Black Women Educators Praise Strides Black Women Are Making in Mainstream Media
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Black Women Educators Praise Strides Black Women Are Making in Mainstream Media

(Image: ABC/Prashant Gupta)

From Quinta Brunson to Shonda Rhimes, Ava DuVernay, and Oprah Winfrey, the steady progression of Black women in media has led to a current wave of diverse representation in mainstream television.

Keziah Ridgeway, a 35-year-old Philadelphia high school teacher, praised Brunson’s breakout comedy hit Abbott Elementary for highlighting the grim realities public school teachers across the country face daily.

“It could only be a Philly native, who is a product of public schools, who could write something that is so spot-on about the education system of Philadelphia,” Ridgeway told USA Today.

The Northeast history teacher had grown accustomed to the stories of Black women going untold or misrepresented. But with Brunson’s scripted comedy quadrupling in ratings since its premiere, it’s become a part of a growing community of Black women storytellers capturing American life.

“I think one of the reasons we are seeing a shift is because Black women are not allowing themselves to wait for someone to give them an opportunity. They’re not allowing themselves to play background anymore,” Ridgeway said.

“It’s pushing our stories to the forefront and giving people opportunities that we might not have had if a Black woman didn’t stand up,” Ridgeway added.

With figures like Lena Waithe, Rhimes, and DuVernay joining the ranks of Winfrey in becoming modern-day TV moguls, society is seeing a drastic increase in diverse and inclusive stories being embraced by mainstream audiences. Black-owned production companies such as Oprah’s Harpo Productions, Tyler Perry Studios, Spike Lee’s 40 Acres and a Mule, and Ice Cube and Matt Alvarez’s CubeVision have added to the success of diverse talent and storytellers.

“The diversification of these, I would call, ‘invisible industries,’ like production, the money behind things… feels really significant,” Racquel Gates, an associate professor of film at Columbia University, said.

Through Martha Jones’s new book, Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality for All, the legal and cultural historian looks into more than 200 years of women’s thinking and organizing in American politics and the role Black women played in shaping the culture.

“You’re going back to the kind of moments that people have studied over and over and over again,” Jones said. “But somehow, they haven’t honed in on where Black women are.”

As more Black women filmmakers make monumental strides in Hollywood, educators like Gates are hopeful the contributions of Black women in American culture will be recognized.

“The power of this moment, the importance of this moment, is that there doesn’t have to be just one,” Gates said. “We’re actually seeing a range of approaches and perspectives—in the way that, hopefully, these women get known for their individual and unique approaches to material.


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