A recent press conference took a serious turn on Saturday when Jazmine Fenlator-Victorian, one of three teammates on Jamaica’s first female bobsled team in the winter games, visibly choked up over the issue of minority representation in the public eye.
“It’s important to me that little girls and boys see someone that looks like them, talks like them, has the same culture as them, has crazy curly hair and wears it natural, has brown skin, included in different things in this world,” she shared. “When you grow up and you don’t see that, you feel like you can’t do it. And that is not right.”
Since Jazmine made her short but powerful statement, the video clip has received over 2K likes on Twitter and a ton of positive support.
For several years, #RepresentationMatters has been an attention-garnering hashtag on social media, calling for more film roles, both on- and off-screen, to feature people of color in positive, leading roles — including characters in books and children’s animated television shows.
I know firsthand that when my own four kids — who are are black — look to the media, they often don’t see themselves represented. And rarely are they represented accurately. Far too often, I see people of color cast as “cool sidekicks” or villains. Or, they’re stereotyped as “street smart.”
And that’s why I feel the upcoming movie Black Panther is so critically important. For the very first time, the superhero is a black man, and almost all of the film’s other characters — not to mention, the director — are also people of color. (In fact, if you want tickets for opening weekend, good luck.)
Jazmine echoed these sentiments, sharing how meaningful it is for a little boy or girl to see someone who shares their brown skin, curly hair, and brown eyes in a position of power, prestige, and respect. Whether that person be one of fantasy or reality, #RepresentationMatters, well, matters.
Thankfully, times are slowly changing. In 2009, Disney made history with Tiana, their first black princess, in the film The Princess and the Frog. Then in 2012, history was made again when Doc McStuffins debuted on Disney Junior, a show about a young black girl who takes care of her toys. When rumors circulated that the show was going to be cancelled, W. Kamau Bell, comedian and documentary host, started a Twitter campaign entitled #RenewDocMcStuffins which ultimately led to the show continuing.
It’s 2018, and finally melanin-rich children like mine are beginning to see themselves reflected more and more often. But the diversity is not just good for my kids and others like them. Representation of people of color normalizes and celebrates diversity for all children, for every little boy and girl who watches television, enjoys a book, or relishes in the magic of a movie.
For families who are currently enjoying watching the 2018 winter games, the female Jamaican bobsled team is making history in front of our eyes. They are, as another trending hashtag expresses, #UnapologeticallyBlack. The team is comprised of living, breathing trailblazers — strong women of color who are leaving us in awe of their abilities.
And this is altogether beautiful, important, and hopeful.