Frustrated by tired stereotypes and the lack of diversity in entertainment, a female journalist and filmmaker named DeShuna Spencer created kweliTV to be a catalyst for change and a space for Black thought leaders, journalists, filmmakers and creatives to give voice to the African Diaspora.
kweliTV is a newly formed OTT streaming service that celebrates the excellence of global Black culture and community through award-winning independent films, series, documentaries, children’s programming and more.
What is more “vital” in Entertainment than kweliTV at the moment, especially with the current universal culture conversation at hand with BLM, social and economic equality and accessibility and systemic racism?
“KewliTV was born out of me being frustrated with the types of storylines I saw in the media,” Spencer told The Shadow League. “But for a lot of independent filmmakers, especially the ones we are working with, they don’t have the space to showcase their work. Especially once they complete their film festival run.
Initially, it was about me looking online, reading about independent films and not being able to see them outside of film festivals. Then when I did my own documentary, I learned about the challenges for Black filmmakers and how hard it is to get distribution once they finish their film festival run.
Lots of streaming platforms, especially big name ones, are either getting big-budget films or creating their own content and a lot of great independent filmmakers are getting left out. Spencer says she wanted to create a space to celebrate Black culture, show different sides of what it means to be Black,
“Just not in America, but globally,” Spencer said. “With a lot of mainstream content, you tend to see one lens or one view of Blackness. We’re not a monolithic group, were a very diverse group within our own culture and our goal at kwelitv is definitely to celebrate our differences.”
KweliTV: Connecting The Dots Of Global Black Experience Through Film
Discover and celebrate black stories through curated indie films, documentaries, web series, kids’ shows, news, and live experiences from around the world—North America, Africa, Latin America, Europe and the Caribbean. “Kweli” means “truth” in Swahili. Our mission is to curate content that is a true reflection of the global black experience.
98 % of kweliTV’s films have been official selections at film festivals and more than 65% are award-winning. kweliTV provides more than 250 indie filmmakers of color across the globe a space to showcase and make money off of their content once they have finished their film festival run.
Spencer has been steady grinding, trying to spread her labor of love to the universe. Her mission has already been covered by Forbes, Vulture, Inc., TechCrunch, LA Times, Black Enterprise to name a few publications.
“I believe that storytelling can change lives”
Spencer has been working on KweliTV for “a few years.” She says she’s always been concerned about Black representation in the media, even as a young child.
DeShuna Spencer: My first dream as a kid was to be a storyteller, author or novelist. I used to read a bunch of teen magazines, but I remember cultural and ethnic things that were missing in those magazines like how to do MY hair and how makeup works for ME. As a young girl, I didn’t see myself in a lot of movies, commercials or magazines. Back in the day, they generally did not do that.
As a child, the only example of a strong Black woman that I could remember was Robin Givens’ character in the movie Boomerang. It was the first time I saw a woman who wasn’t light-skinned but was a boss. I wanted to be her as an adult. A take no prisoner kind of woman. That was the only character when I was growing up because there aren’t a lot of those.
As an adult now, it’s important to show young people growing up the positive, diverse aspects of their community that they need to see.
The platform features content hailing everywhere from the United States to Colombia to Rwanda and 98% of their films have been official selections at film festivals. KweliTV is available on Amazon Fire / Roku / Apple TV / GooglePlay / iOS / Chromecast / Cox.
Spencer’s passion for creating kweliTV was also fueled by her hardworking Dad, a former truck driver and her mom, a teacher, who went back to college in her 40s. Spencer says her mom taught her that “it’s never too late to better yourself or impact other people.”
Spencer’s unique educational journey also influenced her storytelling ambitions.
“As a kid, I was an avid reader and I live in the inner city in Memphis and was bussed from there to this really privileged white community and all Black kids from the school were from my community,” Spencer, an HBCU graduate of Jackson State, reveals. “I always stuck out like a sore thumb. I didn’t want any issues with the kids so that’s why I would read a lot and create my own world and reading as storytelling became a huge part of my life.”
It was an escape from a reality that must have been challenging for Spencer, but it also opened up a world of knowledge and a thirst for exploring the untold stories of African-Americans and Black culture in general. Immersing herself in books allowed Spencer’s mind to travel beyond mainstream America and learn about the true richness, and multifacetedness of global Black culture and history.
The international films found on kweliTV reflect Spencer’s goals.
“Because of slavery, there are a lot of African-American communities within Latin America and Europe,” Spencer tells The Shadow League. “They have their own cultures outside of Black American culture, but American’s tend to be very one-sided and limited in our view of the world. You never hear about these various forms of Black culture in mainstream media.”
kweliTV is for people who don’t have the money to travel around the world and experience the uniqueness of Black culture first hand. It provides an opportunity for people to learn how various Black cultures have similarities and differences and all derive from Africa. It’s about our ancestry and who we are connected to. kweliTV’s mission is to connect the dots globally
Spencer’s Recommended Viewing
“I think this film because it’s not about child soldiers or oppression, it’s basically about some kids who love soccer and want to travel to the World Cup. Nothing negative about the continent. These kids do anything necessary to get to South Africa to watch soccer. It’s a family film.”
Wilmington On Fire
In 1898, Wilmington was North Carolina’s largest city, with a majority black population, a thriving black middle class, and a biracial Republican-Populist fusion government. On November 10, an armed mob of Democrat-backed white supremacists opened fire on African American neighborhoods, slaughtering hundreds and driving thousands out of the city for good
“It’s a sci-fi movie based in Flint Michigan and deals with the water crisis issue in Flint. A girl winds up drinking some position water for Flint, Michigan and she becomes a zombie basically telling the story of how the Flint Water risis has affected so many people.”
For more information, visit: www.kwelitv.