Comcast NBCUniversal Celebrates “Black Women Behind the Scenes” in New Video Series

By Keesha Boyd Executive Director of Multicultural Services at Comcast
Feb 22, 2017 12:40 PM ET

Growing up in the 80s and 90s, there were just a few shows and films whose lead characters reflected who I was and who I aspired to be. The quirky yet relatable coming of age stories of A Different World’s Denise Huxtable, played by Lisa Bonet, offered a fresh perspective that television had not seen before. The ratings soared, and the show was a hit. But even more importantly, I saw myself and my potential in Denise’s stories -- in the depiction of her black college life, in the clothing she wore, and in her cultural background.

In some ways, my transformative moment is somewhat typical. I'm sure many other young black girls like myself recognized our many possibilities by watching this positive example on television that was created, written by, directed and starred in by women of color. Today with the success of shows like Blackish and movies like Hidden Figures featuring more black women as leads, a focus has been placed on creating diversity in front of the camera. Although films of color are finally receiving deserved awards and Oscar nods, it’s still very rare to see recognition for the women with non-acting roles. In fact, it wasn’t until this year that a black woman -- Joi McMillon for Moonlight -- was nominated in the film editing category.

In my role at a company that is both a creator and distributor of content, I pay close attention to these trends and ultimately look at what’s meaningful and important to consumers. To that end, we wanted to recognize the women of color who work behind the scenes to contribute to these brilliant movies and shows. And so we’ve launched the “Black Women Behind the Scenes” video series for Xfinity TV customers as part of this year’s Black History Month celebration. The series features a curated group of women as diverse as the stories they tell: from fearless stuntwomen like Valisa Tate to those creating new spaces in web content like Franchesca “Chescaleigh” Ramsey.

The contributions of black women are often overlooked both at the time of their achievement, as well as in the writing of history. We must shine a spotlight on the diverse, female voices that contribute to our culture -- the directors, writers, producers, show runners and camera operators. As Hollywood begins to reflect more diversity, there is a heightened curiosity to discover who is telling these rich and complex stories of characters that look different from the faces that have been predominantly displayed on screens for years. While these stories are used for entertainment purposes, they also shift and shape our perspectives on one another, breaking down barriers and pushing our commonality to the forefront.

Black history and women’s history is American history, which is why we all must continue to promote the visibility of talented filmmakers and storytellers and invest in young talent in a powerful way. For every accomplished woman like Shonda Rhimes and Ava Duvernay, there is an aspiring screenwriter or director who can now believe in herself even more because of the women behind the top-billed shows such as InsecureScandal and How to Get Away With Murder. But there is room for more. A recent study conducted by San Diego State University’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film reported that in 2016, women only accounted for 17% of all writers, directors, producers, editors and cinematographers working on the top 250 domestic grossing films. By sharing the insider perspectives and triumphant successes of these black women behind the scenes, we hope to encourage even more women of color and women generally to celebrate their self-worth and pursue careers in film, television and media.

We’re at a critical time in history where women are using their strong voices to solidify their integral roles in business, social good, and in their personal lives. Since young girls are exposed to media and digital content constantly, the time is now to highlight and celebrate the women who are making significant contributions to the creative community, especially in the film and television industry.

Black history month does not always have to be about the past. Its legacy can be about history in the making -- and about a future that is very much diverse and female.

Follow Keesha on Twitter @thekeeshab

Read Keesha’s article here.