When I was growing up, I could see myself on a handful of TV shows. Some people thought I looked like Rudy on The Cosby Show (I didn’t). A boy in my homeroom in 9th grade thought I looked like Tia or Tamera from Sister, Sister (Again, not at all). Our images were so few and far between people had to think of the one or two characters they knew and attach you to it. It also felt like there were a group of shows that no one outside of the Black people I knew watched and if they did, they NEVER talked about it.
I remember excitedly anticipating the premiere of Moesha. A show that centered on a Black teenage girl (played by “I Wanna Be Down” Brandy!) I. Was. Sold.
I taped it on our family VCR. That’s right. I said it. An old rickety VCR. She was smart! I was smart! She liked boys and writes in a diary?! Me too! As I got older, I watched shows with my sister (mostly) and friends that we could relate to, saw parts of ourselves in and who we wanted to be.
Then the UPN and the WB eventually became the CW before they took all of them off the air to gear their programming to an unmistakably whiter and younger audience.
Where was my Girlfriends? I loved seeing 4 Black women with distinctly different backgrounds. I missed the freewheeling artistic vegan Lynn, the smart and sassy Maya, the neurotic but loyal Joan and the sexy and ambitious Toni. Where was I ever going to see shows like Half and Half (Mona’s hair and those boots!), One on One or The Game again?
I know now I can watch Black-ish, Insecure, Queen Sugar or grittier shows like Michaela Coel’s “I May Destroy You” for creative and quality representation but there was something special about the mid-90’s-2000’s. Even if every episode of all the shows weren’t classic, we all knew what we were talking about when we referenced “The Professor”, yelled “Go home, Roger!” and sang “Mo to the. E to the…”
There aren’t shows (that I know of) that Black teens are growing up with that reflect their experiences in a comedic way on a major network. I feel bad that my niece or nephew doesn’t have shows like this so they may rely more on YouTube. Network television has failed in representing them in this way.
So why am I writing about this now?! The news broke today that 6 of these shows will be coming to Netflix over the next couple months!! As much as I am celebrating, I know people have been campaigning for years to make this happen.
We have been waiting for years for our shows to be valued.
For our creativity and laughter and silliness and talent and the audience who enthusiastically appreciated it from Day 1 to matter.
I know there will be many people like me who will be joyfully singing theme songs, lamenting about 90’s to mid 2000’s fashion and falling in love with these characters all over again.
And for those who really know:
Through this journey of discovery (x2)
In finding you, and finding me (x2)
Now that I have someone special
That brings out the joy (x2)
Inside of me (x2)
We can become whatever we want
All we need is loving you
That’s the way our feelings should be
You and Me…