Ananda’s White House Visit During the Blogging While Brown Conference on June 18, 2010

Happy Tuesday All!

Guess where I was on Friday afternoon? The White House.

Photo Credit: Michelle Obama Watch Blog Photo - http://pbckt.com/pi.dsciXj

I visited the White House with my fellow Blogging While Brown 2010 Conference (BWB – www.bloggingwhilebrown.com) attendees for a meeting with Corey Ealons, Director of African American Media and Coordinator of Special Projects. Click here to see additional photos from my White House visit:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/anandaleeke/sets/72157624182104723.  During the 2008 General Election, Ealons served as director of African American Media for President Barack Obama. Melody Barnes, Director of Domestic Policy Council, and Jessie Lee, Online Programs Director, also met with us. This meeting set the tone for my BWB experience. It inspired and changed me. It also motivated me to step up my blogging and online activism! Look for news about my WhiteHouse.gov Wednesdays project in the coming days.

Click here to read my Examiner.com article about the meeting.  The Washington Post also covered the meeting. Woo Hoo BWB!

Many thanks to Gina McCauley and the BWB team for a fabulous conference! It was the best BWB so far (loved 2008 and 2009 conferences too!).

Here’s a special treat!  Watch an episode of Ananda Leeke TV featuring Corey Ealons speaking at Day #2 of BWB.  He is an amazing person!

Happy National Women’s History Month – Celebrating the Obama Women with a poem from Ananda’s new book

Greetings All! Happy March! Happy National Women’s History Month! 

The 2010 theme of National Women’s History Month is “Writing Women Back into  History.  Click here to learn more: www.nwhp.org/whm/index.php

Who are your sheroes? 

Desiree Rogers & Valerie Jarrett

Susan Rice

Lisa Jackson

Today, I am celebrating my sheroes called the “Obama” women.  They are the African American women serving in President Barack H. Obama’s Administration.  Last year, I wrote a poem about the “Obama” women and included it in my new book That Which Awakens Me: A Creative Woman’s Poetic Memoir of Self Discovery (available on Amazon.com – http://tiny.cc/7uFsg).  See the poem below.

Do you have a favorite Obama woman?

My three favorites are Valerie Jarrett, Desiree Rogers (who will be leaving her position as White House Social Secretary in a few weeks), Susan Rice, and Lisa Jackson. Click here to read a Washington Post article about the Obama women from March 2009:  www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/03/17/AR2009031703744.html.

Enjoy your day and week!

Peace, Creativity, Compassion, and Gratitude for women who paved the way for me to be who I am today,

Ananda

POEM – Copyright 2009 by Madelyn C. Leeke

 
Sista7: The Obama Women

 
When I checked my email this morning, I had a message

from my father, a 24/7/365 supporter of President Barack H.

Obama.

Daddy’s email greeted me with positive news.

It was a Washington Post article about the brilliant, bold, and

beautiful Black women in the Obama administration.

What a way to start a Wednesday in March during Women’s

History Month!

The article profiled the Sista7.

Valerie Jarrett, a Senior Advisor and Assistant to the President

for Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Liaison.

Desiree Rogers, White House Social Secretary.

Susan Rice, United Nations Ambassador.

Cassandra Butts, deputy White House counsel.

Mona Sutphen, the first Black woman to serve as deputy chief

of staff.

Lisa Jackson, the first Black person to head the Environmental

Protection Agency.

Melody Barnes, the first Black woman to run the Domestic

Policy Council.

 
 

 

They represent something new in Washington: the largest
contingent of high-ranking Black women to work for a

president.

Trailblazers is the word that captures it all for me.

These phenomenal women have emerged from the margins of

American society to the position of gatekeeper in one of the

greatest countries in the world.

Each one is a household name in my life.

Tracking their efforts on the Internet is one of my favorite

things to do.

Watching them in action inspires me.

They have become an affirmation of what’s possible for Black

women in America.

That’s why I claim them as my sheros.

That’s why I continuously celebrate their presence, passion,

and power.

May we all do the same.

 

 

Diversity Among African Americans: We are not monolithic!

 

 

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Photos taken at Oyster Harbor Beach in Annapolis, MD

 

Happy Monday!

While my dad and I were getting some much needed “plage de temps” (French phrase that means beach time a/k/a chilling out, chill-axing, cooling out, R&R) on Sunday morning in Annapolis, he shared soundbytes from the Washington Post about Judge Sonia Sotomayor and his all-time favorite person, President Barack Obama.  He spent time talking about Eugene Robinson’s op-ed that discussed several comments President Obama made about his speech at the NAACP’s 100th anniversary. Click here to read Robinson’s op-ed:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/07/18/AR2009071801045.html.

Obama-NAACP-100th-Anniversary-Speech

Robinson’s op-ed also referenced President Obama’s statement about how the civil rights movement weakened itself by promoting a one size fits all definition of what it means to be Black: 

“One of the ways that I think that the civil rights movement . . . weakened itself was by enforcing a single way of being black — being authentically black. And, as a consequence, there were a whole bunch of young black people — and I fell prey to this for a time when I was a teenager — who thought that if you were really ‘down’ you had to be a certain way. And oftentimes that was anti-something. You defined yourself by being against things as opposed to what you were for. And I think now young people realize, you know what, being African American can mean a whole range of things. There’s a whole bunch of possibilities out there for how you want to live your life, what values you want to express, who you choose to interact with…  I do think it is important for the African American community, in its diversity, to stay true to one core aspect of the African American experience, which is we know what it’s like to be on the outside… If we ever lose that, then I think we’re in trouble. Then I think we’ve lost our way.”

TWAM-LovesTroubadours-Blackfolksmonolithic

Love’s Troubadours: Black Folks Ain’t Monolithic by Ananda Leeke (2005)

Message on painting: The truth is that Black folks ain’t monolithic.  No folks are. You dig! When Deno and I started writing the novel, we wanted to show the depth and breadth of Black folks loving themselves and each other in and out of life’s joys and pains … in and out of our identities…gender…class…religions…ages… We wanted to tell the truth.  The truth being that Black folks are Love’s Troubadours.”

 

I am so happy that President Obama talked about the diversity among African Americans and how being African American means many things.  His statement echoes a familiar chant that I have addressed in my novel, Love’s Troubadours – Karma: Book One (www.lovestroubadours.com), Love’s Troubadours Art Collection, and my new book, That Which Awakens Me: A Creative Woman’s Poetic Memoir of Self-Discovery (Summer 2009 – iUniverse, Inc.): African Americans are not monolithic.  See the photo of my painting, Love’s Troubadours: Black Folks Ain’t Monolithic above.  The lives of African Americans are filled with multi-layered stories.  We are much more than what we read about in mainstream media.  Our lives are richer and deeper than what we see on television and movie screens.  That’s why we must be vigilant in telling and documenting our stories. 

More on President Obama

Last night I had a chance to catch up on my reading. So I read an op-ed by Shayne Lee, one of my favorite authors. Click here to read Shayne’s op-ed: www.philly.com/inquirer/opinion/50451437.html?cmpid=15585797.  In his op-ed that was published in the Philadelphia Inquirer on July 10, Shayne discussed how former Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka cleared President Obama’s path to becoming Senator and President.  How could that be?  The topic itself made me blink a few times.  To see why I blinked, read an excerpt from Shayne’s op-ed below.

“Let’s go back to 2004. National Democratic leaders strategize feverishly in an effort to win enough seats to control the U.S. Senate. They have their eyes on Illinois, a state with no incumbent running for reelection. Obama wins the Democratic nomination for the open seat, and the Republican nominee, Jack Ryan, drops out of the race due to the embarrassing details of his divorce records.

Obama is looking down a clear path to the Senate – until Mike Ditka begins flirting with the idea of running on the Republican ticket.

Some Democrats are champing at the bit for their Harvard-educated lawyer to pit wits against the charismatic but nonetheless inarticulate jock. But others fear that the former NFL coach, who brought Chicago its first and only Super Bowl championship, enjoys instant name recognition, while Obama is still establishing himself with Illinois residents. They find the prospect of a young politician with a weird name running against one of the state’s greatest sports legends somewhat daunting.

So, to raise Obama’s visibility, they grant him the great privilege of addressing the 2004 Democratic National Convention in prime time. Ironically, Ditka announces he will not enter the race shortly before the convention. But Obama’s name is already carved in stone on the schedule.

Almost 10 million Americans watch Obama deliver a riveting speech that changes his life and American politics. Before long, Obama is the new face of the party, criss-crossing the nation in fund-raising efforts for struggling candidates, building strategic alliances, and thereby taking steps toward a viable presidential candidacy.

I sum things up with a sort of syllogism: Obama’s presidential run is unimaginable without the political power and rock-star status bestowed upon him by his speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. His speech never happens without a sports legend threatening to run against him for the vacant Illinois Senate seat. Therefore, Barack Obama would not be president today without Mike Ditka.

There is a lesson to be learned from the president’s remarkable journey. Even an immensely gifted, highly competent, Ivy League-trained talent such as Obama needs a bit of luck to achieve great success in America. How much more of it do the rest of us need”?

Okay now what do you think? 

If you are like me, you might be saying, “this cat made me think.”  That’s why I am a huge fan of Shayne’s work.  His writing always pushes the envelope and causes me to consider a different perspective.  He uncovers facts and weaves them together with insightful commentary that sheds light on areas most folks miss.  I think Shayne moonlights as an “Easy Rawlins” detective when he leaves his gigs as an author, sociologist, and professor at Tulane University.  

For more information about Shayne, visit http://www.tulane.edu/~sociol/slee.pdf

Be sure to check out and buy Shayne’s books on Amazon.com: T.D. Jakes: America’s New Preacher (NYU Press, 2005) and Holy Mavericks: Evangelical Innovators and the Spiritual Marketplace (NYU Press 2009).  Support Shayne!  His work will enrich your life! 

To read my review of Shayne’s book, T.D. Jakes: America’s New Preacher, click here: http://kiamshacom.blogspot.com/2009/02/book-review-td-jakes-americas-new.html.  

Visit BAP Living Radio to listen to a recording of my February 23rd interview with Shayne (search for Episode 13):  http://www.talkshoe.com/tc/18598.

Enjoy your day and week!

Peace and Creativity,

Ananda

Black Women on TV – Who Will Tell My Sista Stories? – Excerpt from my new book, That Which Awakens Me

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Cast of Cosby Show featuring Claire Huxtable 

livingsingle

Cast of Living Single

ADW

Cast of A Different World

soulfood

Cast of Soul Food

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Cast of Girlfriends

Hi All,

My father sent me a link to Echoes Of TV’s First Lady – Michelle Obama’s Last True Cultural Antecedent Is ‘Cosby’s’ Clair Huxtable by Robin Givhan (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/06/18/AR2009061803999.html?referrer=emailarticle).  What a juicy article!  I copied and pasted in the article  below.   As I read it, I started thinking about “Who Will Tell My Sista Stories?,” a poetical reflection that I recently wrote and  included in my upcoming book, That Which Awakens Me: A Creative Woman’s Poetic Memoir of Self-Discovery(Summer 2009).  It discusses the presence and absence of Black women’s stories in television, radio, and film.   A copy of the poetical reflection is included below.  I invite you to  read the Washington Post article and my poetical reflection.  Let me know what you think.

Peace and Creativity,

Ananda

 

Who Will Tell My Sista Stories? by Ananda Leeke

Copyright 2009 by Madelyn C. Leeke

Growing up in the 1970s, Thelma and Penny on “Good Times” were the only young African American women I remember seeing on television.

Although I admired their spunky personalities, I found it difficult to relate to their lives in a Chicago public housing project. 

In my sophomore year of college, something amazing happened.

“The Cosby Show” came on the scene.

It introduced me to myself.

That was the first time I saw images of my childhood and family on the television screen.

I was able to connect with the character Denise especially when she decided to attend Hillman College, a historically Black college.

Three years later, “A Different World” was created.

That’s when Mr. Cosby passed the torch to Debbie Allen, Susan Fales-Hills, and a team of talented writers and cast members.

They gave me multiple images of myself: Jaleesa, Whitley, Freddie, Kim, and Lena.

For six years, I sopped up their juicy stories.

When both shows faded from the scene, I found comfort in Yvette Lee Bowser’s “Living Single.”

The show helped Bowser make history as the first African American woman in TV history to create her own series.

The twentysomething adventures of “Living Single” characters, Khadijah, Max, Synclaire, and Regine mirrored my own life and the lives of my girlfriends.

We were able to hang out for five years straight.

I endured a two year “colored girl TV” break until Mara Brock Akil launched “Girlfriends” and Tracey Edmonds and Felicia D. Henderson gave birth to “Soul Food.”

“Girlfriends” and “Soul Food” celebrated my life, loves, losses, and female friendships as a thirtysomething.

Lynn and Joan were my favorite characters on “Girlfriends.”

Maxine and Teri were my favorites on “Soul Food.”

Bowser came back with “Half and Half.”

Watching the characters, Mona and Dee Dee interact as sisters helped me see different sides of my personality.

Jada Pinkett-Smith delivered “All of Us,” a television show she co-created with her husband, Will.

TV Land appeared to be just fine.

And then it happened.

“Soul Food,” the longest-running Black hour-long drama ever on television, said goodbye.

More bad news followed when “Half and Half,” “Girlfriends,” and “All of Us” were abruptly cancelled. 

Shonda Grimes offered a glimmer of hope with her characters, Dr. Miranda Bailey on “Grey’s Anatomy” and Dr. Naomi Bennett on “Private Practice.”

Akil did the same with “The Game.”

Unfortunately, their efforts could not satisfy my hunger for stories about my life as a Black woman from the post-Civil Rights generation.

So I turned to print media: O, The Oprah Magazine, Essence, Heart & Soul, UPTOWN, Upscale, Honey, Today’s Black Woman, and Suede.

When my cravings for stories got the best of me, I rented some of my favorite movies: Love Jones, Best Man, Love & Basketball, Brown Sugar, and Something New.

They led me to a delicious series of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction books.

Inner-Course: A Plea for Real Love by Toni Blackman

Selah’s Bed by Jenonyne Adams

A Love Noire and Hunger by Erica Simone Turnipseed

All the Joy You Can Stand: 101 Sacred Power Principles for Making Joy Real in Your Life by Debrena Jackson Gandy

Having What Matters: The Black Woman’s Guide to Creating the Life You Really Want by Monique A. Greenwood

Having It All?: Black Women and Success by Veronica Chambers

Sacred Woman by Queen Afua

being black by Angel Kyodo Williams

Longing To Tell: Black Women Talk About Sexuality and Intimacy by Tricia Rose

The BAP Handbook: The Official Guide to the Black American Princess by Kalyn Johnson, Tracey Lewis, Karla Lightfoot, and Ginger Wilson

Kinky Gazpacho: Life, Love & Spain by Lori L. Tharps

Naked: Black Women Bare All About Their Skin, Hair, Hips, Lips, and Other Parts edited by Ayana Byrd and Akiba Solomon

The more I read, the more I realized I needed to identify alternative sources for my sista stories.

So I tuned into NPR’s News & Notes with Farai Chideya and Tell Me More with Michel Martin.

Both radio shows exposed me to blogs and Internet radio programs created and controlled by Black women.

I fell head over heels in love with Gina McCauley’s What About Our Daughters and Michelle Obama Watch blogs.

McCauley’s blogs and Black Women’s Roundtable Internet radio show introduced me to a new world of Black women’s voices.

They inspired me to take responsibility for staying informed.

So I did some research and discovered a plethora of Black women’s blogs, e-zines, radio shows, podcasts, videos, and social networking sites that address issues I am interested in.

From my research, I selected several e-zines and blogs to read on a regular basis, joined many social networking sites, watched numerous videos, and became a regular listening audience member for a few radio shows and podcasts. 

I even wrote and published my first novel and launched several radio shows, social networking sites, and blogs to document sista stories.

It’s a good thing I did all of this before News & Notes was cancelled.

The one thing I have learned is a sista is the only one who can tell her story.

Now that social media is leveling the playing field, we have more tools and access to distribute our sista stories. 

The only thing left for us to do is to just do it!

 

 Echoes Of TV’s First Lady – Michelle Obama’s Last True Cultural Antecedent Is ‘Cosby’s’ Clair Huxtable by Robin Givhan 

Friday, June 19, 2009

So far, the first lady has chosen to be a food bank volunteer with an outsize entourage and an education activist with the largest soapbox imaginable. But Michelle Obama also fills a role that is not of her choosing but that may, in fact, be the most influential: She serves as a symbol of middle-class progress, feminist achievement, affirmative-action success and individual style.

And she has done all this on the world stage . . . while being black.

Time and again, observers grasp for adjectives to describe Obama’s combination of professional accomplishment and soccer-mom maternalism. It’s no wonder so many eye her with awe and disbelief. Or why a minority still view her with suspicion. There have been few broad cultural precedents for what she represents.

Historically, television has been more progressive than reality, preparing a society for the moment when what only existed in the shadows surges into the spotlight. From “Soap” to “Will & Grace,” TV helped people envision gay couples living picket-fence lives. “Maude” and daytime soap operas raised the topic of abortion before it became a political wedge issue. Television made the case for the first female commander in chief. And popular culture has more than once suggested that the idea of an African American president wasn’t so far-fetched. But it rarely introduced viewers to anyone like Michelle Obama.

The last similarly accomplished and wholesome black woman to enter the homes of TV audiences — both black and white, in small towns and big cities — was Clair Huxtable, the matriarch of “The Cosby Show.” It is a cultural comparison more apt than the one made to Jackie Kennedy, which is rooted in little more than the two first ladies being mothers of young children and their affection for sleeveless dresses.

Television, in particular, speaks to viewers intimately, in the privacy of their homes, building long-term relationships and weaving complicated narratives. People discuss the lives of TV characters — from soap opera stars to reality-show contestants — with the kind of emotional empathy normally saved for family members. Syndication allows characters to live forever and connect to multiple generations, whether it is the blended family of “The Brady Bunch” or the codependent New Yorkers on “Seinfeld.”

Even as viewing habits have become more fragmented through cable and DVRs, TV still serves as a lingua franca. It can gently and affably prod disparate groups toward greater tolerance and acceptance. TV builds kinship.

But most of the prominent portrayals of black women on television are men in corpulent drag (Madea), strutting tarts (“The Real Housewives of Atlanta“) or emotionless law enforcement officers (Lt. Anita Van Buren of “Law & Order”). In its most enlightened moments, popular culture presents black women as strident taskmaster with the heart of gold — see Dr. Miranda Bailey of “Grey’s Anatomy.”

In a recent essay for the Nation, Columbia law professor Patricia Williams shared her frustrations about popular culture’s failure to present more images of the sort that Obama reflects. Black women — and women of color, in general — still are dogged by the tropes that have haunted them for generations, she wrote. But instead of images such as Mammy and Prissy from “Gone With the Wind,” contemporary women must deal with “the adventures of Flavor Flav and Strom Thurmond” as well as “depictions from Don Imus and the minstrelsy of Tyler Perry.”

“Where, for heaven’s sake, is a picture of black femininity (in particular, that of darker-skinned, non-tragic femininity) that might signify beauty, chic, elegance, vulnerability, sophistication?”

Where are the images that celebrate the educated black woman? “The jurisprudence of the entire 20th century was about black people trying to get into school,” Williams said in a telephone interview. “That’s invisible.” Niche media have tried to showcase the black professional class — from the stories of uplift in Ebony magazine to “Harlem Heights,” a reality show about 20-something buppies that debuted this spring on BET, a rarity on a black-oriented cable network often criticized by viewers for pandering to the worst stereotypes of African Americans. There have been shows that have spoken knowingly to a predominantly black audience, such as “Living Single” and “Girlfriends.” “Soul Food” and “Lincoln Heights” address the small segmented audiences of cable.

Only Audra McDonald’s character on ABC’s “Private Practice” — a divorced, stylish doctor with a young daughter, a vibrant social life and a healthy relationship with her ex-husband — really reflects a generation of black women with advanced degrees, solid self-esteem and no anger issues.

But TV audiences have to go back to “The Cosby Show” to find a close facsimile to what Obama represents both professionally and personally, and that’s going back more than 17 years. Clair Huxtable — the stylish mother, wife and lawyer — remains a lonely figure in popular culture.

As Seen on TV

“The Cosby Show,” a sitcom about a black American family with five children, a lawyer-mom played by Phylicia Rashad and comedian Bill Cosby as the doctor-dad, ran from 1984 to 1992. Inspired by Cosby’s monologues on child-rearing, the show was an anomaly when it premiered in the wake of TV series such as “Sanford and Son,” “Good Times” and “The Jeffersons,” which told the stories of down-and-out black Americans and upwardly mobile ones with equal parts slapstick and buffoonery.

“The Cosby Show” was doggedly upper-middle class in its sensibility. Every detail, from the choice of artwork in the Huxtable living room to the use of jazz in its opening credits to references to historically black colleges, spoke of the “Talented Tenth,” a functional, culturally proud segment of the African American community that did not make the evening news.

In its first season, “The Cosby Show” finished third in the ratings. For the next four seasons, it was the top-rated series on television. Over the course of its run, it revived the situation-comedy format, resuscitated a flailing NBC, sparked conversations about race and made Cosby into America’s dad.

Author Susan Fales-Hill, 46, began her career on the show as an apprentice and then a writer. Later, she became executive producer and head writer for the spinoff series “A Different World,” about life on a fictional, historically black college campus through which viewers could see work-study students and trust-fund babies.

“There’s something that happens when you validate the existence of someone by visually representing them,” she says. “What people see, they believe.”

And what they do not see on a regular basis, they assume to be rare or even nonexistent.

Fales-Hill could write from her own experience. She is the biracial daughter of actress Josephine Premice, a contemporary of Diahann Carroll and Lena Horne. She is a published author and comes from a background of private schools.

During her time on “Cosby,” Fales-Hill remembers people telling her that families like the one on the show didn’t exist, but her rejoinder was her personal story. “I had people tell me this is like a white family,” Fales-Hill recalls. “But ‘Cosby’ brought the dirty secret of America — the black bourgeoisie — out of the closet.”

When “Cosby” went off the air, the lesson Hollywood took was not that stories about functional black professionals can have broad appeal. It was that Bill Cosby has broad appeal, that stand-up comics could sustain entire sitcoms and that situation comedies can draw large audiences. “The Cosby Show” opened the door for “Grace Under Fire,” “Home Improvement,” “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” “Cybill” and “Roseanne.” And Cosby went on to star in another self-named comedy, which ran from 1996 to 2000. (And once again, Rashad played his wife, although the role was a modest one.)

By the end of the millennium, white, angst-ridden yuppies and white, wacky singles were dominating the airwaves. “Survivor” debuted in 2000 to launch the reality-show juggernaut. And women like Fales-Hill largely vanished from popular culture.

“There’s a generation with very little exposure to the black professional class, and they stand in amazement,” Fales-Hill says. “People say, ‘You’re so articulate.’ And it’s because I can string a sentence together!”

In a culture in which every white woman is presumed to be Everywoman until proven out of the mainstream, Obama has brought the normalcy of black women into the broader social consciousness. All it took were her two Ivy League degrees, a six-figure boardroom salary, a Norman Rockwell family, soccer-mom bona fides and an ability to dress herself without the aid of an entourage.

In many ways, the first lady has made people see — really see — black women for the first time. For example, when a black model appeared on the May cover of Vogue, news articles credited the “Obama effect,” ignoring the concerted lobbying by fashion industry activists that began long before Barack Obama was even a presidential contender.

The role of style in defining the first lady might easily be dismissed as a distraction from more substantive issues. But Williams says the fan magazine breathlessness is significant because “it implies a kind of parity we really needed.”

Enthusiasm over glossy-magazine beauty as defined by a darker-skinned black woman has to be seen against the backdrop of history, when black women’s appearance was used as a tool of oppression. High culture rhapsodized in love sonnets about ivory complexions, flaxen hair and ruby lips. And today, black women still mostly surface as sidebars in beauty stories.

“Somewhere in the core of it is the question of whether black really is beautiful,” Williams says. “That’s why I think it’s not about superficiality. It’s a precarious moment. Only a minute ago, she was Angela Davis.”

Fighting Stereotypes

In the NAACP’s most recent report on diversity on television, the civil rights organization noted in December that “it is hard to draw any positive conclusions.” And in particular, it pointed to “The Hills” and “Gossip Girls,” which are aimed at a youth market. Viewers in their teens and 20s live in a more diverse society than their parents did. But little had changed since what the NAACP called the “whiteout” years of shows such as “Friends” and “Seinfeld” — and more recently “Sex and the City” and “Lipstick Jungle” — which were situated in the melting pot of New York City but seemed to exist in a parallel, nearly all-white universe.

Hollywood producer Mara Brock Akil was a regular “Sex and the City” viewer. “They were able to show women as layered and flawed — and spending obscene amounts of money on accessories — and still empowered and smart women,” Akil says. “I related to it, but I longed to see myself physically validated, which they rarely did.”

Akil, 39, grew up middle class in the Baldwin Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles and in Kansas City, Mo. But unlike television viewers who find themselves disappointed by network offerings and can only blog about it, Akil had the ability to alter the landscape.

So she created “Girlfriends.” It debuted in 2000 on UPN, a new network that was aggressively courting a black audience. Among black women, it was appointment television. The ongoing saga of Joan (Tracee Ellis Ross) and her trio of friends gave professional, stylish black women a voice on television.

“I almost felt like a documentarian,” Akil says. “I wanted people to know what’s on our mind.”

The show talked about romance and work, and it poked fun at the assumptions about black culture vs. white. Joan, for example, was a huge fan of Celine Dion — because Akil is — as well as more soulful singers such as India.Arie.

“I also wanted to combat a stereotype on TV that black women are either the sister-girl or the asexual judge with no life. I can be fearless at work, but I can also be stupid over a guy. I can be all those things at once. I wanted to show how fashionable we are. The fashion and the femininity, I really wanted to talk about that,” Akil says. “My agenda was to speak to the widest audience possible, but I knew the core would be the African American audience.”

“Girlfriends” ran for eight seasons — eventually moving to CW. In that time, it was a favorite at the BET Honors and the NAACP Image Awards, winning at least five times. It was nominated for only one prime-time Emmy — in 2003, for cinematography. It lost to “Will & Grace.”

The show didn’t have the broad cultural impact of “The Cosby Show,” which, during its eight-year run, won virtually every award possible except a Nobel prize. No other show about the professional black class has made the inroads that “Cosby” did. None of pop culture’s most enduring archetypes of funny, smart, professional, pretty women — from Mary Richards to Murphy Brown to Carrie Bradshaw — have been black.

And Clair Huxtable, despite Rashad’s successes on Broadway, is now most often seen by middle America as the latest Jenny Craig spokeswoman touting her weight loss.