In March 2014, 12 Black women writers assembled at the inaugural meeting of what is now known today as, Black Women Who Brunch. Since then, the group has grown and is now comprised of nearly 80 members.
Founded by Nkechi Okoro Carroll, Lena Waithe and Erika L. Johnson, each of these artists shared a vision to create a network for Black female TV writers.
62 black female television writers gathered at Quixote Studios in November for The Hollywood Reporter’s largest-ever group photoshoot.
The photoshoot was a colorful, bold and empowering visual declaration that there are indeed Black women writers working hard behind the scenes to produce and deliver some of your favorite stories to the small screen.
When THR interviewed some of the writers, however, many of the writers described how there is still a lot of work that needs to be done within the industry.
Most agreed that many women of color hold low-level jobs, noting that the incentive for promotion as well as occupying an upper-level writing position is limited for writers of color.
In their interviews with THR, women identified the institutional barriers for writers of color and revealed what they wish their colleagues and the public knew about being a black woman in the writer’s room and in the entertainment business.
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Co-producer, for the hit Netflix series, GLOW, Marquita J. Robinson, says writers of color have to continually challenge an assumption of mediocrity, asserting,
“We have such little room for error. We have to be exceptional.”
Some noted how being the only woman and person of color in the room leaves one feeling that they have to represent the perspective of a whole population or demographic. When interviewed by THR, Franki Butler, a story editor for an upcoming Netflix series, talked about that burden, stating,
“Having other POC in the room takes the burden of being The Minority Perspective off of my shoulders. I’ve been in rooms with upper-level POC writers, and that was incredibly important…when there’s someone on a higher level who can back your play, it turns into an actual discussion.”
Executive story editor, A.P. Bio (NBC) Britt Matt, revealed that there is a pressure to align with an employer’s idea of you and fight against the assumption that Black people are a monolithic group.
“Before anyone even reads your material, you’re often already placed in a box or categorized based on your race and gender. Some showrunners won’t read you unless they’re looking for a writer that fits your demographic.”
Others pointed to how one’s experience is always devalued and not validated in comparison to their non-minority peers.
Nonetheless, what is clear, is that every single one of these women is full of valuable stories, experiences and opinions to share and are needed in every creative and collaborative space.