Marsai Martin is the 16 year old Hollywood overachiever many of us have grown to love with her work on Black•ish and Little that’s now producing a series for Disney called Saturdays. The show, she says is created to “shine a light” on sickle-cell anemia, something she suffers from but to do so in a positive manner.
“We’ve been working on it for quite a while now. I’ve always wanted to have just a cool activity that like us Black people love — like everyone loves it but the aesthetic of roller skating is just amazing and it just doesn’t get the recognition that it needs. I just wanted to shine a light on it. Then also, sickle cell is a very big thing in our Black community, it tackles us the most. It’s never been seen on TV or film before so I wanted to make sure this was a moment to shine a light on it — in not a bad way because we don’t do Black pain, but to where our main character is still celebrated, still loved and lives her life the way that she wants to. It’s just very fun and very exciting. We’re just bringing back the Disney Channel era that I grew up watching with ‘That’s So Raven’ and ‘Good Luck Charlie’, the shows that I love, and I wanted to bring that back in a way where everyone can watch it, not just the kids, but the family. It’s our humor; I’m excited for it.”
She also added, “I have a couple of rules when you come into my office. When you come into my office, don’t give me this—I don’t do no Black pain. If it’s Black pain I don’t go for it because there’s so many films and projects about that, so that’s not who I am. I want to make sure that it is diverse and real in its own way.”
There is a strong debate about her focus on positive black imagery. For one, there’s no shortage of negative images portrayed about the black community. Just take a look at those who profit off of division that have tried to use Cardi B as some sign of the issues within the black community all over W.A.P. (Effing clowns). And on the other side of the spectrum, we had all types of happy and positive commercials with black people in it for Black History Month and so much so that I started to notice cynicism on my timeline from people of other races, (also no surprise). But her insistence on tackling a health issue without just harboring on the negative and think pieces on things to fix is refreshing. It’s also nothing new. Think of the Good Times vs Cosby Show debate regarding which one is an accurate cultural depiction. The answer is both. Similarly, her choice in a positive show that doesn’t involve black pain should hopefully be respected. After all, we have Tyler Perry for all of the black pain and drama one could take in within a lifetime.