This is a wake up call to the Black communities that shudder at their reflection in mainstream media. Instead of spitting hot air about media injustice, I want you to pause and walk with me through the typical day of a person dedicated to the change you wish to see. Yes, in case you didn’t know, there ARE filmmakers, musicians, and writers trying to change the game and infuse more diversity into the mainstream media space. They live next door to you in cramped apartments in Brooklyn, waking up everyday to work a 9-5 job to pay their rent, student loans, credit card bills, and other expenses. And then, they come home and dedicate their evenings and weekends to pursuing their creative pursuits. They don’t sleep, many times they don’t eat, and they read all of your complaints about negative media images.
“I can’t BELIEVE that NBC canceled “Undercovers.” There’s already not enough Black characters on prime time TV.”
“I’m so tired of Nicki Minaj being the only mainstream female in hip hop. She does not represent me.”
“If I see one more loud, obnoxious episode of “Real House Wives, Atlanta,” I’m going to go insane. Why do Black women always have to look crazy?”
“Oh Tyler Perry, I hate seeing his coonerific images. How dare he touch Ntozake Shange’s, For Colored Girls?”
Need I continue? Just to add further insult, I googled “for colored girls critiques” and 260,000 articles came up in 38 seconds. If I just had a dollar for every complaint and academic rant about Tyler Perry’s inability to direct, I’d be able to fund numerous independent artists seeking to be the change that you desire. Matter a fact; if you gave a dollar for every comment you dropped about media injustice, I wonder how many additional mainstream filmmakers, musicians, and authors we’d have.
So let me ask you . . .
For every media complaint you’ve registered on the Internet, have you pledged to support a positive independent filmmaker on Kickstarter? When is the last time you donated $10 to a struggling writer trying to publish a game-changing memoir? Can you tell me the last CD you bought from a young musician who’s bringing something positive to light but has not yet gone mainstream?
And don’t give me the “I’m broke” spiel. I find it so miraculous that Tyler Perry’s biggest haters find a way to scruff up $10 to see his movies and moan about them afterward. I’m starting to think that we take pleasure in being complainers and not doers. It’s easy to be a beggar and not a chooser. When will we CHOOSE to make a difference instead of simply talking about it? Mainstream media outlets and companies are not going to fund an independent artist who doesn’t have a grassroots reputation. That’s not the way the industry works. We should know this.
Let me give you a recent example . . .
Viacom, the parent company of BET, didn’t agree to broadcast “Black Girls Rock!” just because it was a positive move for the network. Please tell me that you knew DJ Beverly Bond has done four, yes FOUR, Black Girls Rock! award shows prior to this one, using her personal connections and grassroots organizing. She has proven that this movement has a substantial audience and that it already could stand alone thanks to the support of people like you who believe in her positive vision. BET wasn’t doing her any favors, people. No mainstream company wants to partner with an organization or artist who can’t prove they can help themselves.
Do we have a severe case of amnesia? The majority of these mainstream stars who we’re tired of seeing got their start selling self-published books out the trunks of their cars, doing independent film screenings at local community colleges, riding their plays through the chitlin circuit, and selling their CDs after late-night bar performances. With the impact of the Internet and social media, it’s far easier today to learn about up-and-coming artists and pledge our support. It’s time that we start putting some dollars in place of our complaints. Yes, we need to put money where our mouths are. Fund the positivity that you want to see.
So let me tell you what’s up-and-coming on the radar. And, no, I was not endorsed to write this post; I’m just sharing some of the wonderful projects that I’ve discovered.
Filmmakers, Karon Vareen Davis and Aletha Spann, are adapting Tayari Jones’ book Leaving Atlanta into a film. That’s right; two filmmakers want to tell the forgotten history of a group of young Black children in the 1970s who were impacted by southern racism. They’ve launched an online campaign on Kickstarter to raise production costs. Only 88 people have backed them. We can do better.
Have you heard of Aiesha Turman? She’s the visionary behind The Black Girl Project, a documentary, and nonprofit organization, seeking to provide alternative images of Black girls in the media. If we want our young women to see positive images of themselves, it starts with supporting leaders like her.
And there’s Aja Monet, one of my favorite young poets. She is releasing her first music project entitled Scared to Make Love/Scared Not To, which takes a critical look at female empowerment and sexuality. You want some diversity in the music world? A person who can take a critical look at the multiple dimensions of womanhood? Support her.
These are just some examples off the top of my head. But look around you. Even if they’re not directly in front of you, there are tons of artists working to make a change in media. They just need some support, and it’s not going to come from the mainstream until it shows promise from grassroots organizing. Change starts back home, with the individual, buying an album, a ticket to a local film screening, or making a donation.
We’re capable of doing more than complaining. I’ve taken my wallet out.
Aren’t you ready to see and help fund some action?