Kweli TV broadens access to Black filmmakers & programming around the world

WASHINGTON, DC -- Six years ago, DeShuna Spencer was looking for something to watch on television when she said that she became so fed up with the limited selection of Black films and programming that she decided to take matters into her own hands.

“It really just started from my desire to want to see more authentic stories from the African Diaspora”, said Spencer, Founder and CEO of Kweli TV, an online streaming service dedicated to showcasing the work of Black filmmakers from around the world.

“We focus on the African Diaspora, so we have independent films, documentaries, web shows and children’s programming from North America, Europe, Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa streaming all in one place.”, said Spencer.

The idea, she said, was borne out of dissatisfaction with the current offerings.

“Like, Oh my gosh, I can’t find anything. The Black women are fighting each other on reality television, or I really didn’t see enough documentaries, I didn’t see enough international content.”, explained Spencer.

So, she set out to change things.

Spencer said that she had done her research and found there is a huge market for people just like her, wanting to see more quality and diverse programming representing communities of color.
However, her road getting there wasn’t made easy.
In 2012, the Jackson State University graduate and former newspaper reporter would become a finalist in a pitch competition, but would not be selected due to uncertainties at the time about the future of steaming.

Spencer then said that it was as if everything came crashing down around her.

“I always tell people, I had like my Job moment.", she explained, "My aunt died, my nephew died, my Dad was diagnosed with cancer, my dog became paralyzed, I lost my job, I became sick.”

But, she persevered. By 2014, she would go on to win another pitch contest, giving her the springboard she needed to launch Kweli TV; kweli, meaning 'truth' in Swahili.

For a small subscription fee, similar to Netflix, viewers are opened up to hundreds of films made all over the world, most of which are film festival features.

Spencer says the service is all about quality programming and breaking negative stereotypes.

“Sometimes people assume that if it’s made by a Black person then it’s less caliber or the acting isn’t that great, but there are a lot of really awesome filmmakers who are Black who have really, really awesome content and a place like Netflix may not be looking for because they’re so focused on creating original programming.", said Spencer who counts herself as privileged to be among few Black women who actually own content and hopes to inspire other women of color to make an impact in their communities.

While the goal of Kweli TV is to support and show the true culture of the Black community, the content is for everyone to enjoy.

Spencer said, “Anyone can watch the content, it’s for everyone, but we’re unapologetically Black about what we’re doing and the main mission, but people are unfortunately surprised when they look at the content like, wow.. this looks great. I didn’t know about this documentary  or this is telling a really great story about Cuba or Honduras. It’s really fascinating and that’s why I really like what I do.”

Learn more about Kweli TV here.