Black History Month: Taylor K. Shaw on Black Women Animate and an Invitation to Dream

Taylor K Shaw
Kristina Kelly

As a creator and writer, I dreamed of hiring a team of women that looked like the black female leads I create. Women who are bold, innovative, and challenge the status quo. It took months to find one animator. Then weeks to find the next. I brought these artists together and was stunned to find an untapped pool of talent, struggling for a permanent place in the animated world.

I found artists across the diaspora with dynamic stories waiting to be told. They had never been allowed to create their narratives. They, both young and old, had not been invited to dream. When our Managing Partner JLove Calderón and I discovered the lack of access and resources provided to black women in animation, my dream was no longer to staff one show. It evolved and is now to transform representation in animation – one show and one artist at a time.

At Black Women Animate, we now head into our third year as a company. Our studio creates original content, offers production services, and trains and develops talent. In consciously hiring women of color and nonbinary animators of color on our productions, our goal is to be a blueprint for equity in the entertainment industry. Since our inception, we’ve partnered with most major animation studios to amplify our training and development efforts. We are currently in development on two network projects, both with artwork created by rising black female talent. We have an original slate of both adult and children’s animated content, all created or co-created by black women.

In the mind’s eye of the 22-year-old that started Black Women Animate, this is no major feat. However, as we scale the company, I am more present to the barriers to entry both big and small that force many animators to quit. When adversity comes, I am reminded of the younger version of me who watched HBO’s “Happily Ever After” in awe. She saw old fables recast with people that looked like her. It was not until I was introduced to industry veteran Donna Brown Guillaume that I learned she produced the series and then it all made sense. Donna saw me. With that show, she gave me the invitation to dream.

Now I ask the industry, after a big win like “Hair Love,” how will we work together to employ and honor black women in animation? Black Women Animate exists because centering the voices of black women will greatly improve the quality and scope of the art. When one controls her narrative, she owns her power. When she shares her narrative, she shares her power.

In 2020, we will expand our annual Boot Camp and continue to redefine the norm with original content. As Black Women Animate grows, it is my desire to create lasting change with more partners in the industry. When you read the words Black Women Animate, it is my hope that you are called to invite more women and people of color into the Hollywood dream.

Taylor K. Shaw has produced content for Viceland, Comedy Central and the Chicago Tribune. Shaw has also established an ongoing partnership with Cartoon Network Studios. She’s the founder and CEO of Black Women Animate.