Sunday, September 18, 2016

Say It Loud: Black TV Got Us Proud!

It happened. It really happened. Without warning, my TV viewing schedule filled nightly with story lines that made me laugh, cry, stand up and shout; gave a platform for characters that made me cheer, fear, and leap out of my seat; provided an outlet for actors and actresses that made me think, gasp, and celebrate. And they were all black. For the first time in a long time, I could say with pride: I See Black People. People that looked like me; my friends; my family; my colleagues. Plots that captured everyday life, yet were handled accurately and with the authentic care and sensitivity that can only be achieved when stories for us are written, produced, and directed by us.

For longer than I care to remember, we've been in a diversity struggle with Hollywood. The last few years have found this battle intensifying as 21st century movies and shows continued to "objectify" our 17th century experience, sans the many accomplishments and milestones we accomplished that lied between and throughout those many years. Even when our vast, modern experience was attempted to be explored, it was often done so through a stereotypically-tinted lens.

But thanks to the emergence and popularity of social media, those conversations we once shared around the dinner table and water cooler, where we expressed our frustrations about an industry that never recognized the whole of us, were now constantly on full display from hashtag protests to YouTube videos to good ol' fashioned boycotts complete with picket signs (shout out to my sister pictured left protesting near the Dolby Theater during this year's Academy Awards). But a notion I have long clung to is that the flaw in these protestation demands was that we were insisting others recognize us; do for us; properly tell our stories. We seemed to never fully embrace that the answer was in not asking for a handout but in taking our hands to create--and fully support--our own.

I, personally, never cared for the Academy or Emmy Award's recognition of our work. What I did care for were the NAACP Image Award's recognition; the American Black Film Festival Awards recognition; the Trumpet Awards recognition. And I really cared that we didn't grasp that this recognition from our peers should have been the only true measure we concerned ourselves with. Now, I'm not naive enough to think we can exist exclusively in the entertainment industry without the "melanin-free-powers-that-be" involvement in many of our projects, but what I do notice is that when we focus less on acceptance and "fitting in," and instead turn our energy towards boldly breaking out to do (and fund) our own thang, "others" will catch the wave. And that wave is indeed now being caught.

Do we still have a ways to go before the fight for more diversity is no longer a topic of discussion? Absolutely. But do I feel optimistic that the tide is beginning to turn? I do. We just have to remain fully engaged and present to ensure it continues, and getting behind the camera (thank you Ava DuVernay and Neema Barnette), thinking outside the box (thank you Shonda Rhimes), taking a seat at the writing table (thank you Donald Glover), keeping the "show running" literally (thank you Courtney Kemp Agboh and Cheo Hodari Coker) and managing the board rooms of own networks (thank you Oprah Winfrey and Cathy Hughes) is critical to that continuous evolution--an evolution that must actively be supported, if change is to be continuous and lasting.

Below are just a few shows--some old, some new (and forthcoming); none borrowed nor blue--that are indeed representing us, front and center, almost every day of the week, in every facet of our beautifully diverse lives that I personally applaud and support. Catch the wave, spread the word, and let's keep dreaming, creating, and moving--in the right direction.

Monday - In the Cut & Family Time (Bounce TV: 9 & 9:30 p.m.)

Tuesday - Atlanta (FX: 10 p.m.)

Wednesday - Black'ish (ABC: 9:30 p.m.);
Greenleaf  (off season) & Queen Sugar (OWN: 10 p.m.)

Thursday - Pitch (Fox: 9 p.m.)

Saturday - Iyanla: Fix My Life (OWN: 9 p.m.)

Sunday - Power & Survivor's Remorse (Starz: 9 & 10 p.m.)

Netflix Originals:  Luke Cage (September 2016)

On the Horizon: Shots Fire (2016/2017)

Photo Credits: N/A

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