June 15, 2021




By Leslie Fields-Cruz

Black Storytelling 155 Years After the Original Juneteenth

In mid-June 1866, Black people in Texas were officially informed that former President Abraham Lincoln (by then deceased) had signed the Emancipation Proclamation two-and-a-half years earlier. For years after that, our people were forbidden to celebrate the occasion, which they dubbed “Juneteenth.” Over time, celebrations became routine throughout Texas and neighboring states. And now, 155 years later, celebrations are popping up everywhere. 

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If you’re planning to be in New York City this weekend, don’t forget Tribeca Festival’s Juneteenth celebration. BPM-funded Ailey and Stateless are among the docs being screened and the immersive program includes: Un(re)solved (by Tamara Shogaolu), Breonna’s Garden (world premiere by Lady PheOnix & Ju’Niya Palmer), Kinfolk (world premiere by Idris Brewster) and POV: Points of View (by Alton Glass). Let us know how you’re observing Juneteenth by posting and tagging us on social media.

I recently learned that the Houston Cinema Arts Society — which partnered with BPM on two of our Story Summits — is hosting a film competition with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).Creators around the world are invited to submit 10-minute films that are inspired by and use NASA imagery. Submissions featuring NASA footage from 60 years of space exploration will be judged on creativity, innovation and attention to detail. Though racism has played a role in limiting the number of Black astronauts to 14 (out of 330) over the agency’s history, our people have long played a substantial role on the ground.

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NASA Astronaut Mae Jemison (left), first Black woman in space, with NASA Space Technician Sharon McDougle, 1992. Photo Credit: Sharon McDougle 

For every Ronald McNair and Mae Jemison, there’ve been dozens of people like Charles Bolden Jr, (NASA administrator 2009-2017), Thomas Byrdsong (aerospace engineer, 1953-1992) and Vanessa Wyche (current acting director, Johnson Space Center). I hope those of you who have films featuring these and other Black trailblazers at NASA will submit them for consideration. The festival takes place in November and submissions close July 14. Details about how to apply are on the Cinespace website.

Black folks’ 400+ years ascent from slave ships to spaceships is truly remarkable and the breadth of stories that remain to be told about our experiences along the way continues to expand. Which is why we’re always so excited to announce the BPM Open Call. This year, we’re looking for feature-length documentaries and shorts (nonfiction or scripted) that are currently in pre-production or production and intended for public media distribution. Selected projects will receive production funding to advance their work. There are no limits on the subject area. However, we encourage work that will promote discourse and engage audiences around critical social issues.

In addition to winning a BPM grant, the selected filmmakers will be invited to pitch for up to $150,000 at PitchBLACK in April 2022. Details are posted on our website. We'll begin accepting submissions later this summer. The deadline is Oct. 1, 2021. We look forward to seeing your work.

Meanwhile, have a festive Juneteenth and Happy Father’s Day!

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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