2 years ago
Well it has been barely over a week since the momentous debut of OWN- The Oprah Winfrey Network. Yes, Ms. Oprah Winfrey runs & owns her own television network on cable, and almost immediately the daggers are flying. I, myself, have yet to take a look at the network. However, I’ve heard nothing but great things about the programming which has been featured thus far. But … where there is greatness there will always be criticism. Coming from none other than Sheila Johnson herself- co-founder of BET- she feels OWN is not “diverse” enough. In her own words she says, “The only advice that I say, let’s open up your circle a little bit more. You know, we love the Dr. Phils. We love the Suze Ormans. Let’s open up. There are other people. And there’s also African-American experts out there that I think she should start bringing on her show that can reach even a wider audience.” Ms. Winfrey’s response is, “We couldn’t ask for more – we built it and they came,” Winfrey told Multichannel News Thursday night during an OWN dinner party. “My dream is that they continue to come. It’s a long process – it’s not about this weekend it’s about sustainability long term, but I’m pleased with the start.” I hear that! I hear both the Sistas. But hear this: I have to keep it One-Hundred with y’all. And I’m willing to bet that OWN might in fact be … too diverse.
Again, let me remind you all that I’ve yet to check out the network. But, I am an avid reader of O magazine. I got a peek at the listing of scheduled programming, and I must say there were few faces of color. Am I surprised? No! And this is not to bash Ms. Winfrey- whom I admire, respect & love dearly. However, I’ve seen this trend among African-Americans since the beginning of time. Whether in positions of power, or living one pay check away from a homeless shelter, we tend to open doors, make a way & provide opportunities for others before our own. Why? Not sure. But I’d be lying if I denied that it irks me to no end. I’m not saying that we should not lend a helping hand to “others,” but just like “others” our loyalties should lay with one another. So, instead of telling Ms. Winfrey to make the network more “diverse,” I’d tell her to add more black to it. Yes, that’s what I said.
Back in the day we’d watch TV & not see enough folk who looked like us. We attributed it to the fact that the deficit of us working behind the scenes was reflective of us working in front of the scenes. But now- with a few more of us writing our own tickets in the executive departments- the focus has shifted from providing for our own, to opening the doors to create this “diverse”, “multicultural”, “all inclusive” utopia, which in turn leaves “us’ out, which places us right back where we started- broke, left-out & forgotten. Many of us- in 2011- still feel as though the coffee wont sell without any “cream.” I beg to differ. In 2005 when Tyler Perry’s Diary Of A Mad Black Woman hit theatres, white folks didn’t know what to make of it. They didn’t understand it, they criticized it, & dismissed it. But what they didn’t know was that he had a following from the days when his plays were on the “chitlin circuit,” & black folks were coming to support regardless. The film debuted at #1 raking in $21,905,089. All that green straight out of the pockets of blacks. Therefore, I do not subscribe to the theory that you cannot earn money appealing to your own. So you can run & tell that!
And this goes beyond TV, Entertainment, etc. On occasions when I have free time, I like to stroll through my borough of Brooklyn, & just check out how the other communities are getting along. And as diverse as “The Brook” is, I see neighborhoods divvied up by different cultures & ethnicities. And, not to imply that any of these groups of people are racist or prejudice, but they do cater to the needs of their own & their people. But the minute we open or create any kind of business, it becomes the “United Nations,” & its African origins are no longer identified. Am I mad at the other cultures for taking care of themselves? No! I’m mad that African-Americans don’t! When your people have been locked out, shut out & kept out for so long, you owe it to them to provide a level playing field once you’re in a position to make a difference.
Now, I know many would say Ms. Johnson has nerve calling out Ms. Winfrey & OWN. BET has not always put its best foot forward in showing the best of what African-Americans have to offer. Some even joke & call the network Black Exploitation Television. And, although I’m not the biggest fan, I do credit BET for providing opportunity & visibility to those who may not have otherwise gotten it. But I want OWN to do the same. I overstand Ms. Winfrey’s audience is CRAZEE diverse, and she wants to stick to the winning formula that has kept her winning since the 80’s. But we all must remember that we stand upon someone’s shoulders. No one is where they are without the sacrifices of others. And, when we lose focus of the struggle- which provided the fuel that propelled us to our current positions of power- then all else is in vain.
Spread Love … It’s The Bklyn Way.