MARCH 30, 2021




By Leslie Fields-Cruz

It's Sankofa Time: Looking Back to Move Forward

The 1987 PBS premiere of Henry Hampton’s epic Eyes on the Prize marked the first time Americans had a chance to view a documentary series created by Black filmmakers about a period of history that so radically changed the nation’s social, political and economic trajectory. This coming Sunday, April 4, Americans will get another chance to screen Hampton’s masterpiece. Each episode will air for free on WORLD Channel for six consecutive Sundays at 9 pm ET. The first six episodes will also be available on-demand for a limited time after broadcast on all station-branded PBS platforms, including WORLDChannel.org, PBS.org and the PBS Video app.


Today’s headlines about racist hate crimes; abusive policing; racial inequities in our healthcare, education and criminal justice systems; and voter suppression make it seem as though little has changed in the decades since Eyes was first released. Only it has. One of the biggest changes can be found in the faces of today’s Black leaders.

Until recently, the most heralded African American leaders were men. Today, many of our boldest leaders are women: Vice President Kamala Harris; Stacey Abrams (founder of Fair Fight);  Black Lives Matter founders Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi; and Mayors Keisha Lance Bottoms (Atlanta), London Breed (San Francisco), Lori Lightfoot (Chicago), Muriel Bowser (District of Columbia), LaToya Cantrell (New Orleans), Vi Lyles (Charlotte, NC), and Sharon Weston Broome (Baton Rouge, La.). These women are joined by hundreds of others who lead social justice organizations, corporations, small businesses, and education institutions. As Women’s History Month draws to a close, I urge everyone to recognize these incredible sisters and the many ways they are moving our people and our nation forward.

Dr. Yaba Blay

Professional Black Girl Director Dr. Yaba Blay

If you’re watching Eyes on the Prize and with young people, download this helpful study guide. And in the interest of gender equity, here are a few other docs I recommend: And She Could Be Next (funded by BPM), All In: The Fight for Democracy, and three of the films included in this year’s Season 13 of our AfroPoP series: Mama Gloria, Professional Black Girl, and Betye Saar: Taking Care of Business.

We are deeply indebted to the filmmakers responsible for bringing these important stories to public media. Their vision and perseverance have gifted us with films that bear witness to our people’s struggles and successes.

Ignorance about the past not only makes it hard to avoid repeating mistakes, it leaves us ill equipped to gauge our progress. I challenge anyone who screens these films to conclude that NOTHING has changed. Our advancement is obvious. Still, we’ve got a long way to go.  

Hampton blazed a trail that today’s Black media makers continue to widen. For a peek at what they’re up to, don’t forget to register for this year’s PitchBLACK Awards and BPMplus Showcase. Tickets are free, but slots are filling up quickly. Go here for program and registration details.

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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