It's nice to tune in to a television station that is owned by a black woman. Not just any black woman, but one of the wealthiest people on the planet. Oprah Winfrey's network (OWN) produces a variety of shows that reveal the great depth of creative genius in the black and brown community. With productions ranging from comedies to mega church dramas, the OWN is inspiring young creatives of color nationwide.
Most of us know Tyler Perry as "Madea," or the black man who writes hilarious, but emotionally gravid plays in which he dresses as an old 80-year-old woman with a mean streak. Many of Perry's theater productions have been made it in to movies. And now, he has more to add to his portfolio with shows "The Haves and the Have Nots," "Love Thy Neighbor," "If Loving You Is Wrong," "For Better or Worse" which are all aired on OWN. What is particularly outstanding about Perry's productions is the predominantly black casts. The characters are developed to appear as average middle-class citizens who are tempted to act against their morals and values. The show takes viewers through their journey as relationships develop, crumble, and intertwine.
One of the network's newest shows, "Greenleaf," is written and produced by Craig Wright who is of Puerto Rican heritage. Wright also produced HBO's Six Feet Under, and ABC's Lost. But his work with OWN has proven to be more diverse; like Perry's productions, it showcases black people living in very "real life," tackling situations of conflict. "Greenleaf" is based on a family, which runs sprawling Memphis megachurch Calvary Fellowship World Ministries. Beneath the surface, though, exists scandalous secrets and lies. Greed, adultery and sibling rivalry are among the issues that threaten to test the family's faith and tear the group apart. The scandalous happenings are uncovered by Grace, the estranged daughter of church leader Bishop James Greenleaf, when she returns home after a 20-year absence.
Set to debut on Sept. 6, 2016, "Queen Sugar," is a series that follows the life of two sisters, Nova Bordelon and Charley Bordelon, who, with her teenage son Micah moves to the heart of Louisiana to claim an inheritance from her recently departed father — an 800-acre sugarcane farm. Ava DuVernay, director of "Selma," partners with Oprah Winfrey herself to create this, yet again another moving, impactful and entertaining television series.
Hollywood and mainstream media often excludes black actors and actresses from leading parts in shows and movies. There has certainly been an improvement with diversity in television over the past five years, however white creators and entertainers still dominate the industry. Even movies and characters that should be casted with people of color are given to white actors with tans and dark hair. Movies like Gods of Egypt, John Carter, and any thing about the Bible should arguably have black and brown leads. With emerging talent, I think the industry has a very bright future when it comes to creating variety of character types for people of color.
As a black creator, it is uplifting to see people of color writing, directing and producing work that is outside of the traditional, very stereotypical mold in which the mainstream portrays us. If we can see wealthy black families in well-crafted and directed television shows, we can also see them in movies. If our stories are told eloquently, our voices become relevant in other arenas. There is a surge of incredibly unique talent within the minority and their work will continue to receive the awards and accolades it deserves.