Common, John Legend and the new Black media movement


The best ideas are those that stimulate change, encourage honest communications, and create value for an entire culture and community. A great example of this is Common and John Legend’s Grammy Award-winning song, “Glory.” It is a song so powerful that it seemed to put a healing salve on the injuries inflicted by America’s racist past and present, offering hope for a better tomorrow. It is a song rooted in the tradition of the protest songs of the Civil Rights Movement, songs that triaged our tortured bodies and minds.

Now we must begin to talk about economic triage and the numbers brought in by successful movies like Selma. This movie has encouraged great conversation and shined a light on smart Black people and a great conversation occurred that may not have been as broad as the audience of The Imitiation Game or Birdman but smart Black people did take flight. Nielsen ratings should be used as an empowering tool for others to understand and respect the African American viewing audience. Bounce TV is now getting its Nielsen ratings and many others are able to use it. These numbers are important for us to be able to take the reins of our economic destiny and know our value.

We must question those who are in power, who produce movies and television shows. If the Nielsen ratings suggest that many of the individuals who are watching television are people of color, and if the sponsors who are buying advertising based upon television ratings know that African American companies, television producers, movie producers and ad agencies are doing a phenomenal job, then the economic opportunities should be accrue to us. When we are ignored at awards shows, the value of those awards shows depreciates. Racism is a tax upon society.

The power of understanding the numbers is on us. We shouldn’t abdicate our responsibility when a qualified company like Nielsen is giving us information and allowing us to understand our value. Our value to ourselves must mean that we understand that we are shareholders and have the ability and the collective size to begin to demand a larger share of the economic pie.

Kudos to Oprah, the entire cast of Selma and our beloved Ava DuVernay for continuing to fight the good fight, even when faced with racism, and lack of support from the industry. They made us proud, not only for being nominated for an Oscar for Best Picture, but also for producing a film with brilliant Black characters. For those who question the ability of a creative talent like DuVernay, her genius is understanding that you can start one place in life but you can create a conversation with God and Martin Luther King Jr. without the permission of a particular industry or a set of critics.

We all must use that approach to think about how we are informing the community about the impact we are making in this industry.

“The Black Power movement in the ’60s and ’70s led to meaningful and historical changes. The same type of significant and conscious impact is achievable utilizing today’s platforms and tools.” –Cheryl Pearson-McNeil, Nielsen’s senior vice president, strategic community alliance and consumer engagement.

So it’s time for us to understand that change means continuing to use our power to build a better society by doing our utmost to create economic opportunities for our community.


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