Why The Emmys Has a Black Problem

Ezinne Ukoha
9 min readSep 18, 2019

Award season is underway with the upcoming Emmy Awards, which is hard to believe when you consider that the Oscars don’t seem like that long ago. Back in the day, when it came to the glittery affair of crowded red carpets and keeping score of winners and losers, my investment lasted from beginning to end.

But these days I’m more inclined to depend on the advantages that this era of technology delivers when you can indulge in posted clips that capture the areas of interests, as opposed to sitting through hours of bad jokes, and the parade of faces that just don’t ring a bell.

There’s also the accumulated resentment that has built up from all those years of exclusivity, that rendered Black creatives to the background, unless you were willing to be a Black showrunner who agrees to launch a burgeoning career with the promise that your first-ever TV series will be dominated by a primarily White cast.

Yes, the nineties and early aughts did feature the gems that we all nostalgically rely on for continued nourishment, but Black shows were still regulated to “urban” networks, so that the more prominent venues could reap the uninterrupted profits that can be amassed when you give White viewers the bonus of relatable characters located in an all-White New York City.

Luckily, cable networks like HBO and Showtime, were willing to be a little adventurous with programming, which led to the installment of Soul Food, the drama series that was birthed from the 1997 hit film of the same title, and enjoyed four seasons on Showtime.

The TV adaptation was masterminded by veteran screenwriter and television producer, Felicia Henderson, who is best known for her work on Moesha, Sister, Sister, and Fringe. And it goes without saying that the stellar performances by the cast, combined with an incredibly talented writing staff helped to keep the series consistently fresh and addictively good.

But the engaging exploits of romantic entanglements, featuring the Joseph Sisters, played by Vanessa Williams, Nicole Ari Parker, and Malinda Williams, supported by the secondary cast of hubbies, offspring and…