“Scandal” Makes History

Television makes history this week with the premiere of the new ABC series, Scandal. Thirty-seven years after the first hour-long primetime dramatic series with an African-American woman in the lead role aired on television, ABC does it again. In 1974, Teresa Graves starred as policewoman Christie Love on ABC’s short-lived Get Christie Love. Now the network is moving forward and making history with Shonda Rhimes’ latest drama starring Kerry Washington as DC fixer Olivia Pope. It is the fourth hour-long drama with a black woman in the lead including two cable shows, TNT’s HawthoRNe produced and starring Jada Pinkett Smith and HBO’s The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency starring Jill Scott.

When Scandal debuts on April 5, it comes with a few firsts. It will be the first dramatic network television series written and produced by an African-American woman for an African-American woman in the lead role. Another first is the show’s inspiration, Judy Smith, Washington, D.C. crisis communications pro, co-executive producer of the show, and a beautiful living role model. Still, little overshadows that in 2012—62 years after Ethel Waters starred as the first African-American on network TV in the ABC sitcom Beulah—too few black women play dramatic leads on television.

TV has neither been generous nor diverse when it comes to casting African-American actresses. In TV history, most roles for black actresses lean towards comedy and away from drama. There seem to be more roles for black women playing the help than playing women who hire them.

Since 1944, when regular network broadcasting began on NBC, the television industry has undergone revolutionary changes. But for African-American actresses, winning roles remains a challenge and too often revolves around the same choices. The advent of cable outlets such as BET, TV One, VH1 and TBS, increased the number, but not necessarily the variety of available roles for black women. Comedy slots are still popular. Reality TV roles rule from Real Housewives of Atlanta to Basketball Wives to shows with women who sing, model, rap or love rappers. Dramatic leads are limited even though unlimited drama defines reality TV.

There have been a few promising moments and roles for black women, mostly as supporting actors in a small number of dramas. Diahann Carroll was the first African-American woman to star in a sitcom, Julia, which debuted on NBC in 1968 and ran for three years. In 1969, two variety shows starred black women: The Leslie Uggams Show that ran less than three months, and The Barbara McNair Show, which aired for three years. African-American women have co-starred in ensemble cast dramas such as Snoops, Brewster PlaceSoul Food, The Game, Undercovers, S. Epatha Merkerson in Law and Order, Alfre Woodard in Memphis Beat, and Taraji P. Henson in Person of Interest and more. Some of the most talented black leading women, including Cicely Tyson, Ruby Dee, Debbi Morgan, and Nichelle Nichols, have been limited to leading supporting roles or guests spots on dramas and fantasy adventure dramas. And, of course, there is rare groundbreaking television with Oprah Winfrey and her long-running, successful syndicated talk show as well as all the upcoming possibilities from OWN.

We all know making history does not make a hit TV show. We watch television to be entertained, to lose ourselves in somebody else’s funny, sad or implausible story. Sometimes those stories are about people who look like us, often they are about people we aspire to be or who should be avoiding. Television is a reflection and respite from our daily grind.

Shonda Rhimes with two long-running, successful shows, Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice, has a track record for producing compelling, well-written dramas. She knows how to capture all the many dimensions of a woman—complexities and simplicities, strengths and struggles, flaws and feistiness. She gets it. She delivers diverse lead roles for women of all colors.

Scandal premieres with a mix of the Shonda Rhimes halo and the glow of Kerry Washington’s stellar acting skills. Together, that combination can change television history by offering a different dimension and revealing an image of black women often visually absent on television and beyond the box. Will viewers tune in to look beyond one-dimensional images of the help, the healers and the heathens and see what leading roles—and the women in them—should look like in the 21st century? Will television push past crawling into making history? Another step is in the works. NBC is developing a drama pilot, Notorious, with Meagan Good in the lead role as a detective. Time will tell if history repeats itself only every 37 years or rapidly plays catch up.


Worthwhile Day

Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Prompt:  What is one thing you can do that would make today worthwhile? What’s stopping you from getting started right now?   (Author: Jessica Dang)

Free Day

Busyness

As one who believes in turning activities into actions and who is always busy, taking a free day is one thing that would make today worthwhile to me.  Unlike a vacation, a free day is an unplanned act of doing anything I want from the time I wake up.   It’s ignoring a schedule.  It’s breaking out of a routine.  It’s time for focusing on what matters to me instead of the matters of others.   And it would be worthwhile because I would take it without feelings of guilt or fear of wasting my time.

In a fast world, we lead busy lives.  It’s evident whether doing good or up to no good. Those with jobs are busy working, those without are busy looking for work and those dangling in the middle are busy worrying about life.   Everyone is busy and much of that busyness is wasting time, waiting for something worthwhile or wishing for someone to make things better.  There are days when I’m doing a lot, moving constantly and going nowhere.  Is it worthwhile?

For me, one free day is worth more than a hundred busy ones.   A random decision to take a single day to relax—think, read, discover newness, satisfy a lingering, or plot a future—is worthwhile.   Do what I want.  No “to do” or “must do” lists.  No guilty burdens.  When the day ends, close my eyes, go to sleep, wake the next day and have no regrets.   I exhale feeling refreshed.

Yesterday is gone.  Today, the  busy “haints” (ghosts) got a hold of me, as old folks say.   I have too much work to do.  Perhaps tomorrow I’ll take that free day.

Ralph Waldo Emerson’s entire quote:

Finish every day and be done with it.
You have done what you could.
Some blunders and absurdities
no doubt have crept in;
forget them as soon as you can.

Tomorrow is a new day;
begin it well and serenely
and with too high a spirit
to be cumbered with
your old nonsense.

This day is all that is
good and fair.
It is too dear,
with its hopes and invitations,
to waste a moment on yesterdays.


Number 1 Passion

Prompt:  Number 1 Passion.  What is your #1 passion in life?  Now, imagine what would happen if you incorporated that passion into your life daily.  Write down your passion and keep it close to you.  Remind yourself of it daily, just like brushing your teeth.  (Author: Eric Handler)    

My Passions 

A book is the only place in which you can examine a fragile thought without breaking it, or explore an explosive idea without fear it will go off in your face.  It is one of the few havens remaining where a man’s mind can get both provocation and privacy.  ~Edward P. Morgan

My loves are a precious few.  My passions are many—people, politics, art, music, and more.  Books are number one on my passion list.   E-books, paperbacks or hardcover, I’m passionate about every type.

Hidden inside each book, all my other passions can be found.  Books introduce me to distant people and places, teach me about the arts, and encourage me to write.   They expose me to new ideas and ancient thoughts that feed my social activism.   Books play a role in my daily duties.  I turn to them for answers to arguments.  They are a source of solace when needed.  I rely on books to inspire when doubt discourages.

A daily dose of a good book kindles my passions.   Those passions push me to move a million obstacles out of the way of progress.  And they encourage me to move forward when I want to stand still.

Energy and Flow

The world belongs to the energetic. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Prompt: It’s easy to blame our failure to meet our goals or to live our dream lives on a lack of energy, and we don’t always stop to think about the quality of energy in our lives. Yet we can choose to create and manage our own energy flow.

Think of an instance when you’ve been so involved in an activity that you’ve lost track of time, and then identify the passions and energies you were feeding.  Who was there with you?  What were you doing?  What will you do to make time for moments like that one more often? (Author: Julia E)

Energy and Flow

Surrounded by books, insightful ideas offered by others, and a desire to do, my energy ignited.   I was writing a creative proposal when flow overpowered me.  My mind’s laziness lifted.  Sleepiness receded.  Fireworks began.  My fingers caught fire moving across the keyboard and a stream of thoughts, ideas and concepts poured out and spilled onto the computer screen.   Silence filled the air.   Time fled.   I was floating on flow.   I was in creative mode.

I completed the proposal.   Energy’s flame flickered out.   Flow seeped away.  Lethargy returned.  My memories of that creative sensation and my work were all that remained.

Energy and flow are illusive.   Where do they come from and where do they go?  They appear suddenly.  Move us to do.  Then disappear as quickly.   There was a time when I waited for energy and flow to show up.   Now, I start with any energy I  have when I need to get things done and keep going until flow catches up.

What Would You Be?

Prompt: If a year from now you weren’t in the profession you’re currently in, what would you be in your wildest dreams? (Author: Ryan Allis)

Pursuing Passions

My preference is project work. By profession, I do strategic communications. Out of pleasure, I reconstruct all my professional work into a series of projects. Why? Projects have beginnings, middles and endings. Forever is nonexistent because projects celebrate the concept of completion. That appeals to me despite my intermittent lapses into procrastination. Therefore, if I no longer had my current profession, the possibility of revisiting several latent projects or looking for something new that I need to do would be nirvana.

There would be advantages. My free will and free time would force me to veer off the known travel route to become a more nomadic entrepreneur. With a supply of latent projects, I would do something versus nothing. Out of that something would come the impetus to keep discovering the next steps to get from here to where I’m headed. Money concerns may occur, but making something that moves a neighborhood, a needed cause or a new tribe would motivate me to stick with it until the word spreads and the money arrives.

Professions are proven paths. Passionate purposes are the unknowns worth pursuing. And passions put the life in living.

#Trust30 Carries On!

Presentation of Remember... Dreams Come True n...

Disneyland Fireworks Image via Wikipedia

Prompt: Find something that happened on the day and date you were born. Write about it.

Seven Seventeen

If you keep on believing, the dreams that you wish will come true. – Cinderella

Seven seventeen, a date with duplicate numbers. My birth date. The middle of summer. Vacation time. But much more. Two events took place on July 17th that leave me wondering, do we become the date we were born?

One hundred fifty days after the rain started, on July 17th, the waters abated and Noah’s ark rested atop the mountains of Ararat. My grandmother was the first to point it out to me. She read from the Bible, Genesis 8:4: “And the ark rested in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, upon the mountains of Ararat.”  Unbelievable to me as a child.   Then she said I was blessed and I believed her.

Again, on July 17th, a world changing event took place.   Disneyland opened in Anaheim, California.   Physically, I have been to Disneyland once in my life, and it didn’t disappoint. Through the Disney movies, animated characters and fairytales, I’ve traveled to that fantasyland often in my imagination.   There’s something fun-loving, optimistic and very hopeful about “wishing upon a star” and believing that “dreams can come true.”  As an adult, I still love animated movies due to Disney.

I wonder if Noah viewed seven seventeen as a blessed day or a day when his dreams came true?   Centuries later, did Walt Disney believe seven seventeen was a blessed day when he made his dreams come true?   I’ll never know the answer.   I do know this.  I love the numbers seven seventeen.   I love my birth date.   Each day that passes, I become more like the day I was born–blessed and filled with achievable dreams.