Posts Tagged ‘Narrators’

Flipping the Script on Audio Description: White Washing Continues

Wednesday, July 26th, 2023

A Black  woman looking away from the camera as a white feminine hand is reaching in to touch her  locs. The text "White Washing Continues" is written in white dripping paint above the woman's head.

Many Audio Description consumers have been calling for an increase in cultural competency. From the script to the voice of the narrator. In addition to wanting authentic experiences of film and television, we believe #RepresentationMatters!

Last year, I published an episode, Black Art White Voices:A Flipping the Script Prequel where I posed that if the decision makers, AD Directors, were not going to practice cultural responsiveness, others in the production process including writers and narrators could use their power to help make AD more of an equitable experience for all.

But the problem persists – the “white washing” of Black content.

Considering all that’s going on in the world today including;
* The Reversal of College Affirmative Action
* Voter Suppression
* Banning books

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised!

But that doesn’t mean I have to be quiet. I couldn’t after learning that “The Hair Tales” a documentary all about Black women and their hair, featured a white narrator. That’s an egregious offense in my book!



The Urgency of Intersectionality | Kimberlé Crenshaw


Show the transcript

Crowd applause
“We’re about to let our hair down. Woo!”


The episodes I least enjoy producing, are those in response to an injustice, unfairness or something I find plain wrong.

I’m not the type of person who looks for drama.
Reid My Mind Radio family knows I put time into explaining my perspective and I treat people fairly.

Ever since fourth grade, I knew, I have to be cautious about how I respond. My resting face or my angry face, was perceived to be “looking for a problem”. Especially to my white teachers.

Physically responding to being pushed or punched would inevitably classify me as the aggressor.

The challenge is not only to effectively make a case for my position, but also be respectful.

Honestly, saying that bothers me.


The truth is it’s not so much about my behavior. More than often, it’s about how I’m perceived – the aggressor.
There are those who will try and dismiss what I’m saying as the ramblings of an angry Black Blind man.

But that ain’t new!

— A montage of Black athletes speaking out against injustice and the resulting response
Muhammad Ali;: It has been said that I have two alternatives, either go to jail or go to the army, but I will like to say there is another alternative. And that alternative is justice!

News Reporter: Mr. Muhammad Ali has just refused to be inducted into the United States Armed Forces.

Narrator: The reaction was swift and severe. within hours, the Chairman of the New York State Athletic Commission denounced his conduct as detrimental to the interests of boxing, stripping him of his license to fight in New York. Almost every other boxing commission in the United States followed suit.

News Reporter: Overnight San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refusing to stand during the national anthem again. (Over singing of the anthem)
This time he took a knee right behind hundreds of service members being honored on military appreciation night. As the crowd and players stand you can see Kaepernick kneeling on the sideline. Teammate Eric Reid joining him.

The crowd booing every time he took a snap.

Fox Commentator: I’m gonna create a new banner, this is a dumb jock alert. (Ding, ding ding!) NBA superstar Lebron James is talking politics again…

Reporter: You spoke out on the Sterling issue. And you were also outspoken on Travon Martin.
Lebron James: Yes!

Fox Commentator: Keep the political commentary to yourself or as someone once said; “Shut up and dribble!”

It’s the same old story , when Black people call out any form of injustice.
Shut up and dribble. Stay in your place. Just keep your head down and do your work.

Speaking out, well that just leads to some form of punishment or being made an example to discourage anyone else from doing the same.
So they’re stripped of their ability to earn a living. They’re branded as ignorant and made to appear to be a joke.

Do everything, but deal with inequality.

Of course, once society acknowledges the inequity then they praise that outspoken person for their courage
and act as though popular culture always supported their efforts.

Now, I’m in no way comparing myself to these individuals or anyone else for that matter. I’m simply giving you some context for why
these are my least favorite types of episodes to produce.

For Black people especially, truly speaking out can have real repercussions. Some might say backlash.

Woof! What’s the origin of that word?

Yet, sitting by and saying nothing, well that isn’t really an option!

My mother made it clear, none of her children were going to be bullied.
Just watching her move through life, as her child, I learned as she would say, you don’t hold your tongue.
She believed, if you were about what was right and fair, then there’s no need for being shy about what you have to say. That was until she and I disagreed about something, but that’s another story!

I’m Marcy’s son, Thomas Reid. this is Reid My Mind Radio!
— “Here we go again! ” Chuck D, Public Enemy “Bring the Noise”

— Reid My Mind Radio Theme Music
— Turn it up!”

— Broken record effect

You ever feel like a broken record?

— Dream harp sound
— audio from the 2022 episode titled Black Art White Voices

Music begins, a pulsating ominous synth that opens up to a dramatic mid-tempo beat.


What’s up Reid My Mind Radio?

We’re in between seasons but I wanted to share some thoughts with the family.

Truth is, I wish I didn’t feel obligated to share these thoughts on this particular subject.
I’m hoping one day it won’t be necessary.

Several years ago now, I produced this episode that has really sort of attached itself to me.
It’s the Black Panther episode.
The episode I almost threw away. I didn’t think anyone would care.
I published it anyway.

People cared!

I think.

I’m just ready to move past it.
Meaning, I would love to see those who say they understand and support the need for Audio description to be more culturally aware and competent, put it into practice.

but, it’s like…
Audio sample: “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.” From The Godfather.


That was the opening of the 2022 episode titled Black Art White Voices.
I feel like the title says it all, but apparently not enough.

This issue didn’t start in 2022, it’s way before Black Panther in 2018.
In fact, it begins before audio description.

— Collage of audio clips —
— “European institutions like the British Museum and the Love are home to some of the world’s finest art. But some of the treasures on display were stolen during colonial times. Experts believe up to 90 % of African cultural artifacts were taken from the continent.”

— “Cultural theft has been, especially when it comes to Black culture, as American as apple pie.”
— “From the time we were brought over here on slave ships and our very lives were stolen from us.”
— “From white artists that put Black face on” … “Elvis Presley” …
— “Don’t do my thing and not give me my share. So that’s where it becomes theft.”
— Chuck Berry’s song followed by a replica from the Beach Boys.


The “white washing” of Black art and history is alive and just a part of this country’s fabric.

— “This fight against teaching America’s racist past has now been integrated into the broader Republican cancel culture wokeness moral panic being stoked with Joe Biden in office and since he’s a less appealing target than other recent Democratic presidents for oh gosh who knows what reasons, Mitch McConnell and his party decided the biggest threat to America is white people finding out America’s institutions are racist.”


Black art and culture isn’t made to be filtered through whiteness.

Non-Blind consumers are free to experience the art in the way it was intended. And so should Blind people.

Well exactly who are Blind people?

— From Kimberlé Crenshaw’s TED Talk
“Many years ago I began to use the term intersectionality… intersections of race, and gender of heterosexism, transphobia, xenophobia, ableism , all of these social dynamics come together and create challenges that are sometimes quite unique.”

That’s Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw , the person who first articulated and coined the term intersectionality.
Chances are, most of you are aware of intersectionality. It’s a pretty simple concept that’s often ignored.
Our lives consist of multiple identities and issues.
Recognizing these identities isn’t about ranking one over the other, it’s about acknowledging that we’re impacted differently and need to take this into consideration.

Blind people consist of every identity. (Hopefully that’s not news to you.

Audio description should center Blind people. (Again, I feel like the majority of you agree with this!)

All Blind people, not just those who are white and cisgendered. (Now this may be new for some.)

But, I’m going to move forward working under the assumption that we all agree that:
Blind people intersect with multiple identities. We are;
Black, indigenous, people of color, and white
We’re straight, gay, non-binary, trans
we’re from every socio economic background

I’ll also assume we can agree that we all have a right to experience content as it was intended by its creators.

With that said. let’s get into it.

— audio from “Hair Tales” show intro with Oprah

Tracey Ellis Ross: We created a space for us to gather our stories…

Unknown voice over:
“I never know what my hair will do”
Tracey Ellis Ross: Honoring our identity culture beauty and humanity.

Series of unknown voice overs:
“Braided locs, corn rows, twist out, hot comb, relaxed, any style you want; big, versatile, lush, beautiful, resilient hair. What version of myself do I want to be. You do not need hair to wear a crown. Whoop!
My hair is like laced…. laughs.

Tracey Ellis Ross: I’m Tracey Ellis Ross join me as we celebrate the truth of who we are through the wonderous world of our hair. So my hope is that these conversations we have create more space for belonging, self-actualization and I think there’s so much about our hair that’s community that sort of centers through our hair. And it can feel like it’s just a conversation about hair, but it’s not. Especially not for Black women.

Oprah: It never is.

Tracey Ellis Ross: No!


If you’ve been flipping the script on audio description with me over the past few years, you should be quite familiar with this idea.
I’m talking about conversations being about more than what they appear to be on the surface.

Black women and their hair is definitely about beauty, but it’s also political,

— Music Begins: “a dark, driving hip hop beat

it’s a reason for multiple generations to gather and share history,
it’s about economics. I’m sure someone can if they haven’t already, tell the story of humanity through Black women and their hair. The Black woman is the mother of us all! (Facts, not opinion)

Hair and the stories that come with them are personal.
Hair is a big deal to me, which is why my locks are past my glutes and reaching the back of my thighs. I have locks. And I’ve had them since I was 16. And I am 33 years old now. So I don’t see myself in any other style other than locs for as long as I can have them on my scalp.


That’s Casandra Xavier.

I mostly go by the screen name Caspher (spelled out) CASPHER. I am in Boston and grew up in Boston, originally from Florida.
I am identified as deaf blind, mixed combination of vision and hearing loss. AKA deaf blind champion, an African American woman. And I enjoy a good storytelling session. Whether it be on stage or in a small group setting. Great to be here.


The decision to grow her hair in locs is very personal to Caspher.

When I was younger, I was going through a lot of medical procedures that involved hair cutting. And so I had to wait till I was done with that awful passage of my life of surgeries every now and then to finally say okay, this is the hairstyle that I’ve always wanted.

I Couldn’t stand any other style because that would involve constantly getting your hair pulled on. And contorted into all kinds of styles. I just didn’t like people in my hair all the time.

I’ve always wanted locks.

— Audio collage on not letting people touch your head.


I don’t know if this is a spiritual thing, a Black thing but I’ve heard this all my life with different explanations.

I hear it mainly from Black people throughout the diaspora as well as LatinEx especially those from the Caribbean really

it’s the whole energy thing.

Where do they come from?
Did they even wash their hands?
What are their hand hygiene like?
Because you with your hair and then touching it. Later on? You’re gonna go lay down in the bed on the pillow with that? Mm hmm.

If there’s one thing we all should understand, three years after the pandemic, germs are passed through physical contact.

What may be more complicated for some to accept is the idea of transferring negative energy through touch.

Either way, the kindergarten lesson remains true;
Don’t put your f*%#ing hands on people.

I was actually taking my hair down from a style. And when it came out, it was extra curly. So the next day, I had to, like stand as far apart from everybody. Because once they saw those, like locks in the curls hanging down my thigh. Everybody wanted to be hands on.

They would just walk up to me first, touch the hair and then ask afterwards.

So as soon as you catch them coming closer, I’m already moving all the way away. I’m not anywhere near you.

TR in Conversation with Casandra:
Can we be specific about the they and them?

I have an assumption.

The White folks. okay, a lot of black people they know better, so they won’t even.

TR in Conversation with Casandra:
So they just do it. They don’t even ask, Do they ask?

They just touch. This is like the classic line that comes out of their lips. So this is all yours. It’s all natural.

Yes. Absolutely.

And I do have to answer with attitude, because it is my hair since I was 16.

They asked me if they can touch my hair. I will say no.

Hairstyles have different meaning to different people.

Caspher’s mom for example felt locs were bad. And then Caspher’s older brother went an grew his hair in locs.

It was almost like he went and signed up for the army without telling her.
And she’s like, Oh, so you’re one of the troublemakers now.

And then she realized really quickly now that her son has locks, it’s not all as bad as it seems.

I wanted to get locks, when she was a lot more lenient about it and was like, Okay, you can get it.
Just wait until all your medical procedures are done.

I said once I’m done with all these surgeries and when everything is healed, I want locks. And I meant it. So she let me try out twist for a year. And she’s like, do you still want it? I said absolutely. And that’s when it happened.

— Music Ends

I started growing my locs and I couldn’t be any more happy. I don’t regret My decision at all.

Tracey Ellis Ross: Every kink, curl and coil in a Black woman’s hair has a hair tale…

And now, let me ask.

Who should voice the audio description for the Hair Tales documentary?
Who should be the filter through which Blind Black women experience their stories?

— Audio Description Narrator: “A title appears, The Hair Tales” Tracey Ellis Ross sits across a table from Oprah. Flowers decorate the room. Photos of Oprah and her family.


If you watch television and films with audio description, you recognize that voice.

Hi I’m Tansy Alexander. I’m a Caucasian woman. I’m five foot seven, I have Auburn hair. I’m very athletic and active. I do all variety from narration to audio books, to commercials, promos trailers, IVR phone systems. I’ve done pretty much it all.


That’s from the time she joined me right here on the podcast in 2020.

— Original audio from episode

And if I may broach this subject, I do think that we need to see more inclusiveness on the narrator side.


Well that’s exactly the point of this episode, these continued series of episodes.

I reached out to Tansy to have a conversation on the podcast.
Here’s my email to her for context.

— Music begins: A slow piano with lots of ambience evoking a purposefully over dramatic melancholy vibe.

— With sounds of typing on a keyboard layered underneath, TR reads his email.

Hello Tansy
I hope you’re doing well.
I wanted to invite you back on the podcast.
I’m producing an episode continuing the conversation on the topic of cultural competency specifically as it relates to the choice of the narrator.
I’ve been vocal about this subject and I’m hoping you would want to share your point of view.
When you first appeared on the podcast you expressed that you agreed with the idea of equitable experiences in AD.
Last year, I referred to the HBO series “Insecure” which you narrated.
I expressed that I didn’t feel you should have been cast in that role as the series is heavily based in Black culture.
In this episode, I discussed the idea that narrators and others in the industry who believe in equity have the power to help
advance the change we want to see in the industry.
That is, turn down roles and or help find other narrators who are of the film’s or project’s culture.
In this current episode I’m producing, once again, you are narrating a series heavily entrenched in Black culture.
Would you be interested in speaking to me about your feelings on this?
You should know, I don’t want this to come across like any sort of personal attack on you, because it isn’t at all.
This is about making the AD consumers experience of film and television as close to what was imagined during its creation.
I look forward to hearing from you.


That’s me!

I really do believe someone like Tansy who says she’s interested in…
— Tansy “more inclusiveness on the narrator side.”

could really help the AD industry become more equitable in their practice.

But, when listening back to the 2020 episode, the equity she’s seeking doesn’t seem to be about the AD consumer.

— From “2020 Episode

And if I may broach this subject, I do think that we need to see more inclusiveness on the narrator side.

I get plenty of work, but I still think there’s a gender bias in the industry for males to succeed.

It’s the same it’s been for the whole spectrum of Voice Over since I started over twenty years ago, the belief that a male will sell it better. For whatever reason; the voice will cut through or people listen more to a man than a woman. These are stereotypes that probably aren’t true at all. These decisions to use a man or a woman are extraordinarily subjective.


I get it! Subjective AF!


I used to do a lot of action, landing on the moon, war movies, I’ve done a few last year. I can do a romantic comedy, I can do a children’s thing, I can get in there and get gritty. But all of a sudden they decide oh well for all the Marvel we need to have men.


That’s what makes her response to my invitation difficult.

Hi Thomas.

How are you doing? I just saw this last night and wanted to think about it before I responded.

I appreciate that you’re take on the casting decisions in audio description.
I am an actress first and foremost, who accepts roles based on casting’s advice.
I work on all genres of projects including Sci-Fi, documentary, rom-com, adventure, animation, horror, etc.

It would seem a better fit for this interview if you interviewed casting directors/project managers for audio description.
In that way, you could outline that you feel like all people who narrate a project should always look like the majority of people in the project, or
at least always be from the group that the project is based on.
Those casting people are the decision makers who could enact that change.

Although I always enjoy a great discussion with you, I have to take a pass this time.
Really appreciate you thinking of me!

Warm regards



Thankfully, I have the audio to pull from last year’s episode that directly responds to Tansy’s point.

— Sample: “Rewind Selecta”

— Original audio from 2022 Black Art White Voices

AD professionals, you have a choice.
If you’re aware of the inequity and say you want to see the change, well, recognize your power.


I find it really hard to believe that you don’t recognize when you’re not right for the project. Rather than finding a way to personally justify that with yourself, why not use your influence to suggest that someone else is hired for the position? Perhaps it’s someone you know and recommend, but in general, speaking up about the subject, being an ally, well that’s powerful.

— Sample: “You will not replace us” Chants of Alt Right Mob.

Is this call for equitable representation threatening?

When it comes to the voice of the narrator on films that are culturally specific, we’re talking about a small piece of the pie. The total number of films and television shows that are focused on BIPOC stories is still a fraction of the total films made today.

White narrators get plenty of work. I don’t see any reason for them to feel threatened by these comments.

This issue is just one part of a much bigger problem.
It goes beyond films like Black Panther or In the Heights. Shows like Insecure. It goes beyond the voice. It’s about the visibility of Black and other people of color

That’s seeing and acknowledging color on screen and stage. It’s recognizing that Blind and Low Vision includes people of color.
— Reverse Dream Harp bringing back to present


Let’s be clear, I’ve come across other shows with insensitive casting; Abbott Elementary, Reasonable Doubt and others.
But this isn’t about individual shows.
It’s not about my individual point of view,
it’s not about one narrator.
This is about centering the Blind community in audio description.

(The full community!)

— Law and Order scene change sound


When I finally decided I had to speak about this here on the podcast, I knew I needed to hear from Black women.
I’m Black, but I’m also a bald man!
I like to think it’s still by choice but let’s be real, my options are limited when it comes to my crown.

Hair tales isn’t something I would probably choose to watch on my own.
However, I could see where I’d watch this with my daughters.
I’d enjoy sitting back and listening to their comments as they agree or disagree with one of the experts or explains something to me about a particular hairstyle.

today’s conversation is specific to the audio description.

audio description should always center Blind people.

I needed to hear from Black Blind women.

So I put the word out that I was seeking input on this topic.
to be clear, I was looking for opinion not a specific point of view.
If someone wanted to speak in favor of color Blind casting for AD narrators, cool, bring it.

I didn’t get much in the way of feedback. I shouldn’t be surprised.

I’ve come to recognize phases we go through as consumers of audio description. I’ll use my own experience as an example.

— Music Begins: An upbeat dance track…

Phase 1: Shock

“What? I can experience movies again?”

Phase 2: Denial
“I don’t know, this is probably going to suck. How will this work, someone explaining what’s happening? Augh! I don’t know.”

Phase 3: Bliss, Over Appreciation

How was the movie?

Oh my goodness! It was so good, it had audio description!
I can’t say anything bad about this film because it has audio description.
— Fades down while talking continues

Phase 4: Back on Earth

How was the movie?

Two thumbs down! I’ll never get those 90 minutes back.
— Fades down while talking continues

No longer are you easily entertained. Access alone isn’t cutting it.

Phase 5: Critical

How was the movie?

There was this one scene that stands out to me. The production is incredible.
— Fades out to an enthusiastic monolog…

Considering the fact that AD honestly hasn’t been that accessible for that long, I imagine there are a lot of people in the early phases.

— “It’s a man’s world”… James Brown

Let’s be honest, I have some privileges in this world.
I’m a straight cisgendered man. I don’t have all the privilege afforded to my white brethren, but I do recognize those within my reach.

— Roland Martin Clip:

Roland Martin: Recent study shows the most abused group on social media, Black women and women of color.
Jennifer Farmer: So what we’re seeing is pervasive attack. If you’re a Black woman and have a social media account, if you’ve been on Twitter, chances are you already experienced abuse. Eighty-four percent of the tweets that go to Black women contain some type of abusive or harassing message. The other thing that we’re finding is that if you have the courage to state your opinion, you’re also going to be attacked.

TR in Conversation with Casandra:
On that note, if you ever get any sort of pushback from this episode, please let me know.
I don’t want none of that going on.
you know, it’s fine.
I’ve had people give me pushback for certain things that I put on Tik Tok.
I have like, nearly 9000 followers on there. Honestly, people are gonna have their opinions
I don’t care.

TR in Conversation with Casandra: 22:45
Okay, there you go.

No one should have to deal with harassment, bullying or threats for their opinion. Especially when we’re talking about fairness and equity.

I’m more than willing to listen to contrary opinions but I’m not interested in racist nonsense.

If you have anything to say, please send it my way.

— Sample: Sesame Street “Ok all you cats and kitties, it’s time for a little addition. Can you dig it! Here we go. Now! Adding is putting together! Mm.”

Factoring all of this into consideration, perhaps it helps explain the lack of public engagement and critical feedback on audio description.

— Sample “You got the mic… use it!” Ice Cube

I’m sure there are many Blind people who for them, this isn’t a concern.
Yes, they consume and enjoy audio description. Maybe they’re in that Bliss phase – just so happy to have access.
I don’t fault them for that because I understand the history of not having access to content.

Some people may think this is just a Black issue. A POC issue.
Meanwhile though, all AD consumers are affected.
The white washing of content denies all AD consumers access to a more authentic experience.
And isn’t that what we want?

(I guess it depends on how we define, we!)

— Music Begins: A bright, chill Hip Hop beat.

I want to send big shout outs to;
* Casandra Xavier AKA Caspher.
You can find her on Tick Tock.


At Caspher 31 CASPHER 31
On Instagram Cassandra dot Xavier(Spells out)
For those that can see. You want to look for the profile picture of a black lady wearing a crop top sweater standing next to a boxing bag, flexing her muscles.

Uh oh!

To all my sisters who shared my request for input as well as some others who talked to me for this episode. Your voices may have not made it into the final edit, but you were in my mind throughout the production.

— Airhorn!

You know you’re all official members of the Reid My Mind Radio family!

You too Tansy! Family can disagree, but I believe in leaving a place at the table to have a conversation.

You know, you too can be Reid My Mind Radio Fam!;
Subscribe or Follow Reid My Mind Radio wherever you get podcasts.
We have transcripts and more at
Just remember, that’s R to the E I D!
— Sample: (“D! And that’s me in the place to be.” Slick Rick)
Like my last name!
— Reid My Mind Radio outro

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