CHANGING THE CONVERSATION: There's more we could be doing to truly appreciating, and educating people about, Black History every day as opposed to just a month, according to  "Greenleaf" star Deborah Joy Winans.
Photo: Elton Anderson

In the television series "Greenleaf," actress Deborah Joy Winans plays Charity Greenleaf-Satterlee, a pregnant woman who learns that her husband, played by Tye White, is gay.

"I think we all had high hopes to work on a great project,” she tells Mediaplanet. “We all knew that Ms. Winfrey does all things with excellence, so we were quite sure we would be working on a quality piece with quality people.”

There’s still a long way to go

The critically-acclaimed series, created by Craig Wright and executive produced by Oprah Winfrey, averages more than 2 million viewers in live-plus-3 ratings, and ranks as the number two Wednesday scripted series among women ages 25-54. Nevertheless, while black actors may be scoring more substantial parts in film and television, Winans believes we still have a long way to go.

“Now more than ever it’s important to show the world the beauty of who we are,"

“I think that while we, as people of color, are getting more roles now than ever, we are still under-cast,” she explains. “It’s an uphill battle. We have to stay consistent in holding studios and networks accountable for true colorblind casting, among other things.”

Building on success

Winans hopes that the success of “Greenleaf” will encourage directors to strive to create more diverse and authentic representations of people of color in television and film.

“Now more than ever it’s important to show the world the beauty of who we are, not just the stereotypes that we have been cast as for so long,” she urges. “With every role you have to consider everything and hopefully choose something that will continue to push our community forward.”

The future of black history

How does Winians plan on celebrating Black History Month this year? She doesn’t.  “I celebrate Black History Month every month,” she laughs. “I’m constantly trying to learn more and more from our ancestors and all that they have done so that we can be where we are today.” And while Black History Month remains an excellent starting point, Winans believes students deserve a more thoughtful and comprehensive understanding of black history.

“A small problem with the younger generation is that they aren’t being taught all of the sacrifices people made for us to have the freedoms we have. And even with those freedoms we are still fighting — fighting to be seen and heard, fighting to not be killed because we are wearing a hooded sweatshirt, fighting because others look at you as if you are less than,” she says. “Black history means a lot to me and I celebrate it all year, just in case I meet a young person that I can encourage or help see that their black is beautiful.”