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    Black Sitcoms Practically Raised Me, And Here's A List Explaining How

    "I know that I can always be myself..."

    1. Moesha: Having a sense of agency is worth fighting for.

    Moesha sits at her dining room table, looking quite fashionable and smart

    This '90s sitcom broke barriers in ways that had not been seen before. Not only did they showcase an example of a healthy, blended Black family, but they also touched on so many important topics throughout the series like, sex, interracial dating, misogyny, drug use, and racial profiling. Moesha was an intelligent, beautiful, Black young lady with agency over her body and her future at age 15! Those images had a major impact on my younger self that carried me through many moments in life. Moesha was and still is a feminist icon who deserves the flowers she's getting after her streaming debut on Netflix this month.

    2. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air: Men are capable (and should be encouraged) to express emotion.

    James Avery and Will Smith embrace hands, showing emotion and care for one another

    Known for its hilariously brilliant cast and colorful wardrobe, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air hit the scene with an amazing amount of praise. The show not only introduced the unlimited talent that is Will Smith, but it showcased the multitude of experiences of a wealthy Black family who had to face their own ideals regarding race and class. Among its many memorable moments, one of the most iconic episodes was in the fourth season entitled, "Papa’s Got A Brand New Excuse." This episode shed light on Will’s absent father who, through his actions, showed that he didn't want to be in Will’s life. In that episode, I saw Will (with the brilliant accompaniment of James Avery, may he rest in peace) give men around the world permission to have emotions and experience loss, sadness, pain, and resentment, especially around other men. This touched families and young boys worldwide. My own perspective on emotion as it relates to men and boys was forever changed, and I will always have a special appreciation for The Fresh Prince for that reason.

    3. Living Single: Family is the people you choose and the people who choose you.

    Max, Khadijah, Regine, and Sinclair all gather in the bathroom, using supplies as a microphone while singing

    Living Single became a staple of Black sisterhood in television after airing in 1993. Because I was not alive at that particular time, I was introduced to this superb show through it’s well-deserved, syndicated re-runs. Being an adult in 2020, I can see the direct influence Living Single had on the world. It revealed a new dynamic of Black American life, where each character represented a different nuance of what Blackness could look like, from style, politics, and even moral compass. With the incredible combination of Queen Latifah, Erika Alexander, Kim Coles, and Kim Fields, Living Single showed that regardless of differences, when the people you care about are in trouble, you band together to protect them, blood or not. The bond these dynamic women displayed gave new life and a new face to what it means to have family. This is especially important for young people who may not have strong connections to their blood relatives.

    4. The Parkers: It’s never too late to shape your life.

    Kim and Nikki Parker are hugging each other in a promotional poster

    The Parkers made waves for being one of the few spin-off shows to be just as well-loved than its predecessor (Moesha). This show introduced me to the national treasure that is Mo'Nique and paired her with the brilliant comedic talent, Countess Vaughn. The plot of the show centered around Nikki Parker (Mo'Nique) joining her daughter Kim (Countess) at community college after postponing her education in order to raise her daughter. Through all the comedic plot lines, wild romances, and hilarious co-stars, this show spoke to me and so many others because of its central message: it is never too late to shape your life. We saw moments of regret and feelings of being an outsider and pushing through those feelings to find passion. Not only was the show an inspiration for many to be unafraid to seek education at any age, it showcased a generational bond between a mother and daughter. Though they had different life experiences and often differences in opinion, they shared the fact that they have dreams and that those goals are valid.

    5. The Proud Family: It’s okay to follow your own path.

    LaCienega, Zoey, Penny, and Dijonay stand by outdoor tables

    Even saying the title brings back memories of Destiny’s Child, Lou Rawls, Jennifer Lewis, Al Roker, Cree Summer and so many other cherished Black icons who lended their voices to this creative animated world for generations to come. The Proud Family did its best to show the life, trials and tribulations of a determined, intelligent and adventurous young girl who lives in a predominately Black and PoC community. The Proud Family introduced me to topics that I otherwise would not have grasped until much later in life, such as: classism, xenophobia, and religion-based discrimination. Penny Proud was a consistent example of standing up for people and doing so at times with no one by her side. This set a potent example that I believe directly correlates to the resurgence of independence we are seeing in many young people of color today. Never be ashamed to stand up for what’s right, even if you have to do so alone.

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