August 31, 2021
BLACK PUBLIC MEDIA
By Leslie Fields-Cruz
Back to School With Public Media
The 2021 Back to School season is missing some of its usual rhythm. Yes, most students and teachers are excited to finally be back on their campuses. But the pandemic’s ominous cloud continues to disrupt nearly every routine. School boards are struggling to impose mask and vaccine mandates. Educators are trying to keep themselves and their students safe. Parents are hoping the schools stay open so they won’t have to scramble to find affordable child care. Add the horrific destruction Hurricane Ida has delivered to the Gulf of Coast region and that wildfires are delivering to the west and it is clear that we’re still a long way from school as usual.
One element of K-16 education that hasn’t changed is the availability of public media content to support instruction. PBS Learning Media offers a vast catalog of content that K-12 educators can use with their curriculum. This is good news not only for teachers, but for media makers as well. Educational distribution remains one of the best ways for media makers to deliver their content to teachers, libraries, museums, parents, and students. Last year, for instance, partnerships between local public television stations and public school systems facilitated the delivery of educational resources to millions of students.
A handful of educational distribution nonprofits — California Newsreel, Third World Newsreel, Women Make Movies, and PBS Distribution — have long made it possible for educators and students to access public media content. And of course, the BPM catalog is a rich source of public media content that illuminates the history, contributions and experiences of people in the African diaspora.
The relationship between public media and educators dates back to the early 20th century, when public broadcast stations first emerged on the campuses of state colleges and universities. Though they now compete with a plethora of commercial media outlets, public media continue to have strong ties to our public education system. They also have the trust of families. As our schools aim to “build back better,” I hope our leaders will recognize the complementary role public media can and must play in ensuring that every child gets access to equitable educational opportunities. Similarly, I hope our public media programmers step up their efforts to deliver diverse content that is relevant to today’s students. It is one way to ensure today’s children grow into tomorrow’s public media supporters.
In the coming year, BPM aims to strengthen its relationships with historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), which have and will continue to play a leading role in producing our nation’s Black teachers and media makers. If you have ideas about how these two sectors might strengthen their capacity to collaborate toward the shared goal of improving Black student outcomes, broadening career opportunities, and accelerating the production and distribution of Black media stories, we’d love to hear from you.
Black Public Media is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, with further funding from the MacArthur Foundation, the New York State Council on the Arts, and Acton Family Giving. For more information about underwriting and contributions, please contact Alisa Norris (Alisa@ blackpublicmedia.org). To donate, click here! In addition, you can donate to BPM through your Amazon purchases by going to smile.amazon.com/ch/31- 1335950.
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