I got all choked up watching the NAACP Image awards a few weeks ago. For me, seeing Diahann Carroll present the President’s Award to Kerry Washington, took me back to why I fell in love with this business and why I am blessed to be celebrating 36-years as a television producer-director.
First off let me say, I absolutely love what Shondra Rhimes and Kerry Washington have created with the ABC hit drama “Scandal.” There’s a sense of pride beyond belief over the success of that show. Seeing Diahann Carroll walk out on the stage for the presentation, reminded me of the pride I felt as a 13-year old boy watching Julia Baker (Carroll) and her young son Corey Baker, (Marc Copage), hit the screen every week. The show began in 1968 and ran until 1971. That’s a lifetime by today’s television programming standards. Watching Julia was the first time I saw people who looked like my family. The storylines inspired me and reflected my life, and made a lasting impression on not only the black community but the white community as well. There was no doubt that it helped to break down barriers of intolerance and bigotry.
In her acceptance speech, Kerry Washington said something that made me proud too. She said, and I quote:
“Just as we must ensure that ‘We the People’ includes all Americans, regardless of race, class, gender and sexual orientation, we must also work to ensure that the stories we tell, the movies we make, the television we produce, the theater we stage, the novels we publish are inclusive in all those same ways.”
Today, we now have five black cable networks: BET, TV One, Centric, Aspire and Bounce. And I’m now calling on all five black networks to take Kerry’s advice and produce some type of programming that is LGBT inclusive.
Carroll mentioned that Julia was a ground breaking experience, and that NBC and Twentieth Century Fox put their faith and their money in back of Julia and that’s how she was born.“ I’m willing to bet that somewhere in a production meeting back in the late 60’s, the studio and network executives knew that they had an obligation to make television that was inclusive too. And they did it in a non-stereotypical way. Julia wasn’t a maid – she was a nurse. Her son was bright, articulate and honest and they lived in a multi-ethnic society. And that’s what’s lacking on the black cable networks, a non-stereotypical black gay or lesbian protagonist or hero who isn’t just some flaming over the top gay or lesbian best friend.
I’m calling for a character or series about someone much like the people we profile on NoMoreDownLow.TV – an LGBT person who is not on the down low, someone who is open and honest and living in their truth and has a life that is full yet entertaining who just happens to be gay.
Times are changing. And thanks to President Obama’s support for LGBT rights, black Americans attitudes towards LGBT people are slowly changing too, but we still have a long way to go to end the bigotry and religious homophobia that still exists. But just like Julia, the right series, the right showcase, the right characters can make a big difference in moving diversity and inclusion forward. It’s time for the black cable networks to do their part of and create some LGBT programs.
WATCH NOW: Where are the African American LGBT Characters in Primetime Television?