Zoey Johnson (played by Yara Shahidi) is going off to college, and it’s recently been confirmed that Grown-ish, a sitcom, and spinoff of Black-ish, will document her exciting journeys as she embarks on this new chapter in her life. The trailer just dropped last week and it was even better than I could have imagined.
For some background, ABC’s Black-ish is a show about an upper-middle-class black family in Southern California. It centers around Andre and Rainbow Johnson, their five kids, and Dre’s live-in parents.
The Johnson children all have distinct personalities and struggle with different issues at any given moment. Black-ish is critically acclaimed and was renewed for a fourth season in May 2017.
Zoey is the eldest of the Johnson children and is a smart, stylish, resourceful, and hardworking young woman (although Black-ish, tends to fall in the trap of portraying her as a self-absorbed girl obsessed with selfies and texting). Throughout the first 3 seasons, however, she has matured and shown deep insight.
For instance, in the episode “Hope,” which examines police brutality against African-Americans and each family member’s individual responses to America’s justice system, Zoey is seen looking at her phone while her family members debate over the status of Black lives and Black worth in America.
Junior eventually calls her out for not caring about the issues at hand and points out she’s been on her phone all night. Zoey responds passionately, arguing that she does care, but she just doesn’t verbalize it the way the rest of her family members do. She says she’s been texting people about the police’s violent behavior and tells Junior she is afraid for him after he declares he wants to join the protesters in the city.
In the end, it is her moving speech that encourages the family to go protest the failure to indict the police officers who brutally tasered an unarmed black man.
This is why Grown-ish is so promising.
Black-ish has largely been told from Dre’s perspective, but Zoey will be telling her own story in Grown-ish, thus positing her as more than just one of the Johnson kids. Zoey is a young black woman finding her voice, navigating internships and school, and basically kicking ass at everything she puts her mind to.
In fact, Zoey has already navigated a bit of college in Grown-ish’s backdoor pilot episode, “Liberal Arts.” In that episode, she inadvertently advocates for the disbandment of Hawkins, the university’s historically black dorm. She then eventually realizes her mistake and mobilizes others in an effort to keep Hawkins a black space.
Grown-ish is bound to be entertaining, relatable, and thought-provoking. Seeing as Black-ish has covered heavy topics such as police brutality and the 2016 presidential election, I’m sure Grown-ish will feature situations where Zoey has to reflect and understand her reality as a young black woman away from her family at college. I think the spinoff is a great opportunity to let Zoey shine and own her narrative. Zoey Johnson is not just some blind-sided teenager who’s always on her cell phone. She’s a young, courageous black woman with opinions and perspectives to share.
Yara Shahidi, herself, is also an incredible young woman. She has been featured in several magazines for her activism and interviewed about her advocacy for feminism and diversity. She was honored at the 2017 BET’s Black Girls Rock Awards with the Young, Gifted and Black award. Furthermore, Yara was accepted by Harvard University and will start her freshman year in 2018. She cites Michelle Obama as one of her mentors. She’s busy, dedicated to social change, passionate about opportunities for women of color, and interested in policy change.
And she isn’t even eighteen yet.
I look forward to watching Zoey flourish in college.
I know that without a doubt, she’ll manage to find her footing and overcome her problems, whether its back-to-back finals, dealing with a difficult roommate, or being confronted by an ignorant white guy who says he’s “always wanted to get with a black girl.”
I have high hopes for Grown-ish and I’m equally excited to watch Yara Shahidi’s continued activism and dedication to empowering and encouraging women and girls of color.