When it comes to the books our children read, the toys they play with and the shows they watch, representation matters. Diverse characters help children of color feel more confident about their identity and can promote understanding and tolerance among white children. But according to research from Common Sense Media, white people hold 76% of lead roles on streaming and network TV shows, even though they represent only 60% of the population.
Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter and Amir “Questlove” Thompson, of the award-winning hip-hop band, The Roots, answered the call for more diverse children’s programming. The pair partnered with Disney+ to create Rise Up, Sing Out, a series of musical animated shorts that focus on themes like acceptance and empowerment. The series, which premiered in February, tackles subjects related to race and culture from a child’s perspective and is designed to encourage conversation between children and their parents. Each episode is between two and three minutes long, about the longest time you can hold a preschooler’s attention before they get completely restless.
One episode, titled, Super Bonnet, has been getting praise from parents for teaching a lesson about black hair care. In the video, a group of black girls at a slumber party sing a song intended to teach their white friend about how their bonnets protect their naturally curly hair while they sleep. And because no one does it like Disney when it comes to songs for kids, check out these lyrics:
“B-B-B-Bonnet, bonnet, see my head? That’s what’s on it
From the time I lay down until I wake up in the morning
When I’m stretching and yawning because a new day is dawning
I still got it, we call this little funky performance super bonnet.”
Trust me, these kids got bars.
Parents of children of color have taken to social media to share how happy they are to see this kind of representation in children’s programming and how Super Bonnet has helped their children feel pride in wearing their bonnet to sleep. Breanna Martin shared an adorable video of her daughter dancing to Super Bonnet on Instagram.
“This is why representation matters!!! Seven got so excited to wear her bonnet because she seen the other little girls on tv wearing one. You could see her reaction was like “hey, I have one of those too 😍😄💃🏾🙆🏾♀️” lol. Too cute!” Martin said in her post. “I posted this on my TikTok, and it was comments of people saying this video made them cry. It’s a new day, and we embrace brown skin, natural hair, and the total black experience.”
Rise Up, Sing Out creator Latoya Raveneau hopes the videos will help inspire kids to start some of the conversations that are too difficult for adults to have. “We always wanted these shorts to be uplifting, hopeful because we grounded it in this kid-like optimism, we can talk about all the things we can do to make the world better,” she explained.
In addition to her work on Rise Up, Sing Out, Raveneau is also working on the revival of the hit animated series, The Proud Family, titled The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder on Disney+.