Writer, inspirational speaker, anti-domestic violence activist and woman on a mission, Sil Lai Abrams (pictured below) has had enough of the fleeting, microwave outrage that sputters around pseudo-reality television and is fighting fire with facts. Determined to move beyond hastily crafted petitions and boycotts, Abrams created “Truth in Reality,” a grassroots media advocacy organization committed to changing the way women and interpersonal violence are portrayed on reality television.
Refusing to rely solely on criticisms that could easily be misconstrued as calls for censorship, Abrams evokes the fiery wisdom of El-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz, who warned, “The media’s the most powerful entity on earth…because they control the minds of the masses.” Sensing that Black women are tired of the ‘Crazy Black Reality Chick’ meme,” Abrams, through Truth in Reality, is swiftly gaining wide-spread support centered around the fact that persistent and consistent misrepresentations of Black women is purposeful exploitation peddled as entertainment.
In an article at Clutch Magazine, Abrams shares the three basic components of the TIR movement:
1) Raise awareness about the adverse effects of negative reality TV shows are having on our communities
2) Advance our advocacy efforts to change the existing broadcast standards and practices for cable networks by encouraging them to practice Principles of Responsible Reality
3) Mobilize the Black community through digital activism to create a movement of change in our collective attitudes towards interpersonal violence, with the end goal of ultimately reducing our disproportionate rates of interpersonal violence.
It is our belief that if we can affect change on a micro level (such as in how Black women are being portrayed on reality television), eventually this will create a shift in our imagery overall in media. Petitioning via sites such as Change.org can be a very effective means of letting the media know that stereotypical and exploitative programming is not acceptable and will not be tolerated. However, we must do more than react to offensive and damaging media. We must be proactive in assertively challenging existing definitions of Black womanhood, educating media consumers on the real impact that misogynistic programming such as negative reality shows are having on the Black community, and empowering viewers to make informed television viewing choices.
Pivotal to the success of TIR, is “sisters supporting sisters” (SSS), and in her op-ed, Abrams recognizes four women who have spoken out against the pervasive violence and overall negativity that defines Black dominated reality television: Meeka Claxton,Kelly Smith Beaty,Michaela Angela Davis, and Sabrina Lamb.Each in their own way, these women have led the charge to demand that reality television meet a higher standard — or at the very least, be real.