As Black History month comes to a close, we continue to celebrate the work of African-Americans in the entertainment industry, and the Comcast Xfinity’s Black History Month campaign has featured a myriad of blerds featured in the Groundbreakers: Heroes Behind The Mask. The spotlight is on the pioneering talent behind some of America’s most beloved superhero stories and designs while chronicling the deep-rooted history and representation of the Black community.
We had an opportunity to chat with Keesha Boyd, Executive Director of Multicultural Consumer Services for Comcast.
Jamie: And I’m just gonna … and I just want to make sure, your role is executive director of multicultural consumer services at Comcast.
Jamie: Okay. That’s a mouthful.
Keesha: It is a mouthful. I’m sitting here thinking should I change it? Because it’s a mouthful even when I say it.
Jamie: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to Black Girl Nerds. First of all, tell us exactly what your role is as the executive director of multicultural consumer services at Comcast.
Keesha: Yes, the mouthful of a title that I have. Basically what it means is I have an overall responsibility for our end-to-end African American consumer business strategy. So that means my team and I, we touch everything from working directly with the networks that manage African American programming. We manage TV One, the Africa Channel, BET, and OWN. We also work directly with the field to drive sales. I partner with our multicultural marketing teams to make sure that we’re focused on the right things as it relates to our products and services and how they connect with African American consumers and insights. Then I also get to comb through the world of content that’s out there and making sure that we have the right content offering and most robust content offering of African American centered content, black identity, and black culture content represented across all of our platforms on demand and online.
Jamie: You know we’re right now in Black History Month, and you guys over at Comcast Xfinity are kicking off a really great campaign called Groundbreakers: Heroes Behind The Mask. Can you tell us what that’s all about?
Keesha: Yeah, so we’re really excited about this one. You know, every Black History Month it’s our goal to honor the past but to also really pull forth a theme or a focus that’s relevant and timely for now. And as everybody knows, Black Panther is everything. It was everything from the time it was announced. And so what we really wanted to do was sort of connect to what we knew was going to be important for this community during this month and find a way to tell stories that maybe are not often told about the contributions that African Americans are making behind the scenes to this very popular genre. Despite the lack of representation, we as a community are really contributing in some pretty incredible ways from costume illustration to costume design to show running and writing and producing and graphic illustrators. There’s a growing sort of group of African American talented creators who are contributing to this genre and this space and we wanted to make sure that we highlighted them during this time.
Jamie: I really look forward to seeing this, because some of the folks that are featured in that series I know them very well and I’ve interviewed them in the past, so it’s exciting to see people — that you know — kind of getting their glow up.
Keesha: Yeah, right?
Jamie: And working with big companies like yours, like Comcast. So that’s exciting to see unfold.
Keesha: Yes. yes. And I’ll say, I’ve learned a lot even as we delved into this space, learning about Phillip Boutte Jr. He’s young and so talented as a costume illustrator and has worked on some incredible projects from Black Panther to A Wrinkle in Time, and then even just Floyd Norman’s story, being the first African American animator for Disney. I mean it’s just been really incredible and I think hopefully inspiring stories.
Jamie: I love how Black History Month celebrates our accomplishments as African Americans, but what is Comcast Xfinity doing outside of February to help continue to celebrate voices from our community throughout the year?
Keesha: Yeah, that’s the great point and a great question. I’ll say that a commitment to this community is something that is top of mind for the company year round. From a content perspective, I’ll tell you on demand we have a collection within our Black Film and TV Destination called Black History Always On. We launched it for a number of reasons, but probably the most paramount of which is to celebrate, highlight, and make available the historical content that’s relevant to this community year-round, and to not just stand up a collection in February but to have it available, to have it refreshed and robust year-round. So if ever you want to talk about historical stories of meaning with your kids or you just want to learn for yourself, we’re making it easy for our customers to be able to access that kind of content.
Something else that we do throughout the year is this series called “Voices of the Civil Rights Movement”. And basically what it is, is Xfinity produced content and it is us having these one-on-one conversations with still-living contributors to the Civil Rights Movement; telling all sorts of stories from different angles, and it’s kind of our way of making sure that that history and those stories stay preserved and that they get shared. It’s free content that’s available on our on demand and online platforms. It’s available year round. We actually just refreshed with about 40 new profiles in time for Black History Month, and that’s available in the collection as well. We’re kind of calling them our historical heroes if you will.
So from that perspective, making sure those stories are available is really important. Then I think just throughout the year focus on things like workforce diversity and inclusion and our partnership externally with commitments to the Boys and Girls Clubs and those kinds of things are really what allows us to sort of stay connected to the community in ways that are relevant and timely.
Jamie: Comcast is featuring a lot of comic book creators and animators, and those are very nerdy and geeky roles that we here at Black Girl Nerds celebrate. I was curious to know from you, what are any nerdy or geeky fandoms that you’re into?
Keesha: Oh my goodness, all of this is like right up my alley. First of all, any time a Marvel movie drops, I am at the theater …
Jamie: Me too.
Keesha: …I’ve seen every one. It’s like a thing. And me and a good girlfriend of mine from way back in the day, from growing up, we’ve known each other since we were like two years old, and it’s kind of our thing. Every time a new movie comes out, we got our tickets, we buy them in advance and we’re there. So this is amazing for me. And I mean I was big into Harry Potter with the whole other universe.
But, you know … so I think for me all of these sort of niche communities are just fascinating, they allow you to kind of lean into fantasy and fun and I think frankly part of why Black Panther is so exciting is because it’s a world that is filled with people of color. That sort of adds to the fun of the fantasy. You can sort of see reflections of yourself in these amazing stories. I’m just excited across the board.
Jamie: And you know, speaking of geeky and nerdy things, this project is really inspiring to me personally because when you hear about corporations and companies that are trying to help promote people of color and African Americans specifically in the work that they do, traditionally its people within the tech industry or STEM fields. But then for some of us that are more on the pop culture side of things that are into comic books and gaming and sci fi, you don’t really get to see those content creators amplified. I’m really excited for this series, but I also want to know is there anything in the future with Comcast Xfinity where we’re going to see these kinds of highlights in pop culture entertainment?
Keesha: That’s a great question. I think at this point my hope is that by celebrating the content and the contributors in general that it starts to spark this sort of interest and awareness that there are African American people doing this work interested in these spaces and talented in these spaces. I think the first part to sort of sparking a ripple effect of hiring and inclusion and so forth; is creating the awareness that we’re there and not only are we there we’re talented and capable. So the hope is that by putting up this kind of content on a platform that’s in upwards of 22 million homes, that we start to contribute to the story and perception that people of color can contribute in this space and that we’re here and ready to be taken seriously in this space. I can only hope that this sparks interest going forward.
I think Comcast is a company from a median entertainment space. Part of our goal with what we’re offering to our customers from a content perspective is always to put our ear to the ground on what’s important and what are customers want to see in film and so we’ll continue to stay in that space. I’ll continue to stay in that space as it relates to African Americans and what’s important to us. I think it’s all about that awareness and driving that.
Jamie: We really appreciate you highlighting the folks in this series, and it’s very exciting, especially for us in the Blerd community that are creating our own content, whether it’s writing, podcasting, being a YouTube star or getting into comics or gaming, it’s exciting to see that some of these folks are being highlighted. I hope to see that continue. Where can people learn more about the Ground Breakers campaign and also what’s happening in the Comcast Xfinity community?
Keesha: One place I can direct everybody to is our website xfinity.com/discovermore. It talks about our products and services, but at the very top of the page is a link or an online link to the actual short film that was created to showcase the Ground Breakers from Heroes Behind the Mask, so everyone can consume it whether you’re a customer or not. That was important for us.
And also towards the bottom of that page and I think you’ll see as we continue to update that space, we want to make sure that people are aware of sort of the spaces and places that we’re in around different cities and the different partnerships that we’re creating. So for example, we’re working with the American Black Film Festival and Black Star Film Festival. Connecting with these amazing festivals that are highlighting independent African American filmmakers is important and we’re creating space on our VOD platform for them and for those stories and highlighting and marketing them. So you’ll see more of that in the future.
Jamie: Where can we find you on Twitter?
Keesha: On Twitter I’m @TheKeeshaB and that’s the case on Twitter, on Instagram. Last year for the first time we partnered with the folks over at Blavity for Afrotech and that was amazing to see how many entrepreneurs — black entrepreneurs were in that space to support that whole startup pitch campaign. This will be a pretty exciting year with lots of opportunities and more great partnerships.
Jamie: Well we are really excited for what Comcast has in store for the black community and we’re very excited for Groundbreakers: Heroes Behind the Mask. So thank you so much, Keesha, for taking the time to talk to us.
Keesha: You got it. You got it. And P.S., I was doing a little digging and found your podcast Misty Knight’s Uninformed Afro, which was so great. Oh my goodness, amazing.
Jamie: Oh, thank you.
Keesha: Yeah, and it’s funny because it was through standing at this whole Behind the Mask campaign that we got a chance to sort of highlight some of these stories and find all this great web content about Storm’s backstory and Misty Knight’s backstory. You can really go deep into the rabbit hole with all this stuff, and for someone who’s a nerd like myself and like you, it’s really, really exciting. I say all that to say thank you for doing what you’re doing to highlight and create awareness for those of us who are sort of self-professed nerds in this way. There’s not enough content out there, so I’m excited to see what you’ve got out there and that you’re making it available for those of us that are sitting on our couch looking for it online. So thank you for all that you do.
Jamie: Oh, thank you so much. I really appreciate that. That’s an honor and I’m glad that you enjoy the podcast. That’s a passion project of mine. So I’m glad that it’s reaching out to folks like you. It’s great.
Jamie: Thank you.
“Groundbreakers: Heroes Behind the Mask” is available to ALL consumers online at xfinity.com/discovermore. Xfinity customers can also watch the short on Xfinity on demand in the Black Film & TV destination or on their mobile devices via the Xfinity Stream app. Simply say ‘Black Film & TV’ into your X1 voice remote to access the short film and the full curated collection of TV, Movie and web content. #XfinityBHM
This interview was edited for clarity.