South African singer, rapper, producer, and songwriter Toya Delazy is bringing #Blackgirlmagic to Cartoon Network as the voice of it’s first Black Powerpuff Girl. The 27-year-old’s latest accomplishment is a big deal for the culture because Black children need to see characters that look like them and, right now, those images are few and far between.
Back in the day, however, ’80s and ’90s babies had a plethora of characters who were reminiscent of themselves and the people in their communities. Here’s a throwback trip down memory lane of some of the best cartoons with melanin appeal. Who’s your favorite Black cartoon character of all time?
The Proud Family
If you didn’t know the words to this Disney cartoon’s theme song, you were considered to be the lamest of the lame! Proud Family was an animated series that felt more like a sitcom, celebrating four generations of the Black family dynamic. Penny Proud was the show’s main character navigating through her teen years with the help of her crazy and caring family. And like most of our families, Penny’s grandmother, Suga Moma, kept the family in check.
Kid ‘N Play
Today’s mumble rappers may get a beverage endorsement or a cameo appearance here and there, but these things pale in comparison to the way Kid ‘N Play branded themselves for mainstream success. After the cult classic film House Party, The Grammy-winning duo from New York followed up with a Saturday morning cartoon that portrayed them as fun-loving teens grinding to make their rap dreams come true—while chasing girls of course!
This cartoon also had a catchy theme song that you had to know to be considered a cool kid of the 90s. Captain Planet may have been the show’s hero, but he couldn’t save the world from pollution and climate change without his crew of woke teens who hailed from different continents. Representing for the Motherland was Kwame, an intelligent young brother who possessed the super powers of Earth. And who better to provide the voice of Kwame than Roots and Reading Rainbow star Levar Burton.
The Real Ghostbusters
Let’s not forget that Black people mastered science and math a long time ago. Seeing a brother like Winston Zeddemore kicking ghost butt and inventing gadgets in the lab reminded us that the Black man can! Period.
Patti Mayonnaise’s milkshake brought all the boys to the yard. Jocks, nerds and bad boys all had a crush on the quiet girl next door whose race has been debated, but we’re pretty sure she’s Black. The cartoon showed Patti in a positive light, such as taking care of her wheelchair-ridden father or breaking down stereotypes that suggest girls should be seen and not heard.
Beside every mediocre guy like football head Arnold is his cooler than an iceberg buddy Gerald Martin Johansen. He is that loyal friend who is more like family and always down for whatever, whenever!
The Jackson 5
This cartoon was probably on you and your parents’ agenda every Saturday morning. It set the tone for all other instrument-playing family cartoon copycats that would soon follow. But in true melanin fashion, The Jackson 5 did it best! Diana Ross even makes an appearance in its debut episode.
The Flintstone Kids
In a prehistoric world where people are using their bare feet to power up cars, here comes Philo Quartz. He’s an intelligent Black boy with an afro who can explain the dynamics of physics and electricity, which has yet to be discovered. See why representation matters?
Once upon a time, it was publicly acceptable for Black athletes to be a positive force in their communities. In ProStars, super athletes Michael Jordan, Bo Jackson, and Wayne Gretzky are united to protect the lives of all citizens, especially children.
Josie & The Pussycats
Valerie Smith’s tambourine added some much needed flavor to her band’s act. A sista with a pixie cut and rhythm in her hips is a force to be reckoned with.
This genius cartoon created by Dr. Bill Cosby needs no introduction. Hey, hey, hey! It’s Fat Albert and a whole lot of edutainment.
Jem & The Holograms
If you saw the Jem movie last year, you were probably heavily disappointed in the portrayal of all the characters, but especially Shana. To get the real scoop, you can watch the late ’80s cartoon on Netflix. The band’s drummer is a chocolate Renaissance woman who is a beast at fashion design with kinky curly natural hair on another plateau!
We loved Rugrats the day it launched on Nickelodeon in 1991. But Susie Carmichael and her wealthy family was a total game changer. Angelica C. Pickles had no choice but to bow down when Susie moved into the neighborhood. Cree Summer, aka “Freddie from A Diffferent World,” gave voice to the character.