Donnie L. Betts


Donnie L. Betts has been a part of Denver’s radio and television landscape for more than two decades.
The former actor began his career in radio after attending Fresno State in California. He studied at the Yale School of Drama. He is an accomplished actor, producer, director, filmmaker, storyteller and teacher with a career that has spanned 25 years. In the past three years, betts has received two CABJ (Colorado Association of Black Journalists) Scribes in Excellence Awards plus Radio Journalist of the Year for “Destination Freedom: Black Radio Days”, the radio series originally created by Richard Durham over 50 years ago. He has produced scripts from the series including “The Ballad of Satchel Paige” and “The Poet in Bronzeville”. He was a 2002 finalist for his documentary film “Byron Johnson: Trailblazer”. For HOMEFOLKS CREATIVEWORKS, INC., he produced, directed and acted in the documentary film “Dearfield: The Road Less Traveled”. The documentary was featured in 8 film festivals, including FESPACO in Burkina Faso, Africa and aired on PBS. It won several film festival awards. betts is a two-time Emmy nominee, including a 2003 nomination for Best PSA Campaign and a 2005 winner for “My Voice”. He has received the Golden Plaque Award at the Chicago International Film Festival. betts has been a part of the production teams for CAROL & CO. (DISNEY); DREAM ON (pilot for HBO); IN LIVING COLOR (FOX), and he was the producer of note for the launch of BET Movies, now known as Black Starz. His current project is the feature length documentary film on American icon, Oscar Brown Jr., entitled “Music is My Life, Politics My Mistress”. The film is the winner of 11 film festival awards and was accepted in 30 film festivals world wide and is currently airing on PBS. Some of the festivals include International Festival of Dance and Film, Berlin, Germany, Maryland Film Festival, The Denver International Film Festival, Los Angeles Pan African Film Festival, Sidewalk Moving Pictures plus a special screening at the National Black Arts Festival in Atlanta, Mill Valley Film Fest, SXSW, Atlanta Film Festivals, DC International, ZIFF in Zanzibar and MOFFOM in Prague.

The Artist:

(The following is an excerpt from the original nomination letter for the NEA :)

Dear Nomination Committee:
“One life is all I owe the truth…” from “One Life”, “Mr. Oscar Brown Jr. goes to Washington”. (Fontana 1964)

We are privileged and honored to enter into nomination for a National Endowment for the Arts American Jazz Masters Fellowship, Mr. Oscar Brown Jr. We believe one of the hallmarks of Mr. Oscar Brown Jr. We believe one of the hallmarks of Mr. Oscar Brown Jr. is the over five decade’s long career in the jazz idiom that has been his unique and inimitable artistry. This artistry has inextricable melded the jazz aesthetic form in the African American tradition with social commentary, protestation and activism. He has manifested his talents as an actor, singer, writer, director, and producer. Mr. Brown’s professional trajectory has entailed the highest order of expression of lyrics to song. An early example of such creativity and appeal is evidenced by the unarguable greatest gospel singer, Ms. Mahalia Jackson, recording his “Brown Baby”. From among hundreds of his subsequent pieces have emerged numerous Jazz standards. Oscar has supplied the words to such Jazz classics as Nat Adderley’s “Work Song”, Bobby Timmons’ “Dat Dere”, Mongo Santamaria’s “Afro Blue”, Miles Davis’ “Al Blues”, Duke Pearson’s “Jeannine”, Max Roach’s “Freedom Now Suite” and Scott Joplin’s “The Entertainer”. His tunes have been recorded by Ms. Nina Simone, Abbey Lincoln, Dianne Reeves, Lizz Wright and others.

A consummate entertainer, Mr. Brown Jr. has enthralled audiences throughout his career whether through his recorded releases such as “Sin & Soul (Columbia, 1960) or “Mr. Oscar Brown Jr. Goes to Washington” (Fontana, 1964), or “Then and Now” (Weasel, 1995). In 1962 he turned to television to host “Jazz Scene USA”, one of the woefully few productions of this art form to be presented in that medium. Plus he also hosted WETA’s “From Jump Street”, The History of Black Music. In each of these Jazz and music- related art forms, he has articulated his remarkable social commentary through his numerous plays, musicals or DOMES, and live one man shows that he has written throughout his career.

Tags: film maker

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