To be presented in Panel: “From Black-ish to Black Lives Matter: Communicating Blackness in the 21st Century” at the National Communication Association (NCA). Dallas, TX.
Blackness is simultaneously a category, a group, a culture, a community, and an identity that varies between individuals. The current research is an exploratory investigation into definitions of “Blackness” through semi-structured interviews with employees at an African American targeted advertising agency (N = 35). Participants were asked to define Blackness in general, their individual Blackness (i.e., “my Blackness”), the future of Blackness, and the role of media in establishing and promoting Blackness. Participants’ definitions of Blackness were varied, but a few key themes emerged: Blackness involved an awareness of one’s history, a shared experience, and a comfort in one’s current skin with an idealized hope for the future. Even though this definition informed much the advertising content produced at this agency, participants expressed frustration over the conflict between their individual Blackness and the general expectations of Blackness, but were excited for new communication technologies that allowed them embrace these contradictions.
Summary of the Panel: From Black-ish to Black Lives Matter: Communicating Blackness in the 21st Century
Blackness is multifaceted; it is both local and global, lived and mediated, homogenous and heterogeneous. This panel will discuss communicating the diversity of Blackness in the 21st century through media and interpersonal communication strategies.
The first two panelists will examine how trends in media industry converge with self-concepts and interpersonal interactions to affect the development of Blackness in predominantly Black communities. Charisse L’Pree Corsbie-Massay is a social psychologist who researches media use and identity construction and will present findings from semi-structured interviews with employees at a African-American-targeted advertising agency regarding how different definitions of Blackness affect content production. Jamila A. Cupid specializes in public relations and strategic communications and will explore how diverse Blackness is fostered and represented at HBCUs through classroom activities, extracurricular events, and media discourse.
The final three panelists will focus on the representation of Blackness in American media, including film, television, and literature, to demonstrate narrative trends relating to national identity, authenticity, and intra-group diversity. As an intercultural communication scholar, Kami Jamil Anderson investigates the shifting identity of Black people across cultures and will describe how bilingual Black people are represented in literature. Omotayo Banjo Adesagba researches representation and audience responses to cultural media and will address the politics of authenticity in the visual narrative of Southside with You, a 2016 film about the Obamas’ first date. Shavonne Shorter specializes in organizational communication and will analyze how the television show Black-ish disrupts stereotypical narratives of Blackness by portraying 21st century Black life as nuanced and ever-evolving.