Here I am! That’s three year old me, posing in front of the family TV in Long Island, NY. Little did I know at the time that my love for all things TV would become my profession. It’s the stuff that dreams are made of, and I went from posing in front of the TV to having a job that literally impacts what people get to see on TV. The irony is that I remember being that little girl and having to hunt to find ‘me’ on TV. I’m still on the hunt, but for a much larger purpose than just seeing ‘me.’ Let me explain…
Back in the day, my TV consumption consisted of Sesame Street, The Muppet Show, and the occasional School House Rock. I predominately saw fuzzy animal puppets that were the colors of the rainbow! But soon came the time when I started to become aware of what I looked like – brown skin and fluffy hair – and I started to see past the puppets and look at the people.
The more aware I was of myself, the more I looked for ‘me’ on TV. I remember noticing how Gordon and Susan on Sesame Street looked like they could be in my family. And I distinctly remember my eyes brightening up when I saw the little brown skinned cartoon boy in the School House Rock short, "Verb…that’s what’s happening!" "Verb" was a superhero. He was brown like me. I noticed. And it was awesome.
As I grew up it was Cherry, from Punky Brewster with her cornrows and beads, who grabbed my attention. And when Tootie zipped into my life on her roller skates during The Facts of Life, my heart soared. She was the only black girl in her class at a prestigious private school… so was I… and in my mind, we were skating through the experience together. So while I didn’t realize it at the time, I was looking for myself in these shows and it was more than TV for me. It was reality, and I wanted to, and in many ways I needed to, see young black girls with stories that I could identify with.
Fast forward to my high school days, and I’ll admit that it was Whitley and Dwayne, from ‘A Different World,’ that made me most excited about my future college plans. The prim and proper Whitley, and Dwayne’s loving two-parent home, was what I saw at home. That imagery of young black college students from different backgrounds, studying, being responsible, taking a stand on social issues, having fun and succeeding, stuck with me. That was ‘me’ on TV, or at least who I wanted to be.
When I see stats like "black viewers watch 42% more TV than other audiences", it’s not lost on me. And what it means is that somewhere, across the 21+ million homes that Comcast serves, there are young black kids looking for themselves on that screen.
TV content is booming today, but little girls and boys are still searching for themselves on the screen and the hunt largely remains the same. If I could speak directly to those mini-‘me’s’ out there, I’d tell them that I know exactly how they feel and I’m here to help!
It’s my job to define our African American business strategy, and within that responsibility, one of the many things I get to do is hunt for the content that showcases a multitude of the diverse stories, backgrounds, and experiences that reflect the black community. It’s my job to make it easier to access that content and balance out the provocative with the historical, to mix the entertaining with the educational, and the fantasy with the reality.
If my job makes it a little easier for young black girls and boys to find their ‘me’ on TV, or for their parents to find films that connect them with their youth, or for everyone to find content that not only entertains but serves as teaching tools to explore challenging times and that celebrate the amazing achievements within the black community, well then… I am doing my job.
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