Would you be surprised to hear that the first Disney Channel cartoon with a Black female lead didn’t air until 2012?
Doc McStuffins features an imaginative Black girl who uses her magic stethoscope to bring her toys to life. Over a decade since then, the amount of Black representation in children’s media has barely budged. Still, less than 6% of kid's cartoons contain Black characters.
The first depictions of Black people in media and entertainment were specifically created to dehumanize us.
Minstrel shows and Black face perpetuate stereotypes that have had a lasting impact. According to Common Sense Media, scripted television disproportionately portrays Black characters as inept and undesirable. In 2021, about half of Black television characters did not hold any professional status.
(source: National Museum of African American History & Culture)
Current media is not doing what it needs to in order to represent children. Media exposure is crucial to child development and the absence of empowering media early in life is devastating.
According to the same Common Sense report, negative stereotyping in the media lowers academic performance among Black students through high school. On the flip side, the report states that Black children who are exposed to positive media representation experience higher levels of self-esteem and self-concept.
Some of our very first experiences with media are books.
It's vital that kids have access to books with characters whom they can look up to. With less than 12% of children’s books containing Black characters, that leaves very few examples of inspiring characters for young Black children to identify with.
Ava & Mae do just that. This series is one of few that depict Black girls in powerful business roles. Ava & Mae convey leadership, perseverance, and the power of teamwork through the projects and adventures they embark on.
For years, the written and digital media has not given Black children what they deserve. Looking Lens exists so that Black & Brown children see themselves as the powerful protagonists that they are.
To learn more about Looking Lens and the Ava & Mae series, sign up for our newsletter at www.lookinglens.co or follow me on social media @booksbybrittd.