February is Black History Month, but Black folks should be highlighted all year.
If you’re a non-Black person, educating yourself is crucial, no matter where you’re located in the world. Try not to lean on Black loved ones or social media mutuals; take the time to learn more in whatever capacity works for you.
If you watch a lot of TV, examine Black representation, or lack thereof.
Never presume that just because there’s representation, it’s being handled well.
Take the time this month to celebrate Black characters from past and present series and recognise what they have meant for Black representation.
1. Kendra Young (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
The season two reveal of Kendra Young (Bianca Lawson) as a slayer was a major surprise.
From the beginning of the series, it was clear that Black representation would be sparse – which didn’t change that much after Kendra’s introduction.
Still, this moment likely made Black viewers feel seen at the time, even with Bianca’s horrible ‘Jamaican’ accent.
Her demise later in the season didn’t diminish her icon status. It allowed for discussion about the poor use of her character, especially when the show was already lacking in diversity.
2. Charles Gunn (Angel)
The Buffy spin-off Angel undeniably had more racial diversity.
Charles Gunn (J. August Richards), a vampire hunter, even became a main cast member after appearing in the tail end of season one.
Charles was pivotal as the first and only Black character to join a main cast in the Buffyverse, and J. August Richards is still appreciated for the representation he brought to Angel.
Despite some things that could have been done better with his character, his Blackness was never watered down – he reminded other characters and the audience of it.
Love him or not, the show needed Charles, and his portrayal by a Black gay man made him all the more special.
3. Bonnie Bennett (The Vampire Diaries)
Bonnie Bennett (Kat Graham), the only Black main character, met mistreatment on The Vampire Diaries and racism from fans.
She went through so much, usually to help her white friends, often using her powers as a witch.
Being a Black witch was part of what made her so iconic. The sheer power that she held within her and how she outwitted even the most powerful beings was amazing.
Examining Bonnie’s mistreatment is still important and does more service to her character than anything else.
4. Marie Laveau (American Horror Story: Coven and Apocalypse)
Based on the legendary ‘Voodoo Queen’ of New Orleans, Marie Laveau (Angela Bassett) was part of what made the third season of this anthology series so excellent.
Her character helped explore racism and disrespect within witch communities, allowing some light education for those who may have never heard of the real Marie Laveau.
Of course, some might find Marie a bit stereotypical in the depiction of Voodoo, but she’s one of the best Black American Horror Story characters.
5. Michonne (The Walking Dead)
During her time on The Walking Dead, Michonne (Danai Gurira) went from a person closed off from love to forming her own found family.
Much like the comic book character, she went through some intense character growth, proving that Black characters don’t need to be one-dimensional –especially not a Black woman in an apocalyptic horror series, a subgenre that often discards or doesn’t fully appreciate Black characters.
Michonne was largely allowed to breathe as a character and didn’t entirely rely on her white counterparts.
She kicked ass and survived horrendous circumstances from her introduction to her last episode.
6. Olivia Pope (Scandal)
Political thrillers are hit or miss and often have white male leads – but not Scandal.
A Black woman, Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) as the lead gave the show more depth.
Her character was nowhere near perfect, not in her relationships or her career, which often collided.
Black women aren’t always allowed to express themselves, but Olivia did that plenty.
7. Victor Strand (Fear the Walking Dead)
Victor Strand (Colman Domingo) is a standout character in the Walking Dead universe.
His charisma hasn’t wavered since his introduction.
Even in the face of a zombie apocalypse, he brought a fresh energy to the group of survivors and became part of a dysfunctional family.
Victor being gay (as is Domingo), and it not being something that he needs to work through, is refreshing. His identity is never called into question, and he’s not an overdone stereotype.
As the show continues, no doubt much is ahead for him.
8. Prudence Blackwood (The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina)
Despite being introduced as an antagonist, Prudence (Tati Gabrielle) is one of the best characters of this series, with her memorable style and grace as a powerful witch.
She didn’t put up with anyone’s nonsense or diminish herself for anybody.
Prudence was never some token black character and didn’t need other characters to stay relevant.
Her character never wavered in personality or strength, but she was allowed to be vulnerable and loved at the same time.
9. Annalise Keating (How to Get Away with Murder)
Having an older Black woman lead character isn’t typical, but in Shonda Rhimes shows, almost anything is possible.
Annalise Keating (Viola Davis) was a real character with real problems, showing the intersections of being Black, a woman, and queer.
She wasn’t always strong – or wanting to be, for that matter.
Annalise often broke down while having to deal with the weight of everyone else’s problems, something not uncommon for Black women in real life.
She still did what she thought was best for herself, whether or not it made her loved ones happy all the time.
10. Malika Williams (Good Trouble)
Drama series don’t always have great representation of Black characters. They are usually tokens without a visible life.
In The Fosters spinoff Good Trouble, Black characters don’t take a backseat to anybody.
Malika (Zuri Adele) is an accurate portrayal of a Black woman passionate about activism and trying to survive in a world that doesn’t want her to.
The issues she continues to face as a character aren’t far-fetched, and the show does a great job in not glamorising activism, especially for a Black millennial.
11. Rue Bennett (Euphoria)
Euphoria’s Rue Bennett (Zendaya) is sensitive and flawed.
She’s a complex drug addict who struggles with mental health issues, all while juggling her relationships and not fully understanding the impacts she has on them.
Black addicts aren’t awarded as much compassion in real life, but in the show, Rue is offered support and care from many people.
She isn’t seen as worthless or disposable, though she often sees herself as such.
Rue’s being young and Black in the present day makes her relatable to viewers.