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ABC’S ‘BLACK-ISH’ TACKLES COVID-19, SYSTEMIC RACISM AND 2020 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION IN SEVENTH SEASON

BY MARIAH B. CAMPBELL
Contributing Writer
School of Communication, Journalism
Texas Southern University

As ABC’s hit tv show, ‘Black-ish’, prepares to premiere its seventh season, cast members share how the show will continue reflecting the reality of Black life during a time of COVID-19, racial injustice, and the upcoming presidential election.

From the coronavirus pandemic to the police killings of unarmed black men and women, the year’s unfavorable chain of events inspired the themes for the shows seventh season.

Since its debut in 2014, ‘Black-ish’ has upheld the reputation of tackling political and social issues that have plagued Black communities in America, and this season is no different.

‘Black-ish’ executive producer and actor, Laurence Fishburne, who plays Pops, emphasizes that ‘Black-ish’ has been instrumental in reducing the racial divide by providing a positive example of Black life in America.

“Our show has had a positive impact on non-Black people,” Fishburne said. “I think it has given them a window into some of what our experience is like and it has allowed us to have dialogue around these issues. I think it has given them an opportunity to embrace our humanity a lot more fully and to recognize themselves in us.”

The cast of the ABC comedy have performed in many episodes that exhibit the positive and negative elements of the Black experience in America.

Actress Marsai Martin, who plays Diane Johnson, says that the cast understands the depth of the issues the show undertakes, and they’re conscious of their approach to producing such dynamic stories.

“With the topics that ‘Black-ish’ pulls together, we always want to make sure that we bring our authentic self to the screen while telling a story, which is very impactful for everyone,” said Martin.

‘Black-ish’ actor Marcus Scribner, who plays Andre Johnson, also knows the impact of the series. He believes that the show was originally intended to be an active voice for African Americans.

“Being able to share these stories with the world and amplify our voices to an extreme level has been what it’s been about since day one,” said Scribner.

Amongst the impact of COVID-19, a notable theme that will be discussed in the seventh season of ‘Black-ish’ will be systemic racism and the movement for social justice and equality.

Enduring the consistent racism and killings of Black Americans, cast members see the urgent need for Black stories and political action to change the narrative.

Although the patterns of racism continue to echo throughout Black communities, lead actor and executive producer Anthony Anderson, who plays Dre Johnson, sees the importance of telling the stories of Black Americans to bring about justice.

“We all should continue to tell our stories,” said Anderson. “We are not out here fighting this fight to be accepted universally, we’re fighting this fight for what we believe in and what we feel is fair.”

Along with highlighting Black stories, the ‘Black-ish’ cast encourages viewers to take political action to combat the unending cycle of systemic racism and inequity.

Forms of civic engagement like voting and protesting are also on the list of subjects to be discussed in this new season.

Playing a young character who has become passionate for political and social involvement, Scribner echoes the shows’ message to take advantage of the opportunity to vote.

Scribner says that mobilizing and engaging politically is key to implementing change within the government and community.

“Voting is a form of protest,” said Scribner. “It is the most important and powerful tool that we have to create change.”

Fishburne honors the legacy of African Americans’ social and political action but encourages ‘Black-ish’ viewers to continue for the sake of future generations.

“We really owe it to everybody that came before us and everybody that’s coming, the generation after yours, to exercise our right to vote and get to the ballot,” said Fishburne.

According to cast members, viewers can expect episodes that reflect their lives and what’s currently happening in the community. This season, ‘Black-ish’ will continue sharing stories that create meaningful conversations and help produce change within society.

The seventh season premier will air Wednesday, October 21, 2020 at 8:30 p.m. (CST) on the ABC network.

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