Monday Open Thread |Black Women on Television: Shonda Rhimes, Kerry Washington, Viola Davis

You can’t talk about Black Women in Television in 2015 without talking about Shonda Rhimes, Kerry Washington, and Viola Davis. Rhimes, through her typewriter, has brought forth many interesting characters none moreso than Olivia Pope and Annalise Keating.
Olivia and Annalise are complicated, complex Black women. Not the long suffering angels…..but, smart, beautiful, complex Black women with all sorts of flaws that make them oh-so-human.


shonda rhimes-1

The mastermind behind Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and How to Get Away With Murder, Shonda Rhimes is the most powerful person making TV right now. On the eve of her first book, Year of Yes—an account of the transformative year she spent saying just that (out November 10)— she sits down with ELLE Editor-in-Chief Robbie Myers to talk about creating 3-D characters, TV with a point of view, and complicated endings.
SEP 23, 2015 @ 2:12 PM

Rhimes, 45, grew up in Chicago—her father was a professor (he was the CIO at the University of Southern California); her mother earned a PhD in educational administration after raising six children. Graduating from Dartmouth (where she gave a rousing commencement address last year), Rhimes found her way to film school at USC and, eventually, to one scriptwriting success after another. Grey’s Anatomy earned her a Golden Globe for best TV drama in 2007—the same year she made Time magazine’s hot 100 list; and she recently completed a trifecta of awards from the Writers, Producers, and Directors Guilds of America.

Rhimes’s production company is one of the few left in Hollywood that can still make appointment television. It’s more monarchy than nation-state (I mean, it’s called Shondaland, after all), with Rhimes firmly in charge—her mind constantly churning not just with the details of running a corporation that employs more than 550 people (actors, writers, directors, makeup artists, camera operators…) but also with each of her characters’ stories and how they intersect with the defining issues of our time: racism, sexism, politics, war, and economic inequality among them. But Rhimes’s shows are never nakedly polemical. They’re sexy, frank, funny, touching, dramatic, talky, action-packed, and, above all, character-driven. The mere fact of Shondaland, and Rhimes’s ability to front television’s biggest shows starring complex, conflicted women, is, in the annals of the medium, downright revolutionary. She and I met at Katsuya restaurant in L.A. for an hours-long conversation that covered all manner of topics, including her upcoming show The Catch, premiering in 2016. A conversation that, at the end, felt like it was just getting started.

shonda rhimes-2

ROBBIE MYERS: You’ve talked about what you do with your work and the idea of “normalizing”—of getting rid of the idea of the “other.”

SHONDA RHIMES: The entire world is skewed from the white male perspective. If you’re a woman, they have to say it’s a female-driven comedy. If it’s a comedy with Latinos in it, it’s a Latino comedy. “Normal” is white male, and I find that to be shocking and ridiculous.

shonda rhimes-3

RM: I’m so interested in what I’ll call the Michael Brown episode of Scandal, where Marcus says to Olivia, “Your black card’s not getting validated today.” I thought, Wow, I’ve never heard that on TV. But it does bring up the idea—and people will be talking about this a lot now that we’re in an election cycle—that there’s a monolithic black community. It’s the same thing for women—”the women’s vote,” as if….

SR: That episode was very interesting for us because Zahir McGhee, whose name is on the episode, [and] I basically wrote it together. He really did a good job with it, but [we] couldn’t be from more different worlds: He wanted Marcus to have attended a black college, and I didn’t want him to—I thought it meant something different. It was just a giant battle that we waged about every detail because [McGhee] was a young black man from Baltimore, and I grew up a lot like Olivia Pope. I was trying to explain to him, There is this weird belief from people on the outside and from people in black communities that there is only one way to be black. And I say it in the writers’ room all the time: My Black Is Not Your Black. What’s terrifying is that, just the same way we’ve all accepted that normal is white, everybody seems to buy into the idea that there’s only one way to be black or one way to be Hispanic. That’s as damaging as anything else.

21 Mar 2015, Los Angeles, California, USA --- Arrivals for GLAAD Media Awards held at The Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, California. Pictured: Shonda Rhimes --- Image by © Splash News/Splash News/Corbis

21 Mar 2015, Los Angeles, California, USA — Arrivals for GLAAD Media Awards held at The Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, California. Pictured: Shonda Rhimes — Image by © Splash News/Splash News/Corbis

RM: With that episode [in which a 17-year-old black man is killed by a white cop], you responded almost in real time.

SR: That’s what was both heartbreaking and ironically, sadly, fortuitous. I woke up knowing that we were going to go write “The Lawn Chair” after Ferguson. I watched that coverage and was horrified. I woke up the next morning with this image of this man, of a lawn chair and a shotgun and a child underneath him. The episode came out of that. We shot that episode in October or November. I remember thinking, This is going to feel dated when it comes out. And then the police just kept killing black men. Literally the [day before] it aired, they released the Ferguson Report, and it was worse than the press had ever thought.


RM: The episode of Murder where Viola [Davis] takes off the wig and her makeup attracted a lot of commentary. She’s said that for her it’s about showing the messes. But I don’t think that there’s a woman who watched that show who didn’t identify with the two me’s.

SR: The woman you are in public—the two faces.

RM: Do you feel like one of those women is more authentic than the other?

SR: I don’t know. I feel like it was, to me, the most iconic feminist moment I’ve ever seen on television. She pitched it when we were trying to get her to do this series, and I thought, Wow. I feel like, for Viola, one is more real than the other. For [Annalise], it was the mask she presents to society, and the person she’s been trying to hide all this time.

RM: There was a lot written about when she took off the wig, and that there was yet another layer there for many black women.…

SR: We heard from a lot of women about that. Hair is so complex. Literally. There is an assumption about the hair that Olivia Pope had when she was lying on the beach last season, like: “Oh, why couldn’t she be as real?” I was like, She is. That’s how Kerry’s hair looks when she doesn’t blow-dry it! Every woman looks different. My black is not your black. Viola was very clear about this: I’m a dark-skinned woman with a dark-skinned woman’s hair, and that woman is never revealed on television—that kind of hair is never revealed. And I think that was a powerful moment. I’ve never seen that kind of woman get to exist on network television and get to be three-dimensional and have someone love her.

shonda rhimes-6


RM: People ask you, Why does Olivia only go out with white guys? She doesn’t, but she is in love with the president.

SR: She is in love with the white, Republican president. She is in love with the man her father could not be more unlike. And that is what Rowan has been railing against. If you take it to its bare bones, metaphor scrubbed away, she is in love with the thing that her black father, who grew up in the 1950s and ’60s, could not be more disgusted by.

shonda rhimes-5

RM: That relationship is really intense and complicated.

SR: It’s very Shakespearean. I’m kind of obsessed with it. [For] their first big scene together in that airplane hangar, I wrote this draft, and everybody read it and they were like, “This is crazy! Nobody behaves this way!” I said this to the writers’ room: When Olivia’s father shows up, blackness shows up. All of the enraged black people who are watching this show, they show up with Rowan. He’s pissed off. He’s very disappointed in his daughter. He has raised her to be somebody completely different. He’s been [working for a secret spy agency], but from his perspective, he’s a very good guy doing the best he can and trying to get her on the right road. I have great love for him; I think he’s a very interesting character.

RM: I do too. And the actor.

SR: Joe Morton is amazing. That character wouldn’t be that character if he weren’t played that way by Joe Morton.

Continue reading

Posted in African Americans, Black History, Culture, Open Thread, Politics, TV Shows | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sunday Open Thread | Black Women in Television: Phylicia Rashad as Clair Huxtable

Clair Huxtable was smart, well educated, beautiful, put together, a loving wife and mother who didn’t take any mess.
Simply put, I loved her.


Phylicia Rashad-3

Phylicia Rashad (born Phylicia Ayers-Allen; June 19, 1948) is an American actress, singer and stage director, best known for her role as Clair Huxtable on the long-running NBC sitcom The Cosby Show. She was nominated for an Emmy Award for this role in 1985 and 1986.

In 2004, Rashad became the first African-American actress to win the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play, which she won for her role in the revival of A Raisin in the Sun.[1][2] She resumed the role in the 2008 television adaptation of A Raisin in the Sun, which earned her the 2009 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special. Rashad was dubbed “The Mother” of the African-American community at the 42nd NAACP Image Awards.

Early life[edit]
Rashad was born Phylicia Ayers-Allen in Houston, Texas. Her mother, Vivian Ayers, was a Pulitzer Prize-nominated artist, poet, playwright, scholar, and publisher. Her father, Andrew Arthur Allen, (d. 1984), was an orthodontist.[3][4] Rashad’s siblings are jazz-musician brother Tex (Andrew Arthur Allen, Jr., born 1945), sister Debbie Allen (born 1950), an actress, choreographer, and director, and brother Hugh Allen (a real estate banker in North Carolina). While Rashad was growing up, her family moved to Mexico, and as a result, Rashad speaks Spanish fluently.

Rashad studied at Howard University, graduating magna cum laude in 1970 with a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts. She is also a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. She was initiated into the Alpha chapter during her tenure at Howard University.[5]

Phylicia Rashad-4

Continue reading

Posted in African Americans, Black History, Culture, Open Thread, Politics, TV Shows | Tagged , , , , , , | 41 Comments

RIP to Cynthia Robinson of Sly & the Family Stone

Cynthia Robison Sly and the Family StoneCynthia Robinson, whose brassy, forthright trumpet lit up Sly and the Family Stone songs such as “Dance to the Music,” “Life” and “Hot Fun in the Summertime,” died Monday, the band’s publicist confirmed. She was 71.

The cause of death was cancer, according to a post on her Facebook page.

“Friends, Family and Fans throughout the world, Cynthia Robinson, Trumpeter and Co-Founder of Sly and The Family Stone has passed,” the post read. “Our condolences go out to the Robinson Family and her bandmates and all family & friends.”

Robinson cut a distinctive figure in rock ‘n’ roll, even among the distinctive, multiethnic clan that made up Sly and the Family Stone. She was a female trumpeter, a position that set her apart, especially in the late ’60s and early ’70s when Sly and the Family Stone was one of the dominant groups in pop music.

And her voice was unmistakable. That’s her you hear saying, “Get up and dance to the music” in the opening of “Dance to the Music.”

Sly And The Family Stone’s High Priestess Of Funk Cynthia Robinson

Cynthia Robinson stood out in a band in which every member stood out. She was a funky high priestess wielding a trumpet like a thaumaturgic ramsinga. And she wore a crown, a black afro, that was epic in its sculpted glory. Her presence was majestic. She was one of the first black women trumpet players in a rock band and set the tone for others to follow. But beyond the music, Robinson was commanding figure, not content to stay in the shadows. She was the one that implored us to “get up and dance to the music” and showed us how it was done. Robinson died of cancer this past Monday.

When learning of Robinson’s death, Roots drummer Questlove wrote…

… she wasn’t just a screaming cheerleading foil to Sly & Freddie’s gospel vocals. She was a KICK ASS trumpet player. A crucial intricate part of Sly Stone’s utopian vision of MLK’s America. Cynthia’s role in music history isn’t celebrated enough. Her & sister Rose weren’t just pretty accessories there to “coo” & “shoo wop shoo bob” while the boys got the glory. Naw. They took names and kicked ass while you were dancing in the aisle. Much respect to amazing CynthiaRobinson.

Posted in Current Events, Dance, Music, News, Open Thread, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

Saturday Open Thread | Black Women in Television: Nichelle Nichols

Nichelle Nichols brought an entire new view of Black women with her portrayal of Lieutenant Uhura. Yes, Black women would be in the future – and they would be competent, professional and a vital participant.




Nichelle Nichols-1

Nichelle Nichols (born Grace Dell Nichols on December 28, 1932) is an American actress, singer and voice artist. She sang with Duke Ellington and Lionel Hampton before turning to acting. Her most famous role is that of communications officer Lieutenant Uhura aboard the USS Enterprise in the popular Star Trek television series (1966–1969), as well as the succeeding motion pictures, where her character was eventually promoted in Starfleet to the rank of commander. Multiple novel series have stated that she rose to at least Captain.

Nichols’ Star Trek character, one of the first African American female characters on American television not portrayed as a servant,[1] was groundbreaking in U.S. society at the time. Civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. personally praised her work on the show and asked her to remain when she considered leaving the series.[1][2]



Nichelle Nichols-2

Star Trek[edit]

Nichols as Lieutenant Uhura
On Star Trek, Nichols gained popular recognition by being one of the first black women featured in a major television series not portraying a servant; her prominent supporting role as a bridge officer was unprecedented. During the first year of the series, Nichols was tempted to leave the series, as she wanted to pursue a Broadway career; however, a conversation with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., changed her mind. She has said that King personally encouraged her to stay on the show, telling her that he was a big fan of the series. He said she “could not give up” because she was playing a vital role model for black children and young women across the country, as well as for other children who would see blacks appearing as equals.[1][2][9][10] It is also often reported that Dr. King added that “Once that door is opened by someone, no one else can close it again.”[citation needed]

Former NASA astronaut Mae Jemison has cited Nichols’ role of Lieutenant Uhura as her inspiration for wanting to become an astronaut and Whoopi Goldberg has also spoken of Nichols’ influence.[11] Goldberg asked for a role on Star Trek: The Next Generation,[12] and the character of Guinan was specially created, while Jemison appeared in an episode of the series.

In her role as Lieutenant Uhura, Nichols famously kissed white actor William Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk in the November 22, 1968, Star Trek episode “Plato’s Stepchildren”. The episode is popularly cited as the first example of an interracial kiss on U.S. television.[13][14][15] The Shatner-Nichols kiss was seen as groundbreaking, even though it was portrayed as having been forced by alien telekinesis. There was some praise and some protest. On page 197 of her 1994 autobiography Beyond Uhura, Star Trek and Other Memories, Nichols cites a letter from a white Southerner who wrote, “I am totally opposed to the mixing of the races. However, any time a red-blooded American boy like Captain Kirk gets a beautiful dame in his arms that looks like Uhura, he ain’t gonna fight it.” During the Comedy Central Roast of Shatner on August 20, 2006, Nichols jokingly referred to the kiss and said, “Let’s make TV history again—and you can kiss my black ass!”

Despite the cancellation of the series in 1969, Star Trek lived on in other ways, and continued to play a part in Nichols’ life. She again provided the voice of Uhura in Star Trek: The Animated Series; in one episode, “The Lorelei Signal”, Uhura assumes command of the Enterprise. Nichols noted in her autobiography her frustration that this never happened in the original series. Nichols has co-starred in six Star Trek motion pictures, the last one being Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.



Continue reading

Posted in Black History, Culture, Open Thread, Politics, TV Shows | Tagged , , , , , | 36 Comments

Planned Parenthood Shooting

Planned Parenthood shooterColorado Springs, Colorado– An active shooter was reported at the Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs Friday morning.

According to CBS Denver, Reports were first heard at 11:45 a.m. of a shooter at 3480 Centennial Boulevard.

One officer was shot in the hand, and three total were injured, reported by an officer an on scene.

Update: Gunman in custody.

UPDATED 5:03 p.m. EST | The Colorado Springs Gazette reports that nine shooting victims have been taken to area hospitals.

Posted in Current Events, Domestic Terrorism, News, Open Thread | Tagged , , , , | 49 Comments

Friday Open Thread | Black Women in Television: Oprah Winfrey

Cannot talk about Black women in television without mentioning Oprah Winfrey. I doubt that when she took the AM Chicago talk show gig that she could have believed that she would become OPRAH WINFREY.

Oprah created an entire new book on what it means to be Black and on television.


Oprah Winfrey-1

Oprah Gail Winfrey (born January 29, 1954) is an American media proprietor, talk show host, actress, producer, and philanthropist.[1] Winfrey is best known for her talk show The Oprah Winfrey Show, which was the highest-rated program of its kind in history and was nationally syndicated from 1986 to 2011.[5] Dubbed the “Queen of All Media”,[6] she has been ranked the richest African-American of the 20th century,[7] the greatest black philanthropist in American history,[8][9] and is currently (2015) North America’s only black billionaire.[10] Several assessments regard her as the most influential woman in the world.[11][12] In 2013, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama[13] and honorary doctorate degrees from Duke and Harvard.[14][15]

Winfrey was born into poverty in rural Mississippi to a teenage single mother and later raised in an inner-city Milwaukee neighborhood. She experienced considerable hardship during her childhood, saying she was raped at age nine and became pregnant at 14; her son died in infancy.[16] Sent to live with the man she calls her father, a barber in Tennessee, Winfrey landed a job in radio while still in high school and began co-anchoring the local evening news at the age of 19. Her emotional ad-lib delivery eventually got her transferred to the daytime-talk-show arena, and after boosting a third-rated local Chicago talk show to first place,[17] she launched her own production company and became internationally syndicated.

Credited with creating a more intimate confessional form of media communication,[18] she is thought to have popularized and revolutionized[18][19] the tabloid talk show genre pioneered by Phil Donahue,[18] which a Yale study says broke 20th-century taboos and allowed LGBT people to enter the mainstream.[20][21] By the mid-1990s she had reinvented her show with a focus on literature, self-improvement, and spirituality. Though criticized for unleashing a confession culture, promoting controversial self-help ideas,[22] and an emotion-centered approach,[23] she is often praised for overcoming adversity to become a benefactor to others.[24] From 2006 to 2008, her support of Barack Obama, by one estimate, delivered over a million votes in the close 2008 Democratic primary race.[25]

Oprah Winfrey-2

Continue reading

Posted in African Americans, Black History, Culture, Open Thread, Politics, TV Shows | Tagged , , , , , | 23 Comments

Thursday Open Thread: HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

To everyone and their families from all of us at 3CHICS:



Family Eating Thanksgiving Dinner --- Image by © Larry Williams/CORBIS

Family Eating Thanksgiving Dinner — Image by © Larry Williams/CORBIS

Posted in Celebrations, Open Thread | Tagged , , | 57 Comments