Black indie-film junkies are getting a needed dose of new content with the online streaming service Kweli.tv. Handpicked, award-winning movies from all around the world are finding their way to the D.C.-based streaming service thanks to CEO DeShuna Spencer.
“The inspiration for Kweli.tv was out of frustration,” Spencer said. Cable channels and Netflix weren’t providing enough black content, and she wanted to be the one to fix it.
“I see Kweli.tv as being the connector for the global black community,” Spencer said. “It’s so important as an African American to make sure that people who look like me in other parts of the world are connected on this platform and that their stories are told here because they’re not being told anywhere else.”
DeShuna’s love for independent films and shows sparked the idea for Kweli.tv. Now, the streaming service has more than 150 movies, and 98 percent of Kweli.tv’s content has been presented at film festivals internationally. Kweli.tv streams documentaries, movies and online shows all for $5.99 per month.
But, starting a streaming service was not always Spencer’s dream. After attending Jackson State University, a historically black university in Mississippi, Spencer originally wanted to be a journalist and create an online magazine.
“Jackson State prepared me to be an entrepreneur,” said Spencer. “I learned more about my culture and my heritage by attending an HBCU than any other place.”
As Netflix, Hulu and network television aim to grow their catalogs of black movies and shows, Spencer says those services aren’t her competition.
“The state of of black media is going in a positive direction, but it’s still not quite where it needs to be” Spencer said. “We’re clapping for one [black] show on each network.”
With the resurgence of black movies and shows such as FX’s “Atlanta,” ABC’s “Blackish” and Marvel’s “Black Panther,” some would say that there is enough diversity in the film and online streaming industries. Hulu is now streaming reruns of the hit-show “Living Single,” while HBO has renewed “Insecure” for another season. But you probably won’t get to enjoy these mainstream treasures on Kweli.tv.
“We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel,” Spencer said. “We can’t be different from networks and other streaming services if we show the exact same things they are showing.”
Spencer said Kweli.tv will remain focused on streaming undiscovered documentaries, movies and shows.
“Getting access [to television networks] can be hard for unknown filmmakers of color which is why we need Kweli.tv,” Spencer said. “We give them a place to start.”
Kweli.tv’s next goal is to be a hub for black international journalists to report their stories
“I want us to tell more international stories by working with black journalists in various countries,” Spencer said. “I see Kweli.tv as being a space where we can give international journalists the space to tell their stories and to report their stories in their own communities on their own terms versus Westernizing these stories.”