Black Women in Media

The subject of the portrayal and presence of black women in media is one often brought up in today’s conversations. In my 24 years I cannot think of a time where there have ever been so many black women on TV--and not token characters but lead roles, of three dimensional characters with flaws, strengths, struggles and triumphs. With Kerry as Olivia; Viola as Annalise; Gabrielle as Mary Jane; Tracee as Rainbow; and Taraji as Cookie; it's phenomenal to see us in all shades on prime time.

Panelists Demetria and Farai

Panelists Demetria and Farai

As a finale to women's history month the Schomburg center held a women in media panel to talk about black women in media. The panel consisted of Vanessa Karen DeLuca (Editor-in-Chief of Essence Magazine), Demetria Lucas D'Oyley (author of Don't Waste Your Pretty), Farai Chideya (author and award-winning journalist), and the host was Akisa Omulepu (journalist).

These smart articulate Black women discussed an old topic in new, refreshing ways and offered great insight to their opinions and thoughts on the current climate and where the discussion should go forward. There were so many enlightening points as well as valuable bits of knowledge that any one, especially women, can take with them.

One point really resonated with me when Demetria stated, “There is something invested in giving black people negative images of themselves.” Our images on television can be positive or negative, and often the images of black women further play into stereotypes or offer no valuable complex storytelling. Due to this, we must not only seek out our stories but we must create them, by creating new stories as well as telling old stories in refreshing ways. Also note, as Farai said too often “we want our black queens, but we don’t want our black queens”, meaning that there has to be tension and drama for a show to thrive. We cannot have flat characters on television, and as an audience we may not always be satisfied with the images being portrayed. 

After the panel there was a relaxing hangout at Harlem Besame Restaurant where we mingled with other guests and the panelists. It was a great chance to network and continue the discussion further. What are your thoughts on the portrayal of women of color on television?