The discussions have been endless. Why doesn’t network TV or Hollywood or the powers that be care about black folks? Why are we constantly underrepresented on the very channels we watch? And why is the only place we can see myriad black and brown faces on reality TV?

Despite continuing to have these conversations and being extremely critical of our current representations, black folks still rarely see the type of nuanced roles and depictions that our white counterparts enjoy. While many of us complain about the lack of onscreen representation, others are fighting back and making their own way.

Recently, filmmaker Janks Morton conducted a series of “Ten Days of Black Facts” aimed at breaking down some of the myths that some (including a lot of us) have about black people. Morton’s main mission has been to challenge how black folks are portrayed in the media. To further this goal, he started an image series reminding us that we shouldn’t expect the media to create positive images of black people. It’s up to us.

And many are catching on. Although there is a long history of independent black artists, recently there seems to be a resurgence in the content being produced. From Issa Rae’s Awkward Black Girl and Dennis Dortch’s The Couple, to Ava DuVernay’s award-winning film Middle of Nowhere, black folks are no longer waiting for the establishment to recognize and validate their work; they are making their own way.

But should black audiences do the same? For every article or critic wondering where the black “Girls” or “Sex in the City” is, why aren’t there others reminding us that we shouldn’t be defined by what they are doing; we should do for ourselves?

While it makes sense to want to see ourselves represented on network TV, we have to remember we shouldn’t be defined by it. We have artists and filmmakers who are going the independent route and taking matters into their own hands and producing interesting shows and films we want to see. Instead of focusing on where we aren’t, we should support those who are telling our stories — without playing by Hollywood’s rules.

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  • Exactly. This is why I get upset when people get mad that magazines like Vogue don’t have ‘enough poc in them’ or an all-white television show can make a trend from the hood ‘classy’ that is all bullsh*t. They create what they want to see, it is up to us as minorities to create what we want to see. That is why I make a conscious effort to put images of women that look like me on my fashion blog. Granted there is a nice mix of everyone but for the most part I do what I need to do to push the image that I want. We can put the finger on Marc Jacobs or Karl Lagerfeld all day about casting black models but what about Black fashion designers that don’t cast any black models? We gotta look at ourselves! We are the only ones who can paint an image of ourselves whether it be in fashion, entertainment, politics, etc.

  • simplyme

    I think its possible to fully support those who are “telling our stories” while at the same time pointing out the lack of positive Black images in the mainstream media.

    I don’t think its about waiting for White America to create images of us because tbh I would rather there be absolutely no images of Black people in the mainstream media than the current state…. where there are some Black images…but 90% are negative. That is where the grievances I see tend to come from. The reality is that “White America”, as the author puts it, is mainstream society/media. Consumers of which come in all varieties including Black kids and include people in countries all around the world. So the repercussions of bad images combined with a lack of positive images effects all of us immensely. Whether you’re Trayvon Martin or you’ve gotten an ignorant comment from a coworker…bad media does effect our lives. Black independent artists can put out positive images of Black people from now until the cows come home… and we can support it as much as we can, but if the media behemoth (race irrelevant because this includes some Black folks) continues to do the very opposite its important that people actively try to make sure that changes.

    As for supporting people “telling our stories” Netflix surprisingly has a pretty big collection of great (and some not so great) independent movies created by Black filmmakers… Bilal’s Stand, Medicine for Melancholy were awesome among many others.

  • Alexandra

    Not that I don’t agree, there have been many instances where Black people were in charge of Black images but many critics felt it perpetuated the same notions as Hollywood, and the complaints are even harsher. Something to think about….