Entertainment / Media / POC in Tech

DeShuna Spencer is building kweliTV, a streaming network featuring black voices

The on-demand video network aims to be both educational and entertaining.

The future is now. (Photo by Flickr user JD Hancock, used under a Creative Commons license)

DeShuna Spencer has a pretty good idea of what programs she wants to host on kweliTV, a stealth-mode streaming network aimed at black audiences.
There will be independent films, from Nigeria perhaps.
There will be news, black fashion, up-and-coming performers, black history programming and documentaries on issues like the school-to-prison pipeline.
There will also be shows on how to manage a budget, stay healthy and keep a marriage going.
“It’s more than just entertainment,” she said. “It’s also educational.”
And it’s also more than TV: it’s a streaming network, which she hopes will tap into an emerging market. “Most of my friends don’t have cable; they stream movies, they stream the content.”

DeShuna Spencer. (Photo via Twitter)

But when she first came up with the idea for kweliTV two years ago, she couldn’t find an investor.
On a whim, she decided to apply for the UNITY Journalists for Diversity’s New U seed grant program. “I was up for a day-and-a-half, trying to get the application done, did a quick video pitch,” she said.
In December, kweliTV was announced a winner and Spencer received $20,000 to build out her beta prototype.
She is now partnering with Maxime Paul on the technical end while working frantically to obtain streaming rights for content in time for a launch scheduled for the end of the year. Spencer also hopes to produce original content for the network, and is seeking an additional round of funding.
A journalist by trade, Spencer  hosts a radio show on the D.C. station WPFW and founded emPower magazine in 2010 to help  “change the way black people are portrayed in the media.”

Originally from Memphis, Tenn., Spencer is enthused by the entrepreneurial spirit of the local black community. “The D.C. area is a Mecca for professional black people,” she said. As the birthplace of BET it’s also a hub for
Yet she is also bemused that even here, some people “take one look at a black person” and automatically think, “they’re poor.” Spencer described in a blog post being stopped by a police officer outside of her row house in Old Town Alexandria as she was taking her dog out.
She flashed a big light on me. I began to ask her what was the problem. She ignored me. Instead, I could hear her describing me on her walkie-talkie. Again, I asked, “What’s the problem.” This time I said it a little louder. She never told me anything. She just kept flashing her extremely bright light at me.

Spencer explained that she lived “across the streets from the housing projects, literally” — and that as a result, she was occasionally viewed as an intruder in her own neighborhood. That resonates in her professional life, too. Though it might be because of her youth, she said, “a lot of people don’t take me very seriously.”
“I’m very frustrated,” said Spencer. “But that’s why I do what I do.”

Companies: kweliTV

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