By Veracia Ankrah
Posted on October 8, 2021
Run The World is the latest Black women-led show on Starz, that follows the likeness of the ‘90s sitcom Living Single and the recent cult classic, Issa Rae’s Insecure. Written and created by Leigh Davenport with the help of vetted showrunner and creator of Living Single, Yvette Lee Bowser, Run The World follows the lives of Whitney Green (Amber Stevens West), Renee Ross (Bresha Webb), Sondi Hill (Corbin Reid) and the show’s main protagonist Ella McFair (Andrea Bordeaux) in Harlem, New York. The series uses the notably successful blueprint, depicting the everyday friendships between Black women as authentic and worthy of representation on screen. Each character storyline displays a unique dichotomy between their personal and professional lives and Ella’s protagonist wonderfully captures the essence of being a Black woman creative in our hyper-visible social media climate.
Ella McFair, commonly referred to as Elle for short, is a womanist writer reluctantly turned gossip blog journalist. Bordeaux’s character shares the relatable struggle of a young creative, finding her ground in a social media-driven news world when all she wants is to be a respectable author. Elle ran a blog that garnered a considerably large following which helped earn her a book deal. Her debut book full of feminist musings and empowering life lessons received negative reviews and failed to sell its projected amount resulting in dismissal from her publishing company. After a flopped release, she returns to working a quick-turnaround writer job with her previous boss, played by the beloved Maxine Shaw (Erika Alexander) of Living Single, which she believes is subduing her true potential. As a Black woman writer, Elle’s strife is all too relatable.
Black women’s ideas are syphoned by popular media publications and repackaged by writers from all different backgrounds who commonly have full-time staff positions at predominantly white spaces while Black women are forced into the world of freelance lifestyle journalism rather than community building and based hard news. The very few publications dedicated to telling Black stories (a majority of which are in the United States) are owned or funded by white media conglomerates and usually undergo a series of staff writer layoffs and furloughs or end entirely, like Ebony and Jet Magazine. Mainstream media is racist, sexist and fails to allow people of colour to truthfully report on stories that affect their communities and work environments filled with microaggressions. Many are displayed as fair, non-partisan arenas but rather reflect the white heteronormative, capitalist structures they were created to uphold, even for Black women working in Canadian media.
In June 2020, amid all sorts of social reckonings, the hashtag #PublishingPaidMe by Black young adult novelist L.L. McKinney, sparked a long-waited conversation about how much Black and POC authors are paid in comparison to their white authors. Authors shared their book advances in the hopes of creating reform in the publishing industry in a Google Doc and anonymous spreadsheet transparently documenting the insidious truth. Writing professor Mandy Len Cartron revealed she received a $400,000 advance to write How to Fall in Love with Anyone as an unknown white woman after one viral article To Fall in Love with Anyone, Do This, which she believes is unfair treatment when the New York Times bestselling Black author Roxane Gay, only received $15,000 for her first book Bad Feminist and $150,000 for her latest book, The Year I Learned Everything. Chip Cheek’s revelation was even more alarming yet expected. As a white man, he received a whopping $800,000 advance for his 2019 book, Cape May. Like most industries, media and publishing are systemically racist and disguise their hatred towards Black people as “uncertainty in projected sales or engagement” to avoid paying Black creatives. If you enjoy Black art, you should continue to support Black artists, writers included, by buying their work and sharing your appreciation for it, whether to your immediate circle or widely on your social networks. Doing so will not only encourage your favourites to continue but will also chip away at the falsified narratives perpetuated by media industries.