Black artists aren’t just making great entertainment—they’re making history. From blockbuster films like “Black Panther” and Disney’s “Soul” to captivating TV series such as “Atlanta” and “Insecure”, the entertainment industry has made important strides toward increasing Black representation over the last decade – and the work continues.
Why it matters: There is power in conveying diverse stories and images through film and television – they can open our eyes to new experiences and perspectives, combat inaccurate beliefs and perceptions, and celebrate our differences.
Black History Month serves as an important reminder to honor the contributions of Black Americans throughout the entertainment industry. Here are five Black artists who are creating new paths – both in front and behind the camera:
1. Blitz Bazawule
Originally from Ghana, Blitz Bazawule is a multi-faceted creator with a passion for African films made by African filmmakers.
- Claims to Fame: Bazawule’s 2018 directorial debut, “The Burial of Kojo,” was the first Ghanian film ever to be considered for a Golden Globe nomination. He went on to co-direct Beyoncé’s Disney+ visual album “Black Is King,” which was nominated for Best Music Film at the 2021 GRAMMY Awards.
- What’s Next: Bazawule just wrapped directing a film adaptation of the Tony-winning Broadway musical “The Color Purple” – set for release in December 2023.
2. Carla Banks-Waddles
A Detroit native, Carla Banks-Waddles’ mission is to tell stories that feel authentic and real to who she is as a Black person in America. And that’s exactly what she has done for more than 20 years as a TV writer in Hollywood.
- Claims to Fame: Banks-Waddles has written and produced over a dozen TV shows including “That’s So Raven,” “Half & Half,” and “Good Girls” – while also finding the time to mentor the next generation of TV writers at Northwestern University.
- What’s Next: As the current showrunner and executive producer on “Bel-Air,” Banks-Waddles is gearing up for its second season to premiere in February 2023.
3. Halle Bailey
From the concert stage to the cinema, 22-year-old Halle Bailey strives to provide young Black girls the ability to see themselves represented on screen – even if that means breaking down some barriers.
- Claims to Fame: Bailey got her start as one-half of the Grammy-nominated music duo Chloe x Halle. She went on to be a series regular on “Grown-ish,” leading to a nomination at the 2020 NAACP Image Awards.
- What’s Next: Bailey has been busy with two blockbuster movies on the way. First, she’ll be making waves as the new face of the beloved character, Ariel, in Disney’s live-action remake of “The Little Mermaid”. Set to premiere in May 2023, Bailey’s Ariel will mark the first live-action Black princess from Disney. Then, later in the year she will appear in The Color Purple.
4. Jabari Banks
For Hollywood newcomer Jabari Banks, proper representation for his people “is everything” – especially for kids growing up.
- Claims to Fame: Like the character he plays in the dramatized reboot of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” Jabari Banks was born and raised in West Philadelphia. In Peacock’s reimagined “Bel-Air,” Banks and the rest of the cast tackle race, class, and police brutality with intelligence and style.
- What’s Next: Banks is gearing up to return as Will in the second season of “Bel-Air” – set to premiere in February 2023.
5. Nia DaCosta
Nia DaCosta is a major force in the burgeoning genre of Black horror. As one of the few Black women behind the lens in Hollywood’s mainstream, she recognizes how film can bring stories to life that provide impact on a social level.
- Claims to Fame: DaCosta’s 2021 reboot of the classic horror film “Candyman” became the first film by a Black female director to debut at #1 in the United States.
- What’s Next: DaCosta will soon step into the superhero genre, becoming the first Black female to direct a Marvel movie. “The Marvels” is set to release in July 2023.
Whether on screen or behind the scenes, the entertainment industry can influence, honor, and reflect society, and this is why diversity and representation will always matter. To learn more about how film and TV supports our goal of greater diversity, equity, and inclusion, click here.