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How we came to this idea

The LoveBlack Project was formed by a group of graduate students as a direct response to the alarming amount of statistics pointing to the decline of the family structure within the African American community. This project focused on taking a look at how African Americans are portrayed in the media and how that portrayal impacts the relationships formed within the African American community. Viewed as a multiple phase investigation, our initial research has sought to examine specific perceptions concerning African American portrayals on television.

For years, the media has been scrutinized  for their representations of African Americans on television. Even though, the number of African American images on television has increased, the quality or content of these images has not. Throughout our research, it has constantly been  suggested that the mass media is an important source of information about African Americans and media portrayals that contribute to public perceptions of African Americans. LoveBlack Project researched numerous television programs ranging from Roots to Reed Between the Lines, and it can be argued that Black images on television may cause viewers to conceive, alter or even reinforce their beliefs and opinions about Black people. Historically,we have been depicted as comedic fools, lackluster servants, cold-blooded criminals and morally bankrupt individuals. When firsthand knowledge is not available, television images have a huge effect on viewers perceptions.

The groups of people we worked with

To gain a sense of how audiences felt about African Americans in media, LBP sought to talk with a group of people. There was not much time to waste, so we sat and brainstormed through multiple ideas. Video interviews could be conducted, we could build our own case study, or we could host several round tables with varying topics. It was important that we kept the integrity of LBP and did a thorough job hosting discussions, instead of just trying to put something out there. The overall topic of African Americans and how we can help ourselves, as well as others, is a very important social issue to the group. After sitting down and brainstorming with a group of our peers, we came to the conclusion to start with one round table that would be primarily recorded with audio, and include small components of video and pictures. This option would be the most effective and the quality of the discussion would enhance the overall project. The team of LBP has great and intensive goals for the project, but it is important to take things one step at a time and not rush or put too much pressure on one self to get things completed.

It finally came down to picking individuals and the topic for the first audio round table. There were, and still are, a great number of individuals who wanted to take part in this project from day one. Five individuals were chosen, two females and three males and plus the moderator. It was a good mix of individuals from various backgrounds and beliefs. To pick a topic, the African Americans in media subject was broken down into four parts, and we went from there. The topic was “The History of African Americans in Media and how that relates to You.” The discussion went very well. Everybody gathered around the table, and after a round of people introducing themselves, things went very deep. The moderator asked a varying degree of questions ranging from, what television shows did you watch when you were younger to how has a negative character portrayal on television affected you. Some of the participants could relate to and understand the characters and television shows brought up in our capstone. While others remarked how they were not allowed to watch certain shows and how they could not relate to certain people in the media. Reality television was a constant theme throughout the round table due to the fact that it has oversaturated the air waves. A feeling of honesty and realness was left on the table that evening. I believe the participants gave all they had to that discussion. At times it was hard to keep the conversation on track, due to recent developments in the media, so we knew that we would have to host another round table while there was still time.

Media project 2

The killing of Trayvon Martin, the racist tweets in regards to the Hunger Games, and the racist fan reactions to Issa Rae winning an award were the topics of our second audio round table. This time it consisted of the members of LBP. It was a great relief, for me, to talk out frustrations I had regarding the Martin case. I constantly wonder if this case would have gotten so much attention if it had not been brought to the light by social media. People on Facebook and Twitter and message boards played a huge role in this. When the media caught a hold of the story, headlines read how a white man shot a black boy. When you look over the whole situation now, it is obvious that the media did not know how to handle the story. Several contradicting and confusing reports came out day after day. The round table discussion revealed how, as a group of people, African Americans are tired of being profiled, made into villains, and killed without so much as a second thought.

Another prime example are the racial tweets regarding African Americans being cast in the Hunger Games and Issa Rae gaining national support for her online series, Awkward Black Girl. To some the racial tweets were a shock, but to others not so much. People who have problems with other individual’s skin color have always thought ignorantly, it is just now social media platforms give them an open outlet to say these things. During this discussion, we came to the conclusion that people may have the ability to say whatever they want to say, but they will have to face the consequences of those actions.

Future…who we want to work with and collaborate with

This semester we had the wonderful opportunity to meet a fellow EMAC student Lan, who created Project Redefine. She centered her work around recording the reactions of individuals and the various stereotypes ethnic groups face. LBP plans to partner with Lan on a future project. This could bring even more awareness to both subjects, and create a space in where issues and problems could be talked about without fear of judgement.

Since the day LBP was created, several groups and people have reached out to us stating how they would like to take part in what we are doing. LBP is not exclusively for African Americans, we want to reach out to all ethnic groups as well as cover issues that affect you.  Some of our future projects include looking into how African Americans are excelling, or not, in education areas; such as reading and STEM. If we do not take care to make sure our future generations can be successful and exceed in life, then what will happen? LBP plans to continue moving forward and turning over every rock to start conversations and solutions.

What I have taken away

As I look back over the whole project, I have learned that the African American representation in the media has not changed that much. When Good Times, The Jeffersons, and Roots first came out, it was a major accomplishment and success for that generation. These television shows may have been used to counter the shows Caucasians had, but African Americans were finally on the scene. Characters did start out as maids, cooks and garbageman due to the fact that this was common then, but African Americans have since evolved. The Cosby Show helped to predict and showcase future lawyers, doctors and children going to college. Good Times helped to show the struggle of two parents in the household, working to barely get by while raising three kids. These things and situations spoke to African Americans who were looking for their place in the world, and just wanted to know if anybody else could relate. And today, the struggle and stories are different but still the same. African Americans in the media are still shown as maids, cooks, blue collar workers, but also as criminals, crack heads, and constantly in jail. The point of this project was to research where we had been, where we are at now, and where we are going. Racial tension is constantly swirling around ethnic matters in the media. African Americans are not only looking for people who look like them and who they can relate to in a program, but also want deeper content. Once we stop calling and considering programs “black or white,” then progress will truly have been made.