By Nadine Matthews, Special to the AFRO

Back in 2012, Deshuna Spencer became excited to see some of the Black independent films that she read about regularly on websites dedicated to the subject, “I didn’t have the money,” she tells the AFRO, “to go to New York City, or Los Angeles or Paris to see those films. I couldn’t physically travel to film festivals in other states and other countries.”

Netflix was the next best thing. She thought to herself, “Netflix has all these great films so they should have a great catalogue of Black films as well.” She was somewhat disappointed to find that Netflix’ offerings, though broader than what she found on cable and broadcast, were limited. “They had films made by people who were more well-known and they kept suggesting the same films. It was like, ‘When  are you gonna give me something new?”

Deshuna Spencer, the founder of Kweli.TV, wants to present a more comprehensive view of global Black life. (Courtesy photo)

Youthful and soft-spoken, yet driven, Spencer, who is also a radio announcer on 89.3 FM in Washington, D.C. decided to run where the brave dare not go, and launched her own digital streaming service, called Kweli.TV. Predictably, some did not understand the Mississippi native’s vision.

In one unforgettable encounter with a potential financial backer for the company, she was told, “That was a great pitch but I’m just curious, don’t you guys already have BET?” An industry colleague told her there is no such thing as an African diaspora. “For me,” she says, “though I see myself as unapologetically Black, it’s also about educating.  My hope is also that people who don’t look like us watch the content and get a different sense as well about the Black experience around the world.”

It was important to present a more comprehensive view of global Black life. She explains, “If you want to watch “Martin” or “Good Times” or “A Different World” you can find that almost anywhere. I don’t want to show that on Kweli.TV, I want to show something different.

Described by many as the “Black Netflix”, Kweli.TV offers a wealth of content from across the African diaspora. There are narrative films, documentaries, web series, children’s programming and more. There are lively discussion forums for each film as well.

Kweli.TV could also be accurately described as being very similar to movie streaming services SundanceNow and Filmstruck because of the care that goes into the curation of its catalogue.  She is not the only African American catering to Black film lovers. Damon Dash, Jay-Z’s former business partner, has his own streaming service called

“The goal is not to replace Netflix. We see ourselves as a supplement to the mainstream. If you want to learn about Black culture around the world, not see stereotypical and demeaning depictions of Black people, or learn about historical figures you didn’t know existed, watch Kweli.TV. If you really want to learn about your culture, this is the place to go.”

Spencer took a circuitous route to get to where she is today. Setting aside the desire to make film, she got her degree in Journalism from Jackson State University in Mississippi. There, she was a controversial columnist for the school newspaper.  “I love writing so I’m happy I went the writing route initially. I used to write pretty racy things and people would be talking about it the next day. It was crazy!” She moved on to be a reporter for the Clarion Ledger, and a reporter for the Oakland Tribune after a move to the Bay Area, then launched her online magazine,

She then pivoted to film production, creating a documentary which was shown at several film festivals. That experience primed her for her current venture. “I didn’t really know about the movie side but I’ve been able to work my way through that learning curve.”  Kweli.TV also diverges from the same old stories of Black pain that has for decades been a mainstay of “Black film” and “Black television”. “I want Kweli.TV to be the space where we bring Black people from all over the world together.”

There are stories of war and famine, but there are also, Spencer says, “Positive stories about Black people from all parts of the world. We also talk about resistance and empowerment. We weren’t just victims.”