UIC discusses 'Empire,' struggle for diversity on TV

CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) - The African American Studies Department at University of Illinois at Chicago took on ‘Empire’ Wednesday night, and their discussion focused on the struggle for diversity on TV.

The professors participating in the discussion compared the family at the center of the show with another popular TV family, the Cosby's.

The Cosby Show was groundbreaking when it aired in the mid-80's. Like ‘Empire,’ it was popular among a diverse audience.

It also worked to correct negative stereotypes of what it meant to be a black family in America.

Psychology student Dammy Ojulari attended the panel discussion.

"I think it's like a narrative that's really familiar in the hip-hop industry with Jay z, Diddy, people like that who grew up in lower income neighborhoods and then made it into the top of the music industry," he said.

African American’s make up 62 percent of Empire's viewing audience.

"The popularity of Empire speaks to the fact that audiences are hungry for different kinds of portrayals of African Americans on television," said Jane Rhodes, the UIC African American Studies Department head who helped moderate the event.

"One of the things that Empire does for black communities is that it actually brings to television issues that are very intimate to black communities and black families, but often times we don't see them represented," said African American Studies professor and panel guest Roderick Ferguson.

You can catch the season premiere of ‘Empire’ next Wednesday at 8 p.m. on FOX 32 Chicago.