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TV writer advises SC State communications students to use the journey, detours and all

Author: Sam Watson, Director of University Relations|Published: April 05, 2024|All News, Student News

TV screenwriter Sa'Rah Jones addresses SC State students and faculty about paths to success.

ORANGEBURG, S.C. – A seemingly simple moment can be worked into a story. Sa’Rah Jones sees them everywhere.

“A story can be something just as simple as a person walking down the street fell, and the groceries fell out the bag,” Jones told South Carolina State University communications students during her “Hollywood Insider’s” session at her alma mater on March 27. “I will exaggerate that thing a million times until I find the funny in it -- all my life. I love creative storytelling.

“I can add all of those details, but I will tell you how he fell, what the orange looked like when it exploded, what his face looked like,” she said. “I love dropping pearls and finding ways to leave something in a space for which you weren’t expecting.”

The successful television screenwriter graduated from SC State in 1995 and moved to Los Angeles to realize her dream of writing for the entertainment industry. She worked in production for multiple shows at Warner Bros., MGM, and Paramount while honing her writing skills. After the birth of her son, Cornell, she left the entertainment business and pursued a career in pharmaceutical sales. Jones spent 10 years in corporate America before returning to her first love television comedy writing.

She hasn’t looked back. Since rebooting her career, Jones has found her niche for her words on such projects as the CBS sitcom “The Neighborhood” and the movies she has written for Lifetime, including the highly successful “Single Black Female” and its sequel, “Single Black Female 2: Simone’s Revenge.” With a third in the series on the way and yet another project in the works, Jones shows no signs of slowing down.

But it hasn’t been easy. Jones told SC State students and faculty and staff members that when she started her career, less than 1% of screenwriters were Black. When she got her break in Hollywood, it was less than 4%. On “The Neighborhood,” she was the sole Black female in the writer’s room.

“Now, HBCU is a hot spot. It is hot to be from an HBCU,” she said. “I am what Hollywood deems as a FUBU writer, and I am OK with that – FUBU meaning ‘for us, by us.’ When you hire Sa’Rah, you are hiring her for a Black voice. What this did was give me a voice that’s different than everybody else’s.”

She told the SC State students there is room in the business for more diversity.

“I believe the table -- for whatever field we’re in -- is big enough for all of us to sit and eat at,” she said.

She cautioned the students not to get caught up in the noise.

“You guys have it hard because of social media, but it’s here,” Jones said. “You can’t look at social media and use it as your measuring point. It will destroy you in that way. Run your own race. Be OK with a journey.”

She advised the students that if the stay on point with good intentions and good hearts, they will find success regardless of where the journey takes them.

“Keep pushing through. You will get there,” she said. “If you don’t get to where you thought you were supposed to go, I swear to you it will be better than what you thought – way better.”

SC State senior communications major Amauri Allen soaked in the advice from Jones.

“I asked her a lot of questions about her journey as a writer,” Allen said. “She’s an alum from SC State, so I wanted to know exactly what her journey was from SC State to where she is now. She was told no a lot of times in Hollywood, but that did not set her back or discourage her.

“As a broadcast communications major, it means a lot. We love when alums come and pour knowledge into us, because the Communications Department is not huge. So, we love when the attention is on us to give us that knowledge – to make us better.” Allen said.

During her visit to SC State, the City of Orangeburg honored Jones with a mayoral proclamation dubbing March 27, 2024, as “Sa’Rah Jones Day” in the city. The SC State chapter of her sorority, Delta Sigma Theta, also honored her with a special gift.

Jones remained on campus for a screening of “Single Black Female 2” and a “fireside chat” with the audience afterward.

The events were coordinated by the SC State Division of Academic Affairs, the College of Education, Humanities and Social Sciences and the Department of English and Communication.

Delta Sigma Theta
The sisters of Delta Sigma Theta presented Sa'Rah Jones with gifts during her visit SC State.