I will never forget when the “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” trailer came on the screen as we sat waiting to see a movie at the theater, and my son leaned over to say in my ear: “Look, Mom! He’s Spider-Man and he looks like me!” He had a similar reaction when we went to see Black Panther. I didn’t realize how much representation in media matters until we actually got some; I honestly hadn’t even been aware of the fact that we didn’t have it before. I was so accustomed to super heroes and tv shoes having all-white or mostly-white casts, I didn’t even recognize it as an issue!
As I’ve started to become more intentional about buying black and supporting black businesses, I have become more intentional about the media my children are exposed to, and want to make sure they feel represented. As opposed to racially ambiguous casts or mostly-white casts with one or two token black characters, I wanted to genuinely find shows with black characters and families. In addition to the two motion pictures already mentioned, here are a few tv shows I’ve found and/or been reminded of along the way!
Motown Magic can be found on Netflix. I love this show because everyone in my family can enjoy it! Each episode is centered around this black family (particularly the young boy) solving a problem based on different Motown-era songs, such as “Heard it through the Grapevine” and “Superstition”. Every weekend while we’re cleaning, cooking breakfast, or just getting ready for the day, my husband and I blast old-school R&B tunes throughout the house, so our kids are no stranger to this genre of music and this one is right up our alley.
Esme and Roy is on HBO MAX. It’s a Canadian-based cartoon about a young black girl and her pet monster. I love this one because it has a social emotional aspect. She teaches skills like self-control, positive self-talk, and breathing techniques. (As a former school social worker, I LIVE for their belly breathing song!) Any show that encourages their characters to identify and work through their feelings is a win for me!
A friend of mine told me about Craig of the Creek, which can be found on Cartoon Network. This show follows an imaginative little boy through his adventures with his friends around his neighborhood, which is near a (you guessed it) creek! Craig is the middle child with the too-cool-for-school older brother and annoying-and-meddling little sister. This one is definitely more appealing to my 13 year old boy, than it is to my baby girl. I probably would recommend this to elementary age kids or preteens. My son thinks it’s hilarious!
Let’s not forget about good ole The Proud Family. So many of my friends couldn’t wait for this cartoon to hit Disney+, so we could bask in the nostalgia. I actually watch this one without my kids (sorry not sorry!) and it’s still as funny as it was when I was in 6th grade. Between Sugamama roasting Dad, the twins torturing that poor puppy, and Penny Proud learning valuable life lessons every single episodes, it’s bound to provide you and the family with some much-needed comedic relief!
A few other shows you may want to check out are Little Bill and Gullah Gullah Island (both from Nickelodeon in the mid-nineties), which can be purchased on Amazon Prime Video for under $6.99 and $11.99 per season, respectively.
Are there any other TV shows that your little ones watch that have all black characters and/or families? I’d love to add to our playlist!