It seems like 2014 was a very trying year. Between murders and injustice against several young black males and a relentless end of ratchet television shows, positive black representation seemed to be null and void. But, there were several gems that are worth mentioning. My goal for this year is to bring as much light to this issue as I possibly can. The need for positive representation is needed now more than ever. The few moments or people that I have mentioned are those that I feel have overcome obstacles and barriers in their industry. These people are the future and with them and their accomplishments, we can head in the right direction for 2015 and beyond.
I first noticed this beauty on Lance Gross’ Instagram. If you don’t know, Gross is a phenomenal photographer and he had featured a picture of Ava and fellow model, Diandra Forest. Out of curiosity, I went to Ava’s page and was stunned by her beauty. I was also warmed by her innocent behavior. She was just like a normal, every day child and I loved that about her. Ava has graced the covers of multiple magazines and has traveled all over the world with renown photographers. As you can see, Ava’s appearance is very unique. Born from two African American parents, Ava is also African American but has albinism. This explains her naturally blonde hair and blue eyes. I believe that Ava is an amazing example for younger children with albinism. Unfortunately, most people know nothing about albinism or they ridicule people who are born with it. Ava’s spirit over shines her beauty and makes her perfect for positive representation for young black girls.
Willow has definitely been in the media since she was pretty much born. Birthed from Hollywood royalty, this young actress/singer has grown to be her own brilliant mind. While many question her upbringing, I absolutely love how free she is allowed to be. It allows her to grow into her own person and have her own thought process instead of what she is forced to think under her parent’s rule. In a recent interview, Willow and her brother discussed their thoughts on time and energy. Many critiqued the two for their outrageous thoughts, but once again, I have to disagree. I believe that everyone is allowed to feel and think how they want to think, as long as it is not hurting anyone. It seems like in the Black community, anything that goes against the thoughts of Jesus or God is taboo. If you think anything else, you are crazy and should stop what you are doing and go to church and repent. This is so wrong. We should applaud people who are educating themselves on different ways of thinking. Willow does not speak like some person who just came up with some crazy ideas. She reads and researches. She is very eloquent and educated. She represents those in our community who think differently. Her images being shown more positively in the media will allow those who think outside the box to feel more comfortable in themselves. This is something that needs to happen in our community. Other races allow their youth to think differently without ridiculing them. It is time we did the same and encouraged our youth to love themselves and be okay with having a different way of thinking.
This fiery actress first entered the scene in 2012 with her role as, “Hushpuppy,” in “Beasts of the Southern Wild.” At just age 5, Quvenzhane’ Wallis proved she was a force to be reckoned with. At age 9, she received several awards for her role and even obtained an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress, making her the youngest African American to receive this accolade. Fast forward to today and Quvenzhane’ can be seen in the remake of the classic movie, “Annie”. Wallis has also just been named Armani’s representative of their Junior’s Spring Collection. Now that I’ve gotten all the facts out of the way, let me say I LOVE THIS GIRL!!! She is so amazingly talented, but I love her personality. She has a sense of knowing herself already at such a young age and it is a beautiful thing to watch. In a recent interview, a reporter tried to call Quvenzhane’ Annie instead of her name because she could not pronounce iy. Wallis simply told her that her name was Quvenzhane’ and not Annie. If that is not a great example of the type of positive representation that we need, then what is? It is so funny, because I used to always let people say my name however they wanted to say it. I didn’t want to go back and forth with the confusion. But hearing a young girl take so much pride and understand the power in someone calling you by your correct name, it instantly made me change my thoughts. This is what we need our young girls to learn and see as they grow up. A beautiful, young, Black girl who is proud, yet polite.
Chef Roble’ is one of the funniest and charismatic chefs that are out there. With the debut of his show, “Chef Roble’ and Co,” Roble’ Ali and his crew have gained national notoriety. Roble’ is one of few African American chefs who have been able to achieve this level of success at such a young age. Starting his own catering company, Roble’ is known for being a savvy businessman. He currently has several ventures in the making such as a clothing line, fragrance, wine, and restaurant. Chef Roble’ is the epitome of “hard work brings success.” He has been going nonstop since he was a teenager and he shows no sign of letting up now. This is the type of thing our young men need to see in our community. They need to see that success can come at a young age if you are willing to work for it. I was terribly disheartened when Steve Harvey chose to use Paula Deen as a mentor for a group of young African American boys. They needed to see someone like Roble’. Someone who looks like them and someone they could relate to. Chef Roble’ shows our community that young, Black men can be successful in other careers that are not sports or music related. He gives our community a different look on success. Oh, and it helps that he is dashingly handsome. :)
Tracee Ellis Ross
No stranger to fame, the daughter of Diana Ross has always been in the media. As one of our favorite girlfriends, Tracee Ellis Ross has always been the epitome of a real Black woman. From her curves to her hair to her goofy personality, how could you not fall in love with her? Recently returning to television with the ABC show, “Blackish,” Ross continues to impress and show more positive representation of a working Black mother/wife. She is not the average image you see on TV in reference to a Black woman. She is not loud. She is not ratchet. She doesn’t get into fights over random men or someone not saying hi to her at a boogie premiere. She works. She talks to her children. She loves her husband. These are the things our community needs to see when it comes to how the family unit should work. Our family units need to be represented more positively so that they can be acted out this way in real life. We, unfortunately, live our lives off of what we see. If we constantly see negativity, then this will be what we think is normal and start to live this way. Tracee Ellis Ross shows us otherwise. The fact that she is a proud Black woman who is able to wear her natural hair on national television and receive accolades is a step in the right direction.
Viola Davis Takes Off Wig
This year, Shonda Rhimes blessed us with another jaw dropping drama. “How To Get Away with Murder” had everyone tuning in and going crazy trying to figure out who the killer was. Perhaps the most spoken about moment had to be when actress Viola Davis took off her wig at the end of a long day’s work. This moment has never been seen on a national television show, especially from a Black actress. We never see the wig come off. We are too assume that this is the character’s hair and that is it. To see Davis take everything completely off was very liberating. It showed that Black women have this mask and appearance that we have to uphold on a daily basis. We are never able to truly be ourselves until we are in the confines of our own house. To let this process be seen on a major network was a positive image and moment for our community. It lets our people see that this powerful, smart women still has to mask her true self in order to be apart of their world. She could not sit at the fancy dinners or walk into the courtroom looking like her normal self. While this is a sad truth, it is still a truth that I am glad was seen. This is how dialogue begins and changes can be made.
Hands down, the protests have been the most talked about thing in media this year. To see Black people come together, in a peaceful manner, and protest about the injustices against our community is something to behold. Protesting is the backbone of our culture. It is what helped to give us the “rights” we have now. These images may be the most powerful, positive representations of our community that are out there right now. To see multiple Blacks together for a common cause and being nonviolent is not how they portray us in the media. They do not want us to see these images. They want us to believe otherwise so we cannot continue to come together. But we are proving them wrong. Seeing these images allow me to understand the need to continue to fight for equality. It opens your eyes and mind to see that we are not as equal as they try to make us feel. These images represent the fighters in our community and we have to continue to support them.
My hopes are that I will be able to see an influx of positive representation of my people in 2015. I want to see more images of real Black women and men, young and old. I want to see more of our culture and not the watered downed version they try to give us. We need more writers and producers that understand the need for these images and will help to create them. We owe it to ourselves and our upcoming generation.
Viola Davis- http://www.thegloss.com