(The Root) — Have you ever been talking to someone about an activity you're into and been told, "Black people don't do that"? This common experience is the impetus for director-producer Angela Tucker's popular Web series, Black Folk Don't.
"Being a black person," she told The Root, "everyone has heard something that black folk aren't doing that they're, in fact, doing. I'm someone that does a lot of things that [people are surprised] black people actually do."
Tucker posed the question to her friends via email, "What are some of the things that Black folk don't do?" and the barrage of passionate responses supported the idea that this was a provocative topic worth exploring. Tucker, an award-winning director-producer of Pushing the Elephant — a documentary about a Congolese mother and daughter separated for more than 12 years; and (A)sexual, a feature-length documentary about people who experience no sexual attraction — was inspired to develop her satirical documentary series, whose second season debuts on June 26.
The Root caught up with Tucker, who is currently co-producing The New Black, a feature-length documentary about the complicated histories of the African-American church and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) civil rights movements, which was honored with the Creative Promise Award at Tribeca All Access.
The Root: How did you come up with the concept of Black Folk Don't?
Angela Tucker: National Black Programming Consortium was doing a call for a Web series. I hadn't really thought about doing a Web series before, but I have always worked on projects on the Internet, so it is a space in which I'm comfortable. I thought to myself, "What would a documentary Web series be?"
When I was going over the idea in my head, I knew I wanted to do something that was a provocative question. I thought about what would make people tune in week after week. I wanted to do something that had humor and was also provocative, so the Black Folk Don't [concept] popped in my head.
TR: What is it about the Web space that is conducive to the success of a series like Black Folk Don't?
AT: One of the things I love about the series being on the Web is that people can share things and give it whatever context they want to give. For example, some people share it in a positive way, [as in] this is a funny, interesting idea. Other people are like, this is crazy. Other people use it to create a dialogue.
AfroPunk just put up the episode called "Black People Don't Tip," literally to discuss the topic. For things that are provocative and need some context, the Web is great for that. I feel like there's not a lot of room for that on television. Television documentaries are either complete entertainment (reality shows) or documentaries that are not done in this style, and often context is lacking. The Web allows users to offer some context.
TR: What's new in season 2 of Black Folk Don't?
AT: This season is going to be 16 topics. We travel to New Orleans this time because we wanted to talk to different kinds of black people. With the first season, I filmed them all in New York, so you're definitely getting a very specific kind of black person in New York. I was interested in talking to people from different regions in the U.S.
It is very, very different. I got a lot of answers that I didn't expect. For example, New Orleans is a very Catholic city, so it's very religious, but it's a different kind of religion. Catholicism plays a big part in that city, and people discuss God in a very different way. In New York, no one really discusses God. I mean, they have their own relationship with God, but in New York, discussing God is not cool, in a weird sort of way.
Melissa Harris-Perry and Touré are in it this time, and everybody else is regular folk. I don't feel like anyone is more of an expert on being black; everyone just has [his or] her own experience of being black. The first topic is "Black Folk Don't Swim." This season is also viewer-selected, based on topics of interest that viewers voted on. It's definitely different from last season.
TR: You're also the series producer for the PBS documentary series AfroPoP. What's next for Angela Tucker?
AT: I'm co-producing a new documentary called The New Black with Yvonne Welbon [that] Yoruba Richen is directing for Promised Land Film. The film, which should be out in 2013, is about the black church and the LGBT community. I'm also working on a fiction script.
Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D., is editor-at-large for The Root. Follow her on Twitter.
Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D., a media scholar, is digital editor in chief at Grady Newsource and a faculty member of the Cox Institute of Journalism, Innovation, Management & Leadership at the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia. She is founder and editor in chief of the award-winning news blog the Burton Wire. Follow her on Twitter here or here.