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'P-Valley' & 10 Other Shows That Feature Empowered Black Characters

The beauty of Black personhood.

Culture & Entertainment

I vividly recall my mother implying that TV couldn’t teach me much of anything, but in reality, we know that representation teaches us a lot! It empowers us and highlights diverse ways of Black life (more so in recent television history) that vary from traditional to not so traditional – though this makes the impact no less real. Television shows like P-Valley highlight the importance of human decency over respectability politics, while other shows allow us to see the value in falling through life with our awkwardness.


Because it is so rare that we women, much less Black women get to view shows where we are the leads and in a meaningful way – I wanted to put together a list of shows that showcase the beauty in Black personhood.

Admittedly creating this list was difficult in the sense that there is a limited amount of Black series on TV at any given time period, thus requiring me to rely on older televisions as I attempted to give you a list of new shows featuring empowering women. Although feeling and being empowered means something different to everyone, I have no doubt that these 11 Black shows bring some sense of the world to life for most viewers.

1.P-Valley

Just as the theme song says, P-Valley is all about women who grind harder than the men in their world. They get it by any means necessary because sometimes that’s just what’s required of us in the world we live in. Additionally, these dancers showcase artistry that we don’t talk about quite enough when it comes to pole dancing as they unapologetically move through life at The Pynk.

2.I May Destroy You

Arabella (Michaela Coel) is a sexual assault survivor, who like so many others, is forced to put her life back together as the events of that evening come back to her. For this particular character, putting her life back together means reevaluating and recreating! We get to watch as she does so while surviving a devastating and violent act against her on what should’ve been a fun night out.

3.Blood and Water

After making a new connection, a young woman is convinced that a swimming star is her sister who was abducted when she was a child. This prompts her to investigate on her own even when met with concern and pushback. Blood and Water is a South African teen crime drama that pulls you in with intrigue and the search for the truth and performances that make you hungry for more.

4.Insecure

Of course, Insecurewas going to make the list! Though the show may seem to miss the mark on empowerment early on while the main character is still struggling to stand in her truth. Nevertheless, this show depicts an amazing arc for character development (with the main character, Issa played by Issa Rae). I’d also say that she empowers us awkward girls to navigate the world as is.

5.Pose

This period piece focuses on the happenings of the 80s and early 90s through ball culture. A movement made for and by Black queer people who needed a safe haven when the rest of the world saw them as outcasts, Posenavigates the way that ball culture empowered those on the scene to remain optimistic and fight back in the midst of an ever-changing and chaotic world. We live with the cast through historical moments such as the HIV epidemic and the Stonewall Riots, amongst their many other day-to-day revelations.

6.Grown-ish

Admittedly, due to the intended demographic, Grown-ish not be everyone’s cup of tea. It’s without a doubt for teens transitioning to young adulthood, maybe those who watched Black-ish, and those new adults (not the seasoned vets) who like to reminisce on their (recent but distant) college experience.

In this series, we get to finish growing up with Zoey Johnson (Yara Shahidi)! Though she is 18, we navigate all the young dumb shit she does along her side, remembering what it was like trying to find ourselves and simply exist in this new world. We watch as Zoey becomes more empowered to stand in her adultness and the decisions that will impact her the most.

7.Chewing Gum

After growing up in an extremely strict household, Tracey (Michaela Coel) is determined to come into her womanhood – whatever that means! Inspired by mainstream culture, she taps into her inner Beyoncé as she navigates trying to make a connection to her sexuality.

8.She’s Gotta Have It

Follow Nola Darling (DeWanda Wise), a jack of all trades when it comes to her sexual identity, while she digs deep to figure out what it really is that she wants out of both herself and her lover. Things can get pretty complicated when you’re a woman in this world making your own rules, but Darling is determined to remain true to herself through and through… even if it’s a bit unsettling to others in her life. For that reason, She's Gotta Have It's lead definitely makes this list.

9.Power Book III: Raising Kanan

Whether you followed the rest of the Power franchise or not, this show is a must-watch. In the series, Raquel "Raq" Thomas (Patina Miller) is a young mother who learns to do more than survive – she learns to thrive the best way she knows how – in the jungle that is early 90s New York City. Cutthroat as they come, she’s put in a precarious situation when she can’t keep her overly ambitious son out of the world she created around them. Though the main character of the show is her son, Kanan (Mekai Curtis) – to know Raq is to know Kanan!

10.Dear White People

In Dear White People, the main character, Sam (Logan Browning), will do nothing short of calling out white supremacy as she sees it throughout her collegiate experience. However, as a biracial person, this sometimes means pausing to look at her own blindspots as she navigates her personal experience of Blackness.

11.Queen Sugar

Though it irks me to no end that Queen Sugar tends to take such long and inconsistent hiatuses, this list can’t be complete without speaking to the empowering nature of the Bordelon women. Strong-willed, vulnerable, and determined to be the individuals they were truly meant to be in this lifetime for the sake of family and their hometown in Louisiana, we see those personalities clash time and time again. However, when they come together, it’s an endearing experience to watch.

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