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6 TV Shows Shimmering with Black Joy

You need to update your ‘to watch list’ immediately.

By Entertainment, Featured

Meagan Good, Jerrie Johnson, Shoniqua Shandai, and Grace Byers in “Harlem” (2021).

The freedom to thrive, create, explore, and inspire is a privilege that many fail to realize exists. Black people often feel unsafe when trying to be expressive. Passion can be confused for aggression and boundaries can appear standoffish. There are not always safe spaces for us to be creative. Black Joy is allowing one’s body, mind, and spirit to heal and rest from the racist infrastructure and radicalized experiences black people face every day.

The history of Black people on screen is complex as the Black film industry battles misrepresentation and discrimination. Blaxploitation films popular in the 1970s profited off of Black culture and celebrities, creating movies about us but not for us. It became a contemporary form of using Black people for enjoyment, through dramatization of racist tropes and stereotypes associated with Black characters. They altered the portrayal of figures such as pimps, drug dealers, and sex workers and placed them at the center of the narrative, making them the heroes of the story, miseducating the white community on the dynamics and characteristics of common Black folk.

Black characters are now given more depth and complexity instead of remaining the token black friend trope portrayed everywhere – Zuri in “Jesse,” Dionne in “Clueless,” Chad in “High School Musical,” and pretty much anything else Disney has produced.

As an avid TV consumer, I have composed a list of shows that are made for Black viewers accurately depicting genuine Black joy and everything it entails: Black weirdness, artists, scholars, feminism, queerness, success, family, creators, and producers. Some have been widely recognized with awards and viewership while others have been unfortunately hidden from advertisements and recognition.

 

 

“Insecure” (2016-2021)

“Insecure” (2016-2021)

“Insecure” is an amazing modern portrayal of an authentic life as a young black woman. Issa Rae’s battle with daily struggles is uncomfortably real in the best way. There are numerous moments where I could relate to her and her relationship, work, and friendship drama.

In its fifth and final season, black viewers watch authentic depictions no matter how ratchet or bougie they may be. There’s immense satisfaction as we closely follow Issa’s growth and success.

Additionally, the music used throughout the show is my favorite TV soundtrack. It features many popular and emerging Black artists that will have you opening up Shazam.

Where to Watch: Netflix and HBO Max or buy on AppleTV, Amazon Prime, and Vudu.

 

“#BlackAF” (2020)

“#BlackAF” (2020)

“#BlackAF” is the less family-friendly, more explicit version of “Black-ish.” It follows the fictionalized family of successful real-life director Kenya Barris. Through its mockumentary style, being shot in the show by TV daughter Chloe Barris (Genneya Waltonshow), “#BlackAF”  definitely depicts both Black joy and wealth in the Barris household.

Revolving around Kenya’s honest approach to parenting and relationships, the show illustrates Black familial dynamics while simultaneously addressing the racial issues that arise in the lives of successful and wealthy Black families in American society.

Where to Watch: Netflix

“Astronomy Club: The Sketch Show” (2019)

“Astronomy Club: The Sketch Show” (2019)

Produced by Kenya Barris, the star of #BlackAf, comes Netflix’s “Astronomy Club: The Sketch Show” — a space where Black writers and actors are encouraged to indulge in excessive weirdness and comedy. Relatable with a refreshing variety of Black experiences, the multi-layered comedy is exciting for Black comedy fans as it addresses many topics and situations that go left unspoken in the community.

“Why Astronomy Club? We’re black and we’re all stars — and like most stars, nobody knows our names” explains cast member Keisha Zoller in the initial episode, giving the reason behind the show’s title. This explanation illuminates their self-awareness which makes the show so genuine and unique.

Where to Watch: Netflix.

“Abbott Elementary” (2021-)

“Abbott Elementary” (2021-)

Janine Teagues (Quinta Brunson) is a representation of the contemporary millennial elementary school teacher complete with the colorful classroom, fluttery personality, and patterned outfits.

The humor and documentary style filming of “Abott” is comparable to the popular comedy “The Office.” There are many quick pans, sly comments, and entertaining confessionals that make “Abbott Elementary” so comedic.

This brings attention to the common yet unacceptable issues within the American public school system, exposing topics such as teacher shortages, charter schools, and the methods schools use to group students based on perceived ability, which is often biased by race and class.

“Abbott Elementary” shows how Black women are the backbone of America’s education system, advocating the most for disproportionately educated learning environments. The series is extremely relevant and socially conscious but also has great humor and very likable characters!

Where to Watch: Hulu or buy on Apple TV.

“Harlem” (2021-)

“Harlem” (2021-)

“Harlem” is similar to “Insecure” when it comes to a group of friends exploring romance, work, and success. Protagonist Camille Parks (played by Meagan Good) lives in New York while being a professor at Columbia University and an artist. The show is rich in female empowerment especially as it focuses on the pressure to settle down addressing the patriarchy.

Additionally, there is much queer representation and sexual experimentation. Having Whoopi Goldberg as a recurring character is also definitely a plus.

Where to Watch: Amazon Prime.

“Girlfriends” (2000-2008)

“Girlfriends” (2000-2008)

Four Black women, Joan, Toni, Lynn, and Maya (Jill Jones, Tracee Ellis Ross, Golden Brooks, and Persia White) endure humorous yet incredibly hard times together that test their friendships as they try to live their most luxurious Los Angeles lives.

Disclaimer: This show has a lot of toxicity and does not represent healthy relationships. However, if you’re into dramatics then it is perfect for you. We see each of the women grow in their success in various careers: lawyer, business owner, musician/singer, and “authoress” as well as their ups and downs through relationships and family dynamics. I love seeing a bunch of black women thrive in their success and happiness despite the show still touching on topics like race, sexuality, and mental health.

Where to Watch: Netflix and Pluto or buy on Apple TV and Amazon Prime.

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