Here’s the energy we are bringing into 2022: Celebrate Black women as often as possible. And since we’re already 20 days into the year, it’s about time we place a spotlight on just a few of the Black women creatives that are giving Black folks a healthy presence in Hollywood. Today, we elevate the sisters that write some of the best television we’ve ever seen. Join me as I introduce you to thirteen of Tinseltown’s best and brightest artists. Let’s GO!
Misha Green is a literal force of nature. Her writing often transcends the norm, forcing those viewing her art to think so far outside the box, the box doesn’t even exist anymore. After getting her start writing for hit shows Sons of Anarchy and Heroes, Green went on to create what will be her legacy series: Underground for WGN America and Lovecraft Country for HBO. This year The Mother, the action film she wrote and produced starring Jennifer Lopez, Joseph Fiennes and Omari Hardwick, hits theaters.
Tracy Y. Oliver
Tracy Y. Oliver may very well be my writing hero. Her consistency, and ability to write epic roles for Black women is pretty much unmatched. The Stanford grad is also on a major roll, starting from when she wrote for and co-starred in the web series The Adventures of Awkward Black Girl back in 2011. Since then, check the receipts: co-writer for Barbershop: The Next Cut (2016), Girls Trip (2017), and Little (2019). Writer of the film The Sun Is Also A Star (2019). Creator of First Wives Club (BET Plus) and Harlem (Amazon Prime). What a résumé. And to think, Oliver is just getting started.
Straight out of Memphis, Tennessee, Katori Hall has always been adept at creating complex characters. After serving as the first Black valedictorian in her high school’s history, Hall went on to shatter even more ceilings on Broadway, creating the award-winning play Hurt Village, the Tony-nominated Tina: The Tina Turner Musical, The Mountaintop, and her 2021 Pulitzer Prize for Drama winning play, The Hot Wing King. Currently the Juilliard grad is helming the Starz hit series P-Valley (we’re waiting patiently for Season 2!), part of her overall deal with Lionsgate Television.
The first thing you’ll notice about Britt Matt is that she is so Chicago, repping her city every chance she gets. The next thing you’ll notice about Matt is her talent: the Emmy winner cut her teeth in the industry on shows like MTV’s Made, Life With LaToya, Flex and Shanice and RuPaul’s Drag Race before going on to write for NBC’s Marlon and A.P. Bio, and serving as writer and producer for BET Plus’ First Wives Club and Amazon Prime’s Harlem. Yup. One of Chicago’s finest.
I’m sure a lot of us could write 2,500 words about Michaela Ewuraba Boakye-Collinson and how amazing and different and poignant both of her award-winning series are. Seriously, most of us weren’t even over how hilarious and awkward Chewing Gum (E4) was before the Guildhall School of Music and Drama grad blessed the world with the very personal, very raw I May Destroy You (HBO). We’ve also probably heard the stories of how many revisions Coel made on the Destroy You script before submitting the final draft. That attention to detail lets you know that her success is not by accident. It’s by hard work and it’s also reason to look forward to whatever is next from the brilliantly talented Emmy winner.
It’s never easy for Black writers to be in a writers room where one of their responsibilities is to write for the Black characters on a series. They usually have to straddle the line between keeping it palatable for the broad audience and keeping the dialogue authentically Black. Kay Oyegun has made sure to keep things authentic when it comes to her writing, from her days with Queen Sugar and now, with This Is Us. Because of her talents Randall and Beth’s storylines are the ones that stand out each week, and it’s kept this writer (me) glued to my television for six seasons. Last year Oyegun made her directorial debut on the series (“Birth Mother” was the episode where Randall “met” his maternal family) and recently wrote the original script for an upcoming Paramount film titled Assisted Living, starring Cardi B.
Kourtney Richard describes herself as a storyteller, and her Hollywood credits back up that description. The Texas State University grad moved to Los Angeles in 2011 and her career has been on a steady ascent ever since. After a few years writing sketches for Hart Beat Productions, All Def Digital, Issa Rae’s Peak.TV, and for talk shows at CBS, BET, Revolt, Starz and Netflix, Richard took her talents to Disney, where she has served as staff writer for Coop and Cami Ask the World and Sydney to the Max. If that wasn’t enough, she has also written the scripts for the holiday movies Santa I Need A Date and Kirk Franklin’s A Gospel Christmas.
Courtney A. Kemp
Before she became a part-owner of Starz (kidding, but maybe not really) you probably had never heard of Courtney A. Kemp. But you did know her writing, lending her incredible pen game to the hit CBS series The Good Wife and the CW show Beauty & the Beast. And then came the juggernaut Power, a series that catapulted the careers of Omari Hardwick and Naturi Naughton and propelled Kemp to the next level of her career. As creator of the series that saved a premium network, the Brown University and Columbia University graduate kept the franchise going, creating an array of spinoffs including Power Book II: Ghost and Power Book III: Raising Kanan. And last year, the writer/producer signed an overall deal with Netflix, proving that even outside of the Powerverse, Kemp’s stars are continuing to shine brightly.
Eboni Freeman didn’t take the conventional route to the writers room. The University of Michigan graduate worked at Fox Sports for eight years before entering the Sundance Episodic Lab, which offers training in developing original series and pilots. From there Freeman was able to secure an agent, and then came This Is Us. Since joining the series in its third season, the former ballet dancer has gone on to write three episodes, including one of the show’s standouts, the Beth-themed “Our Little Island Girl.” Clearly, the future is bright for Freeman. Can’t wait to see what’s coming next.
Njeri Brown is one of the most sought-after talents in Hollywood these days. Just this past year the writer/producer has written episodes for Harlem (Amazon Prime), Queens (ABC), Run the World (Starz), and Resident Alien (SYFY). And before that she was executive story editor and staff writer for the Netflix series Dear White People, a producer for story editor and staff writer on Black’ish (ABC) and a writer for BET’s Being Mary Jane. To say that Brown excels at writing for Black characters would be an profound understatement. Also, there are so many other Black series on the air. Here’s to seeing where Brown’s pen appears next.
Ashley Nicole Black
Ashley Nicole Black is living her writing dream. The Los Angeles native can now be considered a veteran in Hollywood after winning a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Variety Special for TBS’ Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, being nominated for an Emmy for her acting and writing on HBO’s A Black Lady Sketch Show, and being nominated for an Emmy for her writing on Apple’s Ted Lasso. And if that’s not enough, the comedian/actress/writer recently signed an overall deal with Warner Bros. Television Studios to create and produce programming for HBO Max. So yes, a Hollywood veteran. A very, very talented one.
A graduate of Northwestern University, Locke was a fellow at the Sundance Institute’s Feature Filmmakers Lab in 1999, studying screenwriting and directing. Locke has written scripts for Paramount, Warner Bros., Disney, 20th Century Fox, Jerry Bruckheimer Films, HBO and Dreamworks and was a writer and producer on the Fox drama Empire. Most recently, she was a writer and producer on Netflix’s When They See Us and the Hulu adaptation of Little Fires Everywhere. In 2021, it was announced that Locke would serve as executive producer and showrunner for the Netflix limited series From Scratch, an adaptation of her sister Tembi Locke’s 2019 memoir entitled “From Scratch: A Memoir of Love, Sicily and Finding Home.”
Natasha Tash Gray
Natasha Tash Gray is a force. The Los Angeles native has been amplifying Black voices since she entered the entertainment industry a decade ago writing for the series Let’s Stay Together (BET). Since then, Gray has created a very successful career, using her pen game to give life to characters on series such as Dog With A Blog (Disney Channel), Rebel (BET), Unsolved: The Murders of Tupac and the Notorious B.I.G. (BET), Snowfall (FX), P-Valley (Starz) and Power Book III: Raising Kanan (Starz).