While in Chicago preparing to film another season of Showtime’s The Chi, cast members Jasmine Davis and Miriam A. Hyman found time to participate in the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s annual celebration of Black History Month known as The Future is Black.
During their captivating virtual conversation, the pair opened up about LGBTQ representation on their own show, and on television overall, and shared powerful words of wisdom.
“I love what Showtime and The Chi are doing. We’re opening people’s eyes to life, co-existing with others,” said Davis, who plays Imani, the show’s first transgender character. “That’s our job to educate and entertain, to inspire. When you see this on TV, when your child goes out into the world, or when you go out to a workplace, you’re not that ignorant, you’re not that fearful because we are depicting them in a human way.”
Davis had previously only portrayed cisgender characters. She came out as trans after joining the show created by Lena Waithe about life in Chicago’s South Side.
Hyman portrays Dre, a lesbian high school guidance counselor with two stepchildren. The actress, also a songwriter and hip-hop lyricist known as Robyn Hood, applauded the show’s diversity and its impact on society.
“Because of the fact that Black people have been sort of shoved to the side, it’s really important for us to amplify our voices, to be heard, and to be listened to because we have some really powerful messages.” Hyman said. “What I really admire [about The Chi] is this level of diversity. I love the fact that there are a lot of people tuning in who might not normally tune in because they are seeing their likeness.”
Connecting With Viewers
If the actors had any doubt whether the show helps to change hearts and minds, all they had to do is check social media or bump into the show’s fans to get an idea of the impact’s extent.
“I have had so many straight, Black males tell me how they are so proud, how they appreciate my character, and how I’m portraying my character,” Davis shared. “I even have religious people hit me up—even people who have trans kids hit me up. I felt so inspired. I didn’t even know that my character would have this much of an impact, especially on the Black and brown community. I’ve been stopped in stores and been told, ‘Oh my God, I so relate to it.’ And these are straight couples! They can relate to our stories even if they’re not in the LGBT community. It’s just so powerful.”
Shared Hyman: “One of the things that I’m really appreciating via social media is being able to have those conversations and lots of people—men, women, Black, white, Asian, Latino, people who are in the LGBTQIA community—reaching out and saying, ‘Yo, I really rock with Dre. I really, really like who she is as a person and what she’s bringing to the table.’ I had a message that came through that said, ‘I grew up with two moms, and it’s great to see that on television.’ It’s dope that I can be a part of telling that story and making it just be a bit more normal for people. We fear what we don’t know, and when we’re let in, we chill a little bit.”
“Find Your Truth”
The conversation between Davis and Hyman got personal when they shared words of hard-earned wisdom to struggling younger people.
Hyman recommended to always be honest, open, and truthful.
“It’s that idea of being true to who you are, being true to the things that you want, your dreams, your aspirations,” she said. “It’s not letting anybody or anything hold you back whether it’s a close family member, mother, father, sister, brother, whatever. Put that all to the side. Self-love is so important. We have a lot of people who are dealing with depression, dealing with anxiety, dealing with all these things. A lot of times it stems from the fact that they don’t feel love. They don’t feel they have a purpose, they don’t feel that their existence is necessary. It’s like, ‘Hang on, Boo. You are here for a reason.’”
For Davis, it’s about self-love and finding your truth.
“Don’t ask the world to love you,” she advised. “Love yourself, and you will not depend on anybody else’s love. Do whatever you want to do. It’s your life. No one can tell you how to live it regardless of what they say. Do you, Boo Boo! Whoever you want to date, whoever you want to love, whatever career choice, do you. The only person who can make you happy is you.”
Watch the full episode of The Future is Black: Virtual Conversation at lalgbtcenter.org/watch