What’s Next? Representation For POC Storytellers
Updated: Jul 31, 2020
Streaming platforms and how the BLM movement is transforming their content.
Recently, I was scrolling through Netflix and I noticed a new genre added to their list - Black Lives Matter and the featured moment collection, More Than a Movement. The next day or so I was scrolling through Amazon Prime, at the very top, Celebrating Black Cinema.
What does all of this mean? Streaming services are finally highlighting black cinema and black storytellers at the forefront. Honestly, it’s sad that we are saying “finally” because this is long overdue and y’all are late. We have known for ages that we are incredible storytellers and human beings. Nonetheless, we are being seen and heard as creators.
Let’s not forget Black Lives Matter didn’t just start, i’s been here. Created by three women, Alicia Garza, Patrisse Khan- Cullors, and Opal Tometi in 2013 after the murder of Trayvon Martin.
Leading the way: Netflix
In 2017, Netflix created its first social media campaign, #FirstTimeISawMe, where black creators reflect on the first time they saw themselves in a film or TV. Shortly after, we were blessed with Strong Black Leads, a category dedicated to curated documentaries, original movies and shows, as well as classics that most of us in the community grew up with. They have even expanded to podcasts and exclusive Youtube interviews!
During the height of the Black Lives Matter Movement following the death of George Floyd, many were sharing educational resources on systematic racism and encouraging people to educate themselves. Netflix answered with the creation of its “More Than a Movement,” as an extension of their current content.
Amazon Prime Video
Amazon Prime Video (APV) has a section called Celebrating Black Cinema. Like Netflix, this section includes documentaries, original movies and shows, as well as classics.
APV sets themselves apart from Netflix because they have more Black documentaries that are not mainstream, possibly even controversial to some, but the real raw truth to black audiences. They even include an option for channels connected to black entertainment such as BET. Slowly but surely I have seen Amazon Prime Video create more space for black creators.
In my opinion, Hulu is a little behind, I still see a lot of white faces on the home screen more than the other services.
I do notice that Hulu has more black TV shows than movies. Recently, they added a classic, Soul Food and they do have a Black Stories section but it is very limited.
What’s a little different with this streaming service is their deals with other networks, so content can be limited if you don’t pay for those add ons. With this, I say these cable networks need to step up as well. It’s time to create a table for our black creators while giving access to see it for the public.
Photo Credit: Disney +
This month, Beyonce will release her most recent project and documentary, Black is King via their platform, which is a major step for the newer streaming service. Her relationship with Disney/ABC will help open the door for so many other POC creators to create even more content for us, and more importantly, by us!
Let’s not forget her ABC special, Making the Gift, that featured some amazing African artists whose names and work might not have been known previously to mainstream white audiences.
While Beyonce was in the room where it happens… Lin-Manuel Miranda did not throw away his shot with getting Hamilton on Disney +. We all know the true history behind the historical characters portrayed, but that’s a WHOLE other article.
Outside of their streaming service and before the effects of the global pandemic, Disney has worked tirelessly to make amends with their racist past with a slew of reimagined, live-action remakes of their classics.
- They changed the narrative when it comes to sexism. A woman don’t need no man to be successful and can run a country because she has the intelligence to do it. PERIODT!
- Highlighting animal rights issues instead of the blatant racism a.k.a the crows - y’all already know.
Black Storytelling Matters. Periodt.
It’s great that these platforms are finally highlighting content by black creators, but what’s next? I ask the CEOs and executive boards, “What are your companies doing behind the scenes? What are you doing to hire and promote black and brown production crews, producers, directors and boards? "
If you’re going to highlight these films and release statements you better be releasing some of these seats that have made it very hard for us to be at the table, let alone a foot in the door.
Streaming services are continuing to evolve. They are our future as we continue to come to terms with how the global pandemic is changing our lives. Therefore the continuation of Black stories in this space matters. Not just the telling of our past but stories, but our present and future. We are more than just our beautiful skin—our culture and our stories matter.
Raven is a content creator and contributor at reelcultured.com