Growing up, I was an avid lover of blockbuster movies. I remember how I loved the Terminator and Mission Impossible sequels as well as the epic action flicks – Total Recall, Speed, Desperado, La Femme Nikita and many more.
But there was a problem: I couldn’t see future self in these hit films I cheered on animatedly while watching. There were barely any Black characters in these films and indirectly I thought maybe Black people couldn’t act as equally hence cannot be heroes.
As children, we look to society, including the media we consume, to begin to form our own identities and find our place in the world. The truth is, the media influences not only how others view others, but also how they view themselves.
The amount of media we consume shapes how we see the world we live in. Although largely fictional, on-screen representation shapes our views of reality to a certain degree. Hence, when all the visuals we are exposed to don’t include people who look like us, it subconsciously tells us that we aren’t valued.
Even when Black people are portrayed, it is largely with aggressive, threatening and often negative undertones. The lack of diverse and fair visual representation combined with constant display of negative stereotypes in the media has an influence of making you conform to who you are expected to be.
This must change now and it’s only us who can tell our stories better with nuance. That’s why I joined PICHA and became a visual activist for equal, honest and fair representation of people of colour. Exclusion and one-dimensional narratives have to end. We must rise up, be seen and be heard to change the visual narrative together as Black people.
Since the VisualActivist.Me visual petition was launched, we’ve seen over a 100 people share their stories, show their diverse faces and add their voices to the call for better representation in the media. It’s also the responsibility of media owners, content producers, advertising and marketing agencies to heed to this clarion call for visual representation and diversity. Feature plus-size individuals, people with disabilities and other minorities in uplifting and nuanced roles in the content you commission.
Positive visual representation of people of colour has the ripple effect of transcending into all aspects of human interaction by creating a world where everyone feels valued.
Today, unlike the 1990s, depictions of Black people and racial minorities in movies have improved and a successful record by Black Panther has proven beyond all doubt that films with Black heroes are profitable and greatly loved by audiences across the world.
Children of colour are likely to see themselves in more movies as an important main character and not just an add-on. Being able to identify with others on screen is a crucial part of our human experience as it uplifts you mentally and makes you feel a sense of belonging. But there’s still more work to be done to achieve better representation and diversity in visuals.
What are you waiting for? Let’s change the visual narrative collectively at VisualActivist.Me.