Dear Culture’s fourth episode, “What’s Really #BlackAF?” probes into the question of Black representation in media with Hollywood royalty, Kenya Barris.
Though Barris is widely known for his autobiographical television shows, Black-ish and Mixed-ish, Barris has been a film veteran for years. Having co-created and produced, ANTM, The Game, Soul Food, and even writing for Girls Trip. His latest television venture, a Netflix deal estimated to be worth $100 million dollars, #blackAF has received countless amounts of criticism from Black audiences.
“It’s Black Folks who are saying we don’t want this. We have to ask, why not,” says co-host and theGrio senior writer Blue Telusma.
READ MORE: #SaltyAF: Has it become impossible to make Black audiences happy?
The tea on Blackness is that we, as Black peoples, will always have a never-ending amount of multiplicity in our perspectives, stories, and experiences. Facts are, we can’t ever be represented or perceived as a monolith. The issue Black audiences are having with #BlackAF is neither technical or new; the issue is representational and even ideological.
“The reality is that how many Black film creators get access to make television shows that just show non-racially ambiguous families or just full dark skin families?” said guest and theGrio contributor Ernest Owens.
Film, media, and nearly all industries “hand-pick’ which Black people get to tell what stories to the masses. For decades, Black stories in Hollywood have often been called into question for centering lighter skin — and for Barris the critique is no different.
“Colorism exists, but was not created by Black people,” says Telusma.
Though many Black audiences can quickly point out how colorism and class come into play, supporters of #BlackAF argue that Barris is indeed speaking from his own perspective as an affluent Black man in Hollywood.
READ MORE: #blackAF review: The navel-gazing inception of Kenya Barris
Having left the restraints of cable network for streaming, Barris takes the same family story beloved by a mainstream audience and repackages it — all while sticking to his proverbial lane.
Though many Black audiences find another re-telling of Barris’ nuclear family to be redundant, many still find it original with “expert-level” maneuvering of racial dynamics in this country.
On Dear Culture, Barris tells theGrio’s entertainment director Cortney Wills that understanding and coping with slavery was a large element in creating #BlackAF.
READ MORE: #blackAF review: Kenya Barris is done appeasing the masses
“There’s never been an official apology from the country [for slavery]. It affects us everyday,” Barris told
Mixed reviews, debate, and all, it’s clear that Barris meditates on the happenings of slavery and how it still affects the Black community today. #BlackAF is another intimate look into Barris’ mind-mapping of his own life in regards to family, class and race.
And like any piece of art, it will always be up for critique. Take a listen to the full debate below:
Tune in to Dear Culture’s third episode, “Power (and Purpose Moves),” now streaming on Apple Podcast, Spotify, and Stitcher.