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Saturday, May 10, 2014

Why It’s Important For Black People To Control Their Media Image

A Picture is worth a thousand words. And the picture of a Black person can shape how generations see themselves.

Black Men like John H. Johnson and Gordon Parks understood the power of image and how they told the story of Black people. Thanks to their images, generations of Black people saw themselves as human beings in the pages of magazines such as Ebony, Jet and Essence.

In these Black-owned magazines and in other Black-owned media Black people saw themselves as Doctors, lawyers, scientists and engineers artists, musicians and innovators and creators. Not Pullman Porters, janitors, maids and butlers.

It’s important for Black people to control their image. In many cases if Black people don’t tell our stories, other Black people won’t know about them.

Moreover, it’s important for the RIGHT Black people to control the image of Black people. When the wrong Black people control the image of Black people the picture of the Black world we get does not reflect who Black people really are. Instead it reflects what White Supremacists want to see Black people as.

When Blacks controlled Black Cinema we got to see a variety of stories about the Black experience. We saw pictures of competent and capable heroes and heroines on the silver screen that were the equals of their White counterparts. We got to see biopics of leaders like Malcolm X and films about incidents like Rosewood. These humanized images allowed us to see Black people and Black culture from an objective perspective.

When White Supremacists and Sellout Blacks control the Black image we get images that make them feel comfortable about Blacks and the place they think Blacks should be: The po’ miserable downtrodden Negro who needs a great White savior to help him or her actualize their potential. Films like Monster’s Ball, Precious, Radio, The Help and 12 Years a Slave. Or we get a minstrel show like a Tyler Perry movie where an emasculated Black man is shown wearing a dress.

Not to mention White Egyptians, A White Jesus and Whitewashed sanitized revisionist Black history that makes White people look like saints doing Black people a favor for oppressing them.

When Blacks control Television production we got human images of Black people from all walks and all classes of life. The Cosby Show, A Different World, In Living Color, Roc, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, The Parent Hood, Sister, Sister, Smart Guy and My Brother and Me were all created by Black people or produced by Black people. All these shows presented images of Black people that humanized Black people and showed the world diverse array of images of Black people and Black experiences, not just one.

When Sellout Blacks and White Supremacists control the image of Black people on Television we get Coons, minstrels, hoodrats and whores Shows produced by sellouts like Scandal, Girlfriends, The Game, Love & Hip Hop Real Housewives, Flavor of Love, and everything Tyler Perry produces all present an image of buffoonish ignorant dysfunctional Black people who can barely get out of bed in the morning unless a White man tells them to.

When Black people controlled Rap and hip-hop we got a music that was rich and diverse. We had room for lyricists who could play on words like Big Daddy Kane, Rakim and Kool G Rap, comedy rappers like Kid N’ Play and Biz Markie, Afrocentric rappers like Tribe called Quest and Arrested Development and Boho rappers like Digable Planets. And we got female rappers like Queen Latifah, Salt N Pepa and Antionette.

When Sellout Blacks and White Supremacists controlled hip-hop it all of a sudden became gangsta rap 24/7. Everyone looks and sounds like NWA, Notorious B.I.G and Tupac along with scantily clad Black women who all promote the image of a jezebel in the mold of Lil’ Kim.

Moreover, When Black People controlled Rap and Hip Hop it promoted education, phonetic wordplay, and having fun. When Uncle Toms and Whites controlled hip hop we get lyrics about Thug Life, drug selling, gang banging, crime, and women proud to be whores.

I always found it interesting after a generation of Black boys were told  Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac didn’t finish the eighth grade how a generation of Black boys began dropping out of high school. Today the Black male High School dropout rate is at 70 percent. That’s the legacy of Biggie and Tupac’s images on a generation of Black boys.

Here’s more bad news: Over the last 20 years Black people have been losing more and more control over their image. With the older generation of Black publishers, producers, newspapers and filmmakers passing on, the next generation has not been picking up the baton.

The next generation unfortunately, hasn’t been taught why it’s important why it’s important for Black people to control the image of Black people by the past generation. Many of the Black people who control the media today believe in Dr. King’s delusional “dream” and the “rainbow” and think that there’s nothing wrong with producing or promoting content that presents Black people in a negative light. Because in their eyes we need “balance”.

Unfortunately, these Next generation Negroes have not studied the image of Black people from a historical context so they don’t understand how distorted the pictures of Blacks in media originally were. So their attempts to balance the picture only slants it back to what White Supremacists originally intended it to be.

These individualized Negroes do not understand how a picture is a thousand words Or how that image can have an shape the way Black people view themselves for generations to come.

How the words of one dysfunctional Black celebrity like the late Tupac Shakur can be used to influence generations of Black males for decades to come. Or how Halle Berry’s Oscar win for playing a Black Jezebel has created an iconic image for Black womanhood that has been established as the tarnished standard for the past 14 years for Black girls.

Worse, most Black people don’t understand the impact The Telecommunications law of 1996 pushed through a Republican Congress and signed by Slick Bill Clinton have changed who owns and controls the image of Black people.

What was dangerous about the Telecommunications law of 1996 was that it changed who could own what in the media. Before the Telecommunications bill of 1996 was passed, an individual could only own one TV station, radio station and newspaper in the media. After this law was passed an individual could own multiple TV stations, radio stations and newspapers.

Once this law was passed, the Big Six (Viacom, Disney, NewsCorp, Comcast, Sony and Warner Brothers) began buying up local TV channels, cable channels, newspapers and radio stations, including Black-owned ones.

Currently, there are NO Black-owned radio stations in major metropolitan areas such as New York City. And no Black executives or produces in Hollywood. Most Black-owned newspapers are shutting down. And Black-owned magazines like Essence are being bought out by nonblack Big six conglomerates like Time Warner.

This is dangerous for Black people. When a person owns and controls the media they control how other people see themselves. And when a handful of people control so much of the media they control how society sees itself. They have a say over what gets presented and what gets distributed. If content doesn’t reflect their view of the world, it isn’t allowed to air.

Again, for Black people it's  dangerous for nonblack people to control our image. If we don’t control our image the world won’t get an accurate story of what Black life actually is. When we don’t control Magazines, radio stations, TV stations and the distribution of media, it means the world is being told the White Supremacist view of Black life. and how White Supremacists see the Black world is completely different than how Black people see it.

When others control the Black image, they tell Black people who they are in pictures and in words. This is how LIES get told like the shortage of eligible educated single Black men in the Black community. Or about Black men only being all criminals and drug users. Or how "thug" culture is Black culture.

With so much of the media in the control of a handful of wealthy White men these days it’s no surprise that the image of Black people has become more and more of a minstrel show over the last 18 years since the Telecommunications bill of 1996 was passed. Instead of humanized images of Black people and Black life, we’ve gotten non-stop coonin’ n’ buffoning, and images of Black women being jezebels and loudmouth hoodrats.

I’ve been studying entertainment since I was 7 and studying Black entertainment since I was a teenager. And as I’ve watched as the ownership of Black media change from Black hands to white ones, the images of Black people have gotten more negative. In the case of Black women more sexualized and in the case of Black men more effeminized. In almost all cases an effort has been pushed to bring back old stereotypes from Minstrel shows and Jim Crow. Images racists are more comfortable with.

Too many Black people don’t understand the power of image. How it shapes how people see themselves. How the world sees them. One of the reasons I became a publisher was so I could protect the image of Black people in the media. I understood that if Black people don’t control their image others will control it. And when others control the image of Black people chances are Black people may not get shown the truth about themselves.


  1. You're kind of right about how some people sometimes end up giving others the wrong impression and what to do about it. It can be applied to any group that has a bad image because some of their members don't have the responsibility to regulate their actions and their impact on people be it feminists or religious fundamentalists.

  2. "It’s important for Black people to control their image. In many cases if Black people don’t tell our stories, other Black people won’t know about them..."
    There it is man...also,what you stated about a handful of corporations controlling the media outlets,is it no wonder that rap music is in the toilet and 'reality' shows dominate our tv's?