Can the Media Keep Up With Modern Black Families?

There are families diverse in sexual orientation, spirituality and even ethnicity. And black life is not all “struggle.” A Hampton University conference scrutinizes contemporary portrayals of African Americans.  

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"The Trayvons and Jordan Davises remind us that a lot of stuff out in the media seems like it's attacking the black family. You can really get lost in that and think that's all that what's going on, until you have something like this that gives you hope," said 24-year-old Hampton graduate student Olivia Lewis, a conference organizer.

Many participants saw diversity behind the scenes in media as a potential solution to stereotypical, negative or limited representations of black families. "For example, if you have someone who has never been around single mothers or never been around children raised by single mothers, they may have a perception of those types of families that are negative—out of ignorance, not knowing," Broussard said.

"Whether we're talking about Saturday Night Live or the staff at Google, all of these places need diverse voices," said Pulley. "Producers of programs such as SNL, publishers and news directors who ignore the reality that the world is, and that broad and diverse group of people make up their audience ... compromise their consumer base."

A historically black college like Hampton, he added, was the right place to highlight what was at stake. "I absolutely feel strongly that we as a school of journalism at an HBCU should take a lead on these types of things—issues related to the African-American family," he said. "We have to take this stuff on. If we don't do it, who will?"

Jenée Desmond-Harris is The Root’s senior staff writer. Follow her on Twitter.