As the Librarian for African American & African Studies at the University of Virginia and a general seeker of quality entertainment, when it comes to keeping my finger on the pulse of traditional forms of media that feature Black creators, I have choices. For classic books, I have the range of Alex Haley’s Autobiography of Malcolm X to Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God. For contemporary voices, I’ll readily point to Samantha Irby’s Wow, No Thank You or Nayyirah Waheed’s salt. For global music we can reference the Afro-Cuban All Stars’ A Toda Cuba Le Gusta, Bob Marley and the Wailers’ Legend, Burna Boy’s African Giant or Tiwa Savage’s Celia. Or for more local tastes, Solange Knowles’ A Seat at the Table or Janelle Monae’s Dirty Computer. For film and television, I can drop big names: Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther, Issa Rae’s Insecure, Shonda Rhimes’ Scandal, etc. Even with all of these riches, if I kept myself restricted to these well known forms of media, I’d be missing out on a whole world of 21st century Black creators and influencers who are innovating untrodden paths! From the turn of the century up to now, we’ve enjoyed all types of new platforms: MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Vine, SnapChat, and now TikTok. With every platform, Black creators have excelled in shaping content that is engaging, educational, and edifying! Like many of you, against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, I spent the last year expanding my personal library and becoming a massive connoisseur of TikTok videos. The algorithm on my for you page is highly refined, reflects my wide-ranging tastes, and likely knows more about me than I do myself! In my countless hours of scrolling, I’ve come across some favorite creators from the broader Black diaspora who I’d like to celebrate this Black History Month. While the creators highlighted below primarily represent the English-speaking world, you are not limited to curating your page to Anglophone content. I’ll link to a representative video for each creator and encourage you to follow them! Here’s how I’ve categorized the 30 TikTokers’ content highlighted below:
@cheflovely is the queen of culinary self-care and teaches all of her followers that luxuriant drink and meal prep is a worthwhile undertaking. Whether she’s making something colorful and liquid or brown and fried, everything her hands touch becomes elegant and blessed. If you’re looking to step up your presentation skills in the kitchen, look no further than this account.
@emmanuelduverneau films elaborate meals step-by-step in a state-of-the-art kitchen. While he waits for his food to cook, he splices the prep scenes with brief shots of his skilled, high-energy dance moves. Once the food is served, he provides a brief critique with a simple nod or, the only uttered word in the vid: “Excellent.” His work is simple and consistent, providing great, accessible ideas on keeping one’s self fed.
@ichvse’s channel features a young couple with a nosey boyfriend who has got a bad hankering for gossip surrounding his girlfriend’s social circle’s lives. When new “tea” is brewing, he makes sure he stays within earshot and asks for a piping cup. The beautiful pair indulge each other’s eccentricities and share intimate moments of coupledom with their viewers.
@lingandlamb are a couple comprised of a North American wife and a Nigerian husband. The connectedness of their union is shown in how much they laugh together. Many of the documentary skits of their shared life surround introducing husband Lamb to new foods. He expresses enthusiasm for highly seasoned dishes from Haiti and Jamaica but doesn’t care much for cheese, which his wife tricks him into consuming.
@shopaif’s account documents playfully instigated confrontations with her wife, LaShondra. LaShondra has an unrelenting habit of buying “prizes” for her wife, RaeShanda, that are cheap, tacky, and very hit-or-miss in thoughtfulness. Viewers, then, are regaled with videos in which RaeShanda objects to the purchases and demands apologies that are never granted.
@burr_jam is an account for an interracial couple, Amber and Ben, who podcast together and record many of their shared daily adventures. Amber is outspoken, confrontational, and unabashedly takes up a lot of space with her big personality; her husband Ben is mostly mild-mannered, making efforts to accommodate his demanding wife. The way they play foils to each other promises hilarity every time and their love for one another is clear and abiding.
Fun Afro-European Content
@mariah.baillie is a Scottish actor whose skits are broad in variety. A fan favorite, however, are the ones shared with her husband, “Ducky,” in which Mariah initiates a joke and her husband fills in a punchline that is a bawdy come-on. The couple’s content features their lives in the U.S. and in Europe and viewers can always count on a display of Mariah’s acting skills on this channel.
@khaby.lame is the second most followed TikTok creator of them all with over 130 millions followers. His content is distinctive in that he remains silent in each skit, demonstrating the facile ways to complete practical tasks and ridiculing those who make them unnecessarily complex. Senegalese by birth, he has spent the vast majority of his life in Italy. His wordless miming allows his content to reach followers all over the world.
@chevin_dash is an English actor and whether she’s playing all the character parts in a fictional café or recreating voice parts for popular songs while in pretend studio sessions, her content promises quirkiness, intimacy, curious observations, and beauty.
Fun Pan-African Content
@jowodaaa is a Ghanaian creator whose skits always deliver hilarious cultural insight. She enjoys presenting the food, attitudes, products, and trends from home for all their glories and follies. A natural comedian, this TikToker doesn’t have to do much to inspire laughs. With or without popular sounds, filters, and special effects, it’s a joy to see her exaggerate her encounters and mimic her loved ones.
@emekaleonald is a Nigerian creator whose running joke on TikTok features him walking meaningfully away from or into generally undesirable situations while “Fayahh” by Robinson plays in the background. This wordless series inspired an international trend of creators from all over the world re-creating the walk, using the same sound. This account allows viewers to see Nigerian landscapes, modes of dress, and a variety of other cultural tropes.
@elsa.majimbo has risen to international fame during the pandemic playing a character of her own creation who loves money, isolation, and humor. Expressing highly introverted vibes, she pretends to pity all the people who miss the socializing enjoyed pre-pandemic. This Kenyan star, now a Fenty representative, has a bright future and her sarcastic monologues are never in want of an audience.
Fun Pan-Caribbean Content
@iamjuliemango’s content constantly pokes fun at Jamaican culture. Whether it’s disciplinarian mothers, eccentric singers, or superstitious aunts and uncles, she always manages to hit the sweet spot of highlighting ostensibly silly patterns that she observes without being derisive. No Jamaican has greater love for her people and her country.
@maja_hype’s content is risqué and aims to reflect a variety of Caribbean nationalities: Grenadian, Jamaican, Trinidadian, etc. This TikToker plays up tensions between men and women in romantic relationships, conflict between parents and children, and discrepancies between employers and workers. If you watch these videos, there will always be a fight to witness.
@tiktoktaye is actor Taye Diggs’ account in which he enjoys underscoring his lack of expertise using the TikTok app. He loves recording himself doing things poorly, namely dancing and singing. The audience relishes his self-aware incompetence, which shows his ability to clown outside of his dramatic roles.
@gabunion shares intimate family moments from the celebrity power couple actor Gabrielle Union and former basketball pro Dwayne Wade. Their daughter, Kaavia, regularly steals the show with her strong affirmations of boundaries and willful spirit. Kaavia is an overload of cute and the Union-Wade marriage provides viewers with a glimpse of luxury living.
Fun Fictional Characters
@mainlymannie “gives what it’s supposed to gave” in embodying the character “Boss & CEO,” a woman at the head of her company with an immeasurably inflated ego, a penchant for delivering eviscerating barbs to her subordinates, and blazer-skirt two pieces that just won’t quit. Boss & CEO is the epitome of deliciously abusive bosses of the fictive world.
@nasfromthegram plays Kesha, a fictional McDonald’s manager whose customers are an endless source of annoyance and whose co-workers offer her no respite. The adventures of the fast food restaurant, which track through love, aggression, power, and long-held vendettas, never fail to disappoint. With the wigs, acrylics, and constant gum smacking, Nas is fully committed to the character.
Great Afro-Latino Content
@lejuanjames is a comedian whose content is pure pleasure and joy. This creator revels in his Dominican culture, and whether you’re watching him shake a leg, prepare a well seasoned meal, or attempt to cure a cold, you won’t be able to wipe the smile off your face. This channel is recommended for folks looking to improve their Spanish auditory skills!
@roznyc shares her mental health journey with listeners in a way that is vulnerable, generous, and sincere. Providing tips to resist and interrupt generational trauma, this creator’s bilingual content reaches listeners within and outside of the United States, linking the origins of emotional abuse to the onset of colonialism and its hierarchical caste systems. Whether you’re of Dominican, Haitian, Jamaican, Puerto Rican or other descent, the videos on this page are sure to open eyes.
Great Womanist Content
@jazmynjw’s talent’s are many, but it’s the series of her promptly curtailed fictional dates with underperforming men that deliver hilarity every time. In this series, this creator visits the same restaurant to vet potential paramours and each encounter ends the same way: she requests the check early from her bestie-server-friend Sarah and punctuates dates that weren’t going anywhere.
@ebonie_qt’s personal journey towards becoming a business owner and her open exploration of her queerness teach about the audacity required for successful entrepreneurship and the embrace of new possibilities when normative, hegemonic culture simply ain’t working.
@teeandersoncomedy hilariously describes the life of a woman who loves women who is constantly emotionally triggered by the “aggressive femmes” she dates. Tee’s paramours have unrelenting sexual appetites, are not afraid to make them known, and demand satisfaction. It’s impossible not to laugh at the sweet tortures Tee endures.
@jasonbankscomedy’s work hinges on a fictional father-son relationship between Derrick and his dad. As a school-aged boy, Derrick constantly finds himself confused as he navigates the world of romantic crushes and the demands of school-aged social life. His father loves him but doesn’t understand why Derrick is so slow to pick up on social cues and norms. Jason Banks plays both characters and has amassed nearly 8 million followers.
@donnellwrites’ graduate studies made him realize Christianity was in need of “deconstruction.” His TikTok content identifies a variety of hegemonic beliefs that hinder inclusion, enlightenment, and self-actualization. Dramatically declining rates of church attendance suggest his analytical content is representative of a trend and he is not alone in resisting traditional paradigms of spiritual engagement.
@misty_dopeland’s target for fire is capitalism. Disenchanted with the extractive paradigms of capitalism, she openly criticizes the soul-sucking systems to which many have grown numb. This TikToker shakes her followers awake and encourages us to reexamine the footholds that keep us locked in place by sharing her own critical journey.
Most Dynamic Storytelling
@thecannongoesboom3 doesn’t simply make TikTok skits: he makes *films,* films with vision, a directorial eye, creative shots, and special effects. My favorite of his tales follows his girlfriend who cannot resist her urges to pop pimples that appear on his face and the energy he puts into deflecting her warring advances.
@joetb3’s autobigraphical account recounts his travails of going in and out of correctional facilities for years with serious charges ranging from robberies to attempted murder. In spite of the traumas he has endured, he maintains an infectious sense of humor and shares the wild rides of his life while broadcasting on his lives. For stories of crime, sex, and evasion, look no further.
Most Gen Z
@imdrebrown’s humorous skits visit his work life in the corporate world as a young, new employee. He’s constantly caught between the capitalist drives to earn, impress, build, and profit and his insistence upon luxuriant self-care, which mandates a separation between his office time and his free time.
@flossybaby’s non-stop, unapologetic, self-absorbed character is constantly asking, “How can I have a better experience on this ride called “life”?” She wants to finesse, to travel, and show off her outfits all the while. Follow to hear her takedowns of influencer culture, the poor quality of the dating pool, and the incessant demands of the wellness journey.