Atlanta Daily World
On a recent episode of a reality television show filmed in Atlanta, an argument ensued between two women— one White and the other African American. The White woman called the African-American woman a "b*tch" and in response the African-American woman slapped her.
That African American woman was Pastor Sabrina McKenzie of the Style Network's hit reality series "Big Rich Atlanta."
McKenzie is also the founder of Dancing Preachers and the International Dance Commission. Considering her participation in reality TV, she decided she would reach out to the African-American community and talk about those behaviors and what effect they had on women in the media.
As a result, this year's Evangelizing People in Communities (EPIC) Women's Leadership Conference, hosted by McKenzie at the Hilton Atlanta Airport, held a discussion entitled "Celebrities Speak out on the Portrayal of African American Women in the Media".
"I felt so many times that I was portrayed like somebody different than my own truth," said McKenzie. "I just wanted to tell my story. I know what I represent. I know who I am. I'm not greedy, I'm not all about wealth— but I'm about God.
In its 7th year, the EPIC women's leadership conference dedicated a portion of its three-day event to discussing the topic of African American women and their portrayal in the media with a panel of women from a variety of backgrounds and influences.
The panel included: Tiffany Evans of Law and Order, Mimi Faust of Love & Hip Hop Atlanta (LHHATL), Shani Harris Peterson, Ph.D who is a Professor at Spelman College, Rachael Miller of Color Me Organized and a producer at Trinity Broadcast Network, DeKalb Co. Commissioner Sharon Barnes Sutton, Wanda Cunningham with the Women of the Southern Region, Inc., and Cynthia Williams with the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Inc., just to name a few.
To start the discussion, a short film was presented by Professor Harris entitled, "Women, Media & Why it Matters," which shifted the conversation from the media as a whole to reality TV. After Dr. Harris ended her presentation she left the audience with the three trends that media has used to depict the images of African Americans: violence, music and music videos, and now reality TV.
Marcus Coleman, the only male panelist, was not apologetic spoke of panelists like Mimi Faust who are on reality shows like LHHATL that are viewed as the culprits of most of the negative images shown of African American women in the media today.
"Some of the reality TV that's out today has got to go," said Coleman who is the President/ Founder at Rev Al Sharpton's National Action Network, Atlanta Chapter. "Now, what can be done since it's not going away is maybe trim some off the fat of the bogusness that's out there.
Coleman's response received applause from the audience and a few nods from the panel. However, a few of the panelists gave some of the responsibility to the viewers of those shows that are believed to give African American women such a bad rap.
Rachael Miller refuted the applause and shared with the room, packed with mostly Black women, that if African-American women really had an issue with reality TV then they should "stop watching it."
According to Miller, African-American women must not feel that what is being shown on television has that negative of an impact on their social and cultural images if the ratings for most of the reality TV shows out today are in the millions.
"Most of the people watch it because they want to see somebody's life that is worse than their own," said McKenzie.
Regardless of who watches reality TV, the responses from the young women from the DeKalb Co. Youth Leadership Academy were the most alarming.
"The ones I see in videos they are either dancing provocatively or they are never covered," said 15-year-old Tenille Hodge. "It makes me feel like I'm supposed to grow up and be like that."
Angelic Hogan, 16, believes in order for the media to make a better impression on African American women in the media then it must start with targeting the children.
"You have to target the children and try to mold them into something positive," said Hogan who said she wants to be a teacher when she grows up.
"I think that we don't know who we are and in our generation you had a mother, a grandmother, an aunt, people in the community reminding you who you are and whose you were,' said Sutton who created the DeKalb Co. Youth Leadership Academy "I think the solution is the community and all of us coming forward and investing in our youth."
Part two of Saturday's discussion, which ran over thirty minutes will continue with topic of African Americans in reality TV and its social, economical and spiritual impact in the near future.
"Your perception should come from within and from a spiritual component. Don't base your perception on television because many of these images are not even real," said McKenzie. "They say its reality, but it's not. It's contrived, it's construed and often times it's scripted."
For years there were whispers—amused, condemning, even envious—about the supposed “open” marriage of entertainment super couple Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith. Some have theorized that the arrangement is the secret to their near-16-year union, which began after they met on the set of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”
But on April 14 , Jada took to Facebook to debunk the urban myth.
In the five paragraph post, the actress and mother of three addressed statements she made during an interview with The Huffington Post earlier that month, in which she said “Will is his own man.”
“I’ve always told Will, ‘You can do whatever you want as long as you can look at yourself in the mirror and be okay,’” she told HuffPost Live’s Marc Lamont Hill. “Because at the end of the day, Will is his own man. I’m here as his partner, but he is his own man. He has to decide who he wants to be and that’s not for me to do for him. Or vice versa.”
The seemingly ambiguous statements fuelled even more speculation about the nature of her marriage, and she apparently felt the need to clarify her statements.
In her Facebook response, the 41-year-old said that while “there are far more important things to talk about in regards to what is happening in the world than whether I have an open marriage or not,” she felt the need to “discuss the relationship between trust and love and how they co-exist.”
After posing a series of rhetorical questions on the matter, she concluded: “Here is how I will change my statement…Will and I BOTH can do WHATEVER we want, because we TRUST each other to do so. This does NOT mean we have an open relationship…this means we have a GROWN one.”
by Zenitha Prince, Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspaper
(Photo: Jada Pinkett-Smith (Courtesy Photo))
If there ever was a show that positively represented the elements of what Black relationships should be, then YouTube sensation ‘The Couple’ is that show.
‘The Couple’ is apart of Black and Sexy TV, a network that was created by Numa Perrier and Dennis Dortch. According to its website, it is “a network established to provide viewing audiences a more accurate depiction of black culture.” It also says their shows focus on love and relationships in the Black community.
The show is compiled of web episodes and mini episodes all centered on a Black couple and the daily situations they go through, which can be anything and everything. It can be as simple as a living situation like which side of the bed to sleep on to a controversial text message that paint a simple picture for the audience: it could relate to your relationship too! In fact, Black and Sexy TV gets more than 2 million views on their videos, with ‘The Couple’ getting hundreds of thousands of views in itself.
The inspiration behind the episodes of ‘The Couple’ is what makes the show unique. One of the creators, Jeanine Daniels says it was her own life experiences that sparked the inspiration for the creation of the show. More specifically, it was when Daniels was living with her boyfriend and his roommate at the time where inspiration hit.
“It was just really weird because I had never lived with a guy before and I was writing all these things down and I would tell Dennis about all the random stuff that was happening, funny stuff. And I had this idea in my head that there needs to be a show about a couple, not just a story, but all the things that couples go through.”
She continued, “There has to be a show about how these two characters in my head—an anal jock and a really artsy chick are together and how a lot of random stuff happens. When I pitched the idea to the group, they were like yeah, let’s do it.”
Those experiences were the talk of a typical conversation with the creators of the show Dennis Dortch and Jeanine Daniels and the cast who plays the couple in the show, Numa Perrier and Desmond Faison, who had previously been friends before the creation of the show.
As Daniels explained the guy who became the inspiration for the show, Dennis shockingly said, “Oh Wow, I didn’t know that!” as he laughed.
While speaking to all four you can tell that there is some major chemistry going on. I wasn’t even able to tell if the two actors for ‘The Couple’, both Faison and Perrier, weren’t an actual couple in real life! Unfortunately, they weren’t able to disclose that information because they are on contract, but either way, they had me beat!
Because of that chemistry and how relatable the show is, Dortch says the show is a success, but for more than just those reasons.
“It is a success because its accessible, relatable and I think also because you don’t have to follow every single story. You could drop it and you could’ve seen 10 of them out of 20 and still feel like you know the show and you know them,” Dortch said.
Not only that, but Dortch also says ‘The Couple’ is different from other Black shows because of their cast.
“It’s a collaboration where people are bringing themselves to the table. Both Desmond and Numa bring something that’s unique that we discover as we shoot,” he said.
According to Dortch, who directs and edits the episodes, editing the episodes down is more tedious than the actors actually performing in front of the camera. They are given a description of the episode and do not use scripts; everything is done free style. Not only that, but ‘The Couple’ uses the actors’ apartments and former apartments to shoot the episodes.
“It’s a little funny because we shoot in my old apartment in Korea Town for The Couple and now my friend lives there, so sometimes that gets a little weird because it’s like I’m taking over that place again,” Perrier laughs.
The creators of the show were purposeful for those locations being that they wanted to create a more intimate and realistic setting. The surrounding being realistic caters to the scenes being realistic, which are all made up of ideas or actual experiences. All of these factors set up a platform for the audience to react to, which the creators and actors say they love and encourage feedback. In fact, according to Dortch and Pierrer, viewers tend to take sides. Dortch says this can be in part because large portions of their viewers tend to be women.
“However you set it up, the audience is going to play into it. If you set it up to take sides, they will happily take a side. From episode to episode it will be his side or my side, but if we’re together then all of our past transgressions don’t matter, they love us,” Perrier added.
“Between the two of us, 80% think I’m right,” Desmond joked.
Having an online show allows ‘The Couple’ to take in their feedback, which enables them to see what their audience likes. They say that their success online is their main focus.
“This is really where the future is, online. Production companies and studios are starting to throw a lot of money into this, so we’re sort of looking at it with two lenses. We’re not just looking at it as a means to end up getting to TV,” Dortch said.
Currently ‘The Couple’ is in its second season. Episodes are slowing down a bit, but it’s because Black and Sexy TV has a movie getting filmed this summer that will be a spin-off of ‘The Couple’. So if you already loved the realistic nature of this web-based show, looks like you’ll have something more to look forward to!
Go to www.youtube.com and type ‘The Couple Black and Sexy TV’ into your search bar and see with your own eyes what this popular show is all about.
by Nicole Williams, Special to the NNPA from the Los Angeles Sentinel