The petition is asking that more BIPOC are hired to work in casting, filming, editing and promoting

By Robyn Merrett
June 26, 2020 02:23 PM
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From left: Earl Cole, Wendell Holland and J'Tia Taylor
Jim Spellman/WireImage; Robert Voets/CBS via Getty; Monty Brinton/CBS via Getty

Survivor alumni are demanding more diversity on the hit reality series.

Survivor: Cagayan contestant J'Tia Taylor created a petition for anti-racism action on the long-running show, which follows a group of contestants as they are stranded in a remote location and compete for a million dollars. The petition is addressed to Survivor's executive producers Jeff Probst, Matt VanWagenen and Mark Burnett as well as ViacomCBS, MGM Television, Survivor Production LLC and Castaway Production LLC. Notable Survivor alumni who have signed the petition include Ghost Island winner Wendell Holland and Cagayan contestant Brice Izyah Johnston.

Reps for CBS did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.

"Survivor should reflect and honor the racial diversity of our society-both in front of and behind the camera. With this petition, we call on the executive producers of this show to use their influence within ViacomCBS, MGM Television, Survivor Production LLC, Castaway Production LLC and all others involved in the making of this great show," the petition reads.

The petition is encouraging the show to select Black, Indigenous, People of Color for at least 30% of the cast each season, as well as giving BIPOC "equitable screen time and opportunities to participate in marketing and promotional events."

Survivor alumni are also calling for the show to create a safe space for people of color by providing "mental health resources specifically geared to helping them navigate the Survivor experience." The petition is asks that more BIPOC are hired to work in casting, filming, editing and promoting.

Former contestants are encouraging Survivor to condemn racism in all forms and announce a "zero tolerance" policy towards racism as well as vet potential cast members to "ensure those who have promoted prejudices are not cast." The petition calls for Survivor to issue a public statement acknowledging systemic racism within the franchise and "offer a clear plan for demonstrable anti-racism efforts moving forward."

Survivor season 30
Monty Brinton/CBS via Getty

At this time, the petition has received 2,532 signatures of 3,000.

In an effort to amplify more black voices, Rob Has a Podcast host Rob Cesternino (seasons 6 and 8) launched a virtual panel of 12 Black former Survivor contestants — Ramona Gray Amaro (season 1). Clarence Black (season 3), Ted Rogers Jr. (season 5), Rory Freeman (season 9), Jolanda Jones (season 10), Sherea Lloyd (season 15), Phillip Sheppard (season 22 and 26),  Sabrina Thompson Mitchell (season 24), Julia Carter (season 38), Vecepia Towery (season 4 winner) and Earl Cole (season 14 winner) — via a Zoom call on Wednesday, where they discusses their experiences of racism on the series.

Teresa "T-Bird" Cooper, who appeared on season 3, co-hosted the event with Cesternino. During the panel, Cole — who competed in Fiji and became the first Black male Survivor winner — expressed his disappointment in CBS for not highlighting him or his season after the final three were all Black contestants.

"I thought CBS would use this as an opportunity to actually try to get more Black viewers... I figured I was liked well enough on the show, maybe [they'd] market it a little bit. Nothing happened," Cole said during the panel.

"They did nothing for me. They didn't promote me in any kind of way. They had a system in place ... you do all these interviews, and there were these country stations, rock stations, all these things like that, and I was like, 'I live in LA. What about Power 106 and the Stevie Wonder station' — all these other stations they didn't even try to get me on to just try pull more people in," he added.

Cole also opened up about not feeling like a member of the Survivor family.

"I was never invited to any finales," Cole said. "I live in L.A. and the finale was right here. There would be other people from the past there, winners after me there. Not one invitation, not one ... I didn't understand what that was about."

Survivor season one
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He also said viewers "hated" his season.

"They were hating left and right. And then Jeff [Probst] publicly said he didn't like our season, which doesn't help. I thought that was socially irresponsible. So you're going to say you hate Fiji of all seasons, where it's an all-Black finale and the first African American male wins?" Cole added.

In a 2010 Entertainment Weekly interview, Probst ranked Fiji as his third-least favorite season, saying "If it weren't for Yau-Man and Dreamz, this might have edged out Thailand as the worst season ever. No offense, Earl, but as nice a guy as you are in real life, the charisma didn't carry on screen."

Another panel, called "Tribes and Tribulations: A Conversation on the African-American Reality Television Experience," featuring Holmes, Johnston, Taylor, Ramona Gray Amaro, Jamal Shipman, Julia Carter and Russell Swan will air Friday night.

Survivor first premiered in 2000. The show wrapped up its 40th season in April.

To help combat systemic racism, consider learning from or donating to these organizations:

  • Campaign Zero (joincampaignzero.org) which works to end police brutality in America through research-proven strategies.
  • ColorofChange.org works to make the government more responsive to racial disparities.
  • National Cares Mentoring Movement (caresmentoring.org) provides social and academic support to help Black youth succeed in college and beyond.