Television today is not what it used to be. It seems like scripted reality television has dominated the airwaves. While I work to finish the last few parts of my autobiography, I wanted to share the Black male television actors that have positively influenced me over the years. By the way, if you have not read the first two excerpts, click “Autobiography” on the right.
This list is in no particular order:
Bill Cosby as Heathcliff Huxtable: “The Cosby Show”
He always shared the importance of education, personal responsibility, and critical thinking. It was the first show of its kind to show affluent, educated African Americans on television. I never got into the sweaters.
Kadeem Hardison as Dwayne Wayne: “A Different World”
This young brother encountered many difficulties navigating college life. Despite everything he continued to persist. He made going to college look cool; and I still want a pair of those sunglasses.
James Avery as Philip Banks: “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”
I admired his ability to always remember his roots despite his socio-economic and political status. His mentorship ability with Will was also brilliant. His conversations with Will and Carlton challenged us to think about what it means to be Black.
Martin Lawrence as Martin Payne: “Martin”
This may be a surprise to some people. However, what I admired most about Martin was his loyalty to Gina, his craft, his mother, and his friends. If he ever messed things up he always made it right. My favorite episode was when he proposed to Gina.
Will Smith as Will Smith: “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”
I could relate to Will’s urban to suburban transition. His struggle to adjust and find his way through new terrain reminded me of my adjustment to DeKalb.
Charles S. Dutton as Roc Emerson: “Roc”
Strong husband and working class man trying to make ends meet for his family. This story is made even more incredible once you know Charles S. Dutton’s personal story.
Arsenio Hall: “The Arsenio Hall Show”
I watched Arsenio at every opportunity. I still pump my fist in the air occasionally. He was another brother breaking ground into new territory. This show also bumped up President Clinton’s numbers for the 1992 presidential election.
Keenan Ivory Wayans: “In Living Color”
It wasn’t necessarily Keenan himself that left a lasting impact, but rather the concept of his show. This was by the far the best sketch-comedy show I have ever seen. Here are some of the stars that the show helped to develop.
• Jim Carrey
• Jamie Foxx
• Tommy Davidson
• David Allen Grier
• Kim Coles
• Daman Wayans
• Kim Wayans
• Shawn Wayans
• Marlon Wayans
• Jennifer Lopez as a Fly Girl
Reginald VelJohnson as Carl Winslow: “Family Matters”
Malik Yoba as Detective J.C. Williams: “New York Undercover”
I am sure that there are some brothers that I have missed, but these were the most memorable for me. Some shows may have been better or more entertaining, but they did not have the subliminal impact that the above characters had.