Hollywood’s award stages are being graced by fresh, gifted Black performers. From the triumphant musical reimagining of The Color Purple to the dystopian world of Antebellum—a smorgasbord of dynamic Black talent both on and off-screen is reenergizing entertainment.
There is of course always room for improvement, as Black leading actress Sanaa Lathan noted: "I think Hollywood has a ways to go. Certainly in the last couple of years with Think Like A Man and even recently with Straight Outta Compton doing well," she said. “But I think the language needs to change, the language about ‘Oh, this is an Urban film or this is a niche film.' No, these are Hollywood films. And it's to marginalize us because it's like some kind of a freak thing that we’ve made all this money off this movie. That’s a problem for me.”
A resurgence of multitalented Black artists is poised to shape popular culture for decades. Trailblazers across music, television, and film are letting their unapologetic voices be heard–and rewriting the script along the way. Black influencers continue to shape and impact the world as we know it, paving the way for the next generation of young Black people to make their mark!
Take The Stage and Screen
Though far from an overnight success, Joaquina Kalukango has delivered show-stopping turns leading the Broadway revival of the musical Paradise Square about Irish immigrants and freed slaves in Civil War-era New York City. Having earned raves from the New York Times for her “volcanic” performance as a conflicted maid, she carries on Broadway’s rich Black female legacy embodied by trailblazers like Audra McDonald.
Fueling her intensity is Yvette Nicole Brown, beloved for her witty warmth on shows like Community but now executive producing searing films like Always a Bridesmaid on BET+ centering on Black love. Other outlets are spotlighting marginalized stories as well thanks to creators like Nicco Annan. Beyond acting on pioneering series like FX hit P-Valley exploring a Black Mississippi Delta strip club, Annan crafted the role specifically to bring nuance to underground queer culture in the traditionally religious Southern town. She understands what it takes to make a mark as she shared once: "You want good ratings, you want people to like the show, you want to be appreciated for the hard work you put in. You don't always get it. Every show is not beloved."
It is this openness that drives Black influencers like Brown to push the envelope and the boundaries for Black culture in media. And as Annan writes himself into Hollywood’s tokenized narratives, Danielle Deadwyler of breakout film Till is rewriting history. Deadwyler’s complex turn as Emmett Till’s mother catalyzed long-overdue attention for the film. Her upcoming role as the enslaved Black explorer, Onion, in The Trailblazer will reshape lost stories.
Beyond the Stage
Multi-threat talents also thrive behind the camera like showrunner Janine Sherman Barrois. She paved her own path from stand-up comedy to directing sitcoms Eve and All American. Now with her Legit Republic shingle, Barrois spotlights diverse characters often relegated to stereotypes.
Playwright Jeremy O. Harris also funneled his Yale School of Drama training into winning acclaim for his explosive plays like Slave Play exploring mixed-race relationships through a haunting antebellum lens. But his first film Brother features no white people at all. Instead, themes of family and queer Black identity take center stage. Harris also acts in indie darling Zola while prepping directorial efforts. Harris famously said in an interview noted by the New York Times, “I don’t want people to be able to walk away from a play about slavery and say, ‘Oh, well, that’s not about 2018," speaking to the universal theme of Blak history and remembrance in his works.
Influences, movers, shakers, and creatives all make an impact on not only the industry they focus on but on their community and the world as a whole. The more Black influences gain traction and garner attention from the wider world the more influence they will have for good. The power of Black voices and creative minds cannot be underestimated, especially in this day and age!
Challenging the Landscape
Together, this vanguard isn’t waiting for doors to open. They’re charging ahead redefining tired tropes and letting their full selves shine. Whether writing, directing, or performing—their influence elevates collective storylines rather than just individual career success. Because for today’s generation of Black talent, a rising tide can lift all ships.
Look at Quinta Brunson, star and creator of hit comedy Abbott Elementary centering teachers in underfunded schools. Where network sitcoms once slotted a single Black character amongst majority white ensembles, Brunson’s hilarious, heartwarming world authentically reflects Black culture and reality. This is obvious in how Brunson talks about the present and the past "You never know which people, places, and experiences are going to shift your perspective until after you've left them behind and had some time to look back."
Examples like this are more plentiful than ever and speak to the shifting tides and the changes that are being felt across the Black community. As more and more people become aware of and appreciative of Black influences the more opportunities they will get to excel.
Young, Gifted, and Black
Together, these game-changers are ensuring the full mosaic of Black experiences permeates every entertainment realm. And their momentum is only building.
Beyond dismantling stereotypes, their art promises to alter how we see ourselves–and each other–for decades to come. The future of entertainment is undoubtedly Black as this vanguard of talent continues charging full steam ahead.