Why Harlem Is Not “the Black Sex and the City”
By Ronda Racha Penrice
Harlem is a newish show that stars Meagan Good and follows four Black female friends who experience the funny, emotional, embarrassing, and everything in between on their journey to success after college. The show has been well received as an engaging and somewhat accurate depiction of life for young Black women post-college, and some may say it has scratched the itch for a Black Sex in The City. But it’s so much more.
During the SCAD TVfest panel with Harlem castmates Meagan Good, Jerrie Johnson, Shoniqua Shandai, Tyler Lepley, and series creator Tracy Oliver in her native Atlanta in early February, Jasmine Guy shared a bit of sobering reality for Black actresses in Hollywood, especially veteran ones. “There was a lot of brokenness when I came back to Atlanta I had to address and heal,” shared the actress, best known as Whitley Gilbert from the highly syndicated nineties comedy A Different World. In recounting how the Black community of friends, family, and fellow creatives uplifted her, reminding her “don’t let those people define you.”
On the hit Prime Video series, Guy plays Patricia, the strongly accented Caribbean mother of Quinn, one of the show’s four core characters that also include struggling singer and actress Angie, tech innovator and dating app guru Tye who is a proud and sexually-assured lesbian, and Camille, an adjunct anthropology professor at Columbia University. Both Camille and Quinn are played by more recognizable actresses in Meagan Good, noted for such films as Eve’s Bayou and The Intruder than TV, and Grace Byers, better known as Boo Boo Kitty from the FOX megahit Empire. Jerrie Johnson and Shoniqua Shandai, who play Tye and Angie, are fresher faces.
Guy’s words were a stinging reminder of why shows like Harlem, centering Black women, are much more than just TV. When the Amazon-owned streamer Prime Video dropped the first season as a binge in December 2021, it just hit with its targeted audience, often trending on a pre-Elon-owned Twitter. By contrast, the Starz series Run the World, also revolving around four Black women college friends living in Harlem premiered May of that year and returns with its second season this May, and Oliver’s own BET+ series, The First Wives Club, initially starring Jill Scott, Ryan Michelle Bathe and Michelle Buteau as…