Drawn to Equality
Opening doors to animation for women and non-binary artists of color
When Taylor K. Shaw was growing up, she loved animated shows such as Daria, Rocket Power and The Boondocks.
But it never occurred to her that she could actually work on shows like that. “If I had known that animation was an option for me, I would have definitely pursued that dream,” she says. As Founder and CEO of the Black Women Animate collective (originally named Black Girls Animate collective), she’s now working to make others aware of that option.
Shaw formed the production company with Managing Partner, author and social activist JLove Calderón in December 2017. Their goal was to create access and training for women and non-binary artists of color. “We are here to increase the visibility of underrepresented people and narratives across the media landscape,” she says.
Both Shaw and Calderón were struck by how few women of color work in the industry, despite statistics that show most animation school graduates around the country are women. “Animation was behind compared to other sectors,” Shaw says. “Nobody has done any real research on how many women of color are working in the industry. That alone speaks to the lack of representation and where we are right now.”
Shaw notes that few people of color or women have positions of power in animation. “We live in a world where everyone hires their friends,” she says. “People who have made it in the field have done it because of the chutzpah. They are the ones who have inspired us to be more visible.”
The collective strives to be a bridge between industry gatekeepers and women of color and non-binary talent.
“We want to use our platform and position to create this place for ourselves in the industry,” Shaw says. “Our goal is to offer training and development workshops for women, starting with girls age eight and up. We need to ensure that they are introduced to the beautiful world of animation, and that their parents realize that this is a viable option for their kids.”
Last October, Black Women Animate joined forces with Cartoon Network for a full-day boot camp in Burbank, California. “It was such an amazing experience,” Calderón recalls. “There was an audience of about 150 people — all black and brown and non-binary — who were interested in working in animation. We’ve been getting so many emails and phone calls, and people in Hollywood want to work with us.”
Shaw is also optimistic. “We want young girls to know that there is a place for them, and that their stories need to be told,” she says. “The industry is changing and evolving. People are conscious of the importance of diversity more than ever before.”
“We know there’s a lot of work to be done,” Calderón adds. “We are going to hold people accountable.”
This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, Issue No 4, 2019
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