Women’s Round Table Discussion: The State of Black TV

Andrea Lewis put together this awesome roundtable on the state of Black TV with various black, female content creators who have turned to the web to circumvent the difficulties of breaking into mainstream media. These ladies, Andrea Lewis, Issa Rae, Lena Waithe, Ashley Blaine Featherson and Numa Perrier have all made some sort of name for themselves through indie means, mainly meaning using the Internet to widen their fanbase. It’s really inspiring to see and hear their opinions because they make so many great points. It’s not an end all, be all discussion, but of course it gets a conversation started in the minds of those who watch it. How can we further the success of black content makers both online and in mainstream media. Watch it below.

Below are some of my favorite bullet points and thoughts.

  • Numa says that she doesn’t often feel like she’s surrounded by stereotypes because she actively works to watch content at contrasts the mainstream stereotypes. Shows like Love and Hip-Hop definitely portray a stereotype and is seen as mainstream media. “I’m not consuming the content that feels anti to my sense of truth.” I don’t watch those shows either, and while sometimes I do hate on them (sorry), the ladies make the excellent point that, “some people watch that content, why should they be discredited for who they are.” While the kind of behavior presented on those shows isn’t what I enjoy, others do, and I shouldn’t always be so derisive about it. I just wish there was more variety to the representation of black women (and other underrepresented groups).
  • Issa says she does watch some of the L&HH type shows, but there’s not enough of the other stuff. “We’re relegated to one stereotype. We watch the shows and know that there’s more to black women than this, but the general public doesn’t know. and opportunities are limited.
  • They point out that it’s about balance. There are two extremes. The Love and Hip-Hop types and the Olivia Popes. Either pristine, suits, wealthy or L&H characters. Bougie vs ratchet. We’re missing the middle ground. It’s an excellent point made that our two extremes are unbalanced as well. There’s only 1 Scandal, but multiple L&H’s shows. I’m a bit surprised the ladies don’t discuss the problems people have with Scandal, but I suppose that’s a whole ‘nother discussion.
  • It’s up to BET to step their game up and show people that the “middle ground” type black woman exists. But they’re trying to reach their base. Unfortunately, the middle ground doesn’t fit into their demo, “but what about Netflix and IFC and Sundance?” Those looking for new and interesting. It seems indie is the best place for a black content creator to go.

“Our tastes are being partitioned.”

  • How do you reach people worldwide who want to see this content? The internet has certainly been the best place for this for these ladies.
  • “Some people are going to have to get old and die before things change.” It’s a shame that this seems to be the truth about a lot of things.
  • “We need to continue to find ways to reach the world-wide audience, reach black people in Korea, etc.” Everything is so global these days. and “international eyeballs matter too.” Even movie Box Office numbers are increasingly including and discussing the international box office revenue.
  • Is online working better for you than mainstream? People are certainly grateful for content that represents them (esp when its free), but it’s hard to find/create content without sponsorship or support, to translate that community to a larger space.

“Keep doing the work and the right people will come.”
“We have to value ourselves more.”
“People are inspired and impressed when they find out I’m doing it online rather than just a “guest star” on a show.”

  • Don’t wait for things to come to you. Be driven.
  • Your work has to be something people are talking about and connecting with.
  • How do you develop your fanbase online? You can’t do it with 2 followers. Make sure you talk back to the fans. When people realize you’re gonna hit them back up, you build  relationships. It helps when people can trust you and the content is something they like.
  • All these ladies all “share in being a black women, but have such different voices”. It is definitely important that we get that across in the mainstream–we are not a monolith of Olivia Popes or Real Housewives of Atlanta.
  • It’s all about trial and error. Be strategic about collaboration. Be unapologetic about what you are and who you want to write for.

“This is black women not fighting.”

    • It’s a funny way to end the piece, but a sad fact that most shows, especially the reality shows which are born and bred on conflict, must show black women fighting all the time. That might be some people’s truths, but it’s not everyone. And if we have representations of black women not fighting with each other, but rather, supporting each other, perhaps there can be less fighting in the actual black community?

Finally, check out a webseries my friend created and I’ve helped work on, called Blacktress (I promise it was conceived before we ever knew about Andrea Lewis’ Black Actress webseries). It’s still a work in progress and we’re looking to expand very soon. But watching this was certainly inspirational for us to keep going and expanding and just getting more content out in the universe.

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