many young people earn great opportunities early in life, a significant percentage of young people have minimal literacy in how economics affects our ability to be productive, progressive and prosperous adults. Young people who choose creative professions such as television on and behind the scenes careers are often confronted with working for low wages initially or in having to take experience-only internships and apprenticeships. The need to know how to live with money and without money is crucial to survival when pursuing a career in the creative arts. Fundamentally creative work is a business like every other business that requires attention, discipline and perseverance.
More About Murdell
More About Ashley
- Howard Alumna Ashley McFarlin Buie Named VP of Development of WE tv | The Dig at Howard University
Howard alumna Ashley McFarlin Buie will oversee new and developing projects for WE tv and will serve as executive producer on some of their popular series.
Check Out My Article On Areshia!
- Areshia McFarlin Is a "Pretty Smart Comic" - HubPages
Areshia McFarlin is an actress/comedienne whose star is on the rise.