Three years ago, DeShuna Spencer was frustrated by the lack of Black content on-screen. So she created a streaming video app for Black films and television from around the world.
KweliTV now has nearly 36,000 users and aims to distribute stories centered on Black characters and experiences not typically portrayed in mainstream media.
“The idea for KweliTV came to me while watching television and really starting to see how black representation, how it affects so many things, how people perceive us and how we perceive ourselves,” said DeShuna Spencer, now the CEO of KweliTV.
“I really wanted to open up the world to what it means to be black around the world.”
“There is a number of different reasons why I really wanted to focus on the African diaspora- I was really just curious about life abroad, especially for people who look like me. I remember the first time I traveled to Honduras and I saw so many black people. The media, they don’t show you black people unless they’re Africa or America.”
The streaming app is available on platforms including Amazon Fire, Roku and Apple TV.
Viewers can watch indie films, news, children’s programmes and more. Many of them have African roots.
“I remember when I was initially working on the idea for KweliTV, there were people who weren’t so sure about our mission, especially a lot of the times when you think about blackness,” Spencer said.
“It sometimes could be one dimensional, one or two types of storylines and people are like, well do black people want to see documentaries. They want to see black sci-fi. Like, no, I think that there’s a market for this.”
“We have parents that say, wow, my my child sees a character who looks just like him or her or they say, I get a chance to learn about culture I never heard of or I just get to celebrate myself.”
In Swahili, “Kweli” means truth, the reality of things.
“I really wanted the name to mean something,” Spencer added. “I think words matter.”
“There are so many African languages, but no matter your race, people know that Swahilli is African language. So that was number one- Swahili. I kind of went with that because I knew I wanted a name that really spoke to what the overall mission of KweliTV is.”
A new batch of films and series was released on the service on October 7th.