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Yoruba Richen’s films highlight issues that all Americans should know and care about. Her work as a filmmaker and an educator honors the Black experience and highlights the contributions Black people make toward helping this nation realize its potential. We are proud to present her with our 2023 Trailblazer Award in recognition of her steadfast commitment to both her craft and her people.”

— Leslie Fields-Cruz, BPM executive director

APRIL 25-27, 2023

The 2023 PitchBLACK Forum & Awards took place Tuesday, April 25- Thursday, April 27, 2023 at the Greene Space in Manhattan. BPM thanks all who attended — in-person and virtually — as well as our sponsors. 

Congratulations to Yoruba Richen, our 2023 Trailblazer, and to all three of the PitchBLACK winners. In all, we awarded $225,000 in production funding for film and immersive projects. For the full experience, watch the PitchBLACK Awards video below or read our press release about the event and to meet the 2023 PitchBLACK Winners.

PitchBLACK Awards
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Hiding in Plain Sight tells the unsung and unseen story of Black queer presence in the music industry through the stories of popular and lesser known artists who shaped the music and culture we enjoy today. 

The Filmmakers

Luchina Fisher is an award-winning director, writer and producer whose work is at the intersection of race, gender and identity. Her feature directorial debut “Mama Gloria” is a 2022 GLAAD Media Award nominee, won numerous festival jury awards.

Hiding in Plain Sight

The film’s broadcast debue was part of BPM’s AfroPoP Season 13 (2021). Luchina has directed two scripted short films and has written and produced several nationally broadcast documentaries, including two episodes of the History channel series with President Bill Clinton. Her newest film, “Team Dream” won the Audience Choice Award for Best Short Film at the Chicago International Film Festival and Best Documentary at the TIDE Film Festival and will air on BET next year. She recently co-directed her second feature with Kate Davis about the barriers to Black homeownership and predatory lending in housing, and her latest documentary short “The Dads”, about six dads of trans and LGBTQ kids on a weekend fishing trip, will premiere next year.
Shan Shan Tam is an award-winning Asian-American producer and filmmaker from Boston. She began her producing career working at PBS and on celebrated shows such as “Top Chef,” “America’s Test Kitchen,” “Lidia Bastianich Celebrates America,” “Weekends with Yankee,” “ESPN’s NYC Marathon,” and “Boston Trauma.” In 2019, she co-founded This Little Company, a full service media and production company based in NYC and Palm Beach, with a client list stretching from fashion to sports to current issues and with a particular focus on BIPOC and LGBTQI content. Current and past partners for This Little Company include Tribeca Film, Tommy Hilfiger, Viacom, GLAAD, Cartier, IMG, NBC Universal, and the Human Rights Campaign. Shan Shan’s latest short documentary “Team Dream” won the Audience Choice Award for Best Short Film and a Best of Fest jury recognition at the Chicago International Film Festival, as well as Best Documentary at the TIDE Film Festival in NYC.

In Little Sallie Walker, Black women recount how they dare to create a magical world of play as Black girls. They build a joyous sanctuary for themselves through hand and circle games, double-dutch, dress-up, dolls, and jacks. But the wonder of playtime will end prematurely. In a hostile America, they must prepare for the stresses of anti-blackness, gender discrimination, and economic insecurities like their mothers and their mothers before them. The feature film is a lyrical reminder that there is nothing ordinary about an everyday ritual like play.

Little Sallie Walker

The Filmmaker

Marta Effinger-Crichlow is a filmmaker whose interdisciplinary projects in film, theater, and literature highlight her mission to fuse social issues, culture, and history. Her first produced collage, “The Evolution of Jazz,” was commissioned for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Other multimedia collages include “The Kitchen is Closed Startin’ Sunday.” Marta, who holds an interdisciplinary doctorate from Northwestern University, has worked as a freelance dramaturg for 20 years for theater productions throughout the U.S. She has appeared on TEDx at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center and co-curated 400 Years of Inequality at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute and is the author of “Staging Migrations toward an American West: From Ida B. Wells to Rhodessa Jones” (UPC Press). For “Little Sallie Walker”, Marta has received support from organizations like WIF x Sundance, The Perspective Fund, DOC NYC, Women Make Movies, and Working Films. Marta, a mother, is also the descendant of Black southern migrants.

Normal Never Worked explores a crossroads we face in education. It is the story of single mother Soraya Sélène, as she travels throughout America, reimagining education in the disruptive moment of the COVID pandemic and providing experiential learning to her 6-year-old twins, Kaia and Diego, while seeking answers to family mysteries and healing childhood trauma. As Soraya communes with families at similar crossroads, models for decolonized learning emerge.

Normal Never Worked

The Filmmakers

Soraya Sélène is a director and cinematographer working in documentary, narrative and experimental works. Born in France and raised on the lower east side of New York City, photojournalism was Soraya’s early passion. She studied photography at the School of Visual Arts, and photographed for La Nación (Chile’s national newspaper), while studying and backpacking throughout South America. The recipient of several awards for her short films, feature credits include cinematographer for “Half The Picture”, which premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Her current project, “Normal Never Worked,” is a personal lyrical documentary exploring education in this disruptive moment. Soraya received her MFA in Directing & Cinematography from UCLA and her BA in Sociology/Psychology from Wesleyan University. She is a member of the Brown Girls Doc Mafia and a founding member of the International Collective of Female Cinematographers (ICFC). Soraya is also an educator, teaching documentary and cinematography as faculty at CalArts.

After 15 years of working as a cinematographer, Cat Deakins shifted into documentary film producing. As a DP, she worked with Soraya Sélène on Amy Adrion’s documentary feature “Half the Picture.” She has shot in Bolivia, Croatia, France, Hungary, and Mexico for commercial, doc and narrative projects including the indie feature “Love, Sex and Missed Connections.” She also collaborated with choreographer/filmmaker Benjamin Millepied on several dance films, multimedia and performance projects including “Portals” (directed by Millepied and Emmy winner Kate Hackett). For 7 years, she also taught photography to incarcerated youth in the LA County Probation system. Prior to becoming a DP, she freelanced as a music photographer for Rolling Stone Magazine. She holds an MFA in Cinematography from UCLA and BA from Harvard (Sociology). She is currently also co-producing and developing a documentary feature Private Money Public Power about elite philanthropy in the U.S.

Southmont Drive is a limited docuseries reflecting on the legacy of a Black family from Tuskegee, AL, centered on Ashley O’Shay’s late grandfather, Melvin Lewis, a proud father of 17. Southmont documents the family’s journey to reclaim their father’s home, weaving together memories of his living descendants to examine a Black family’s plight in the smalltown South and their determination to have a gathering space.

Southmont Drive

The Filmmakers

Ashley O’Shay is a director and DP living in Chicago. Her work focuses on illuminating marginalized voices. She specializes in immersive stories, recognizing the societal impact of observing life as is. She’s brought her unique style beyond the documentary space, collaborating with a number of national brands, including Nike, Vox, Wilson Tennis, and Dr. Martens. In 2020, she premiered her debut feature, “Unapologetic”, a deep look into the Movement for Black Lives in Chicago, told through the experiences of two young, Black queer women. The film premiered at the 2020 BlackStar Film Festival, broadcast on PBS POV, and was shortlisted for the International Documentary Association Awards. Ashley was also selected as the recipient of the 2021 Athena Film Festival Breakthrough Award, 2021 Cleveland International Film Festival Groundbreaker Award, and DOC NYC’s 40 Under 40 List.

Resita Cox’s films are a poetic portrayal of her community’s irrepressible spirit and resilience in the face of racism. Born and raised in the South, her films center Southern, Black communities and use them as a lens to examine topics ranging from environmental justice to racial justice. She is the director of “Freedom Hill,” a documentary about the environmental racism that is washing away the first town chartered by Black people in the nation, with which she was named a 2021 Hulu/Kartemquin Accelerator Fellow and premiered at the 2022 Full Frame Documentary Film Festival. She holds an MFA from Northwestern University in Documentary Film and is a 2021 North Star fellow with Points North Institute. Resita was recently named a 2022 Esteemed Artist by the City of Chicago and is one of Elevate’s 2022 Climate Changemakers.

In Baltimore, Brandon Scott, a young visionary leader, captures the hopes of Baltimoreans when running for mayor, promoting a progressive platform to lower rates of gun violence and reform a troubled police department. After winning the election, we follow Brandon throughout his first year in office.

The Filmmaker

Dawne Langford grew up in Baltimore and Washington, D.C. After years of working in public media as a broadcast television editor, the documentary filmmaker and 2022 Sundance Producer’s Lab fellow transitioned to producing.

The Untitled Baltimore Documentary

In 2013 Dawne was accepted to the PBS Producers Academy and then began working in a freelance capacity on independent documentaries, including: “Check It,” “Kandahar Journals,” and “Finding Joseph 1” (about the lead singer of the seminal all-Black punk band, Bad Brains). Her recent projects include working at Moxie Pictures in N.Y.C. as a story producer on a docuseries with director Lee Hirsch. She is also producing a project chronicling the descendants of the enslaved GU272 (whose forebears were once enslaved by the university’s Dawne Langford grew up in Baltimore and Washington, D.C. After years of working in public media as a broadcast television editor, the documentary filmmaker and 2022 Sundance Producer’s Lab fellow transitioned to producing. In 2013 Dawne was accepted to the PBS Producers Academy and then began working in a freelance capacity on independent documentaries, including: “Check It,” “Kandahar Journals,” and “Finding Joseph 1” (about the lead singer of the seminal all-Black punk band, Bad Brains). Her recent projects include working at Moxie Pictures in N.Y.C. as a story producer on a docuseries with director Lee Hirsch. She is also producing a project chronicling the descendants of the enslaved GU272 (whose forebears were once enslaved by the university’s Jesuits). Dawne’s primary interest is in amplifying traditionally suppressed narratives and presentations of historic events to deepen understanding, support learning, and stimulate community dialogue.

AR Museum for the People uses our accessible augmented reality tech to make open-air museums of historic Black neighborhoods by adding a digital layer to physical Black archives, artworks, and artifacts. Through visually immersive open-air mobile walking tours, artists and storytellers are empowered to make museums of historic Black neighborhoods, anchored by mural art in the built environment. The project incorporates audio & visual archives to develop narrative non-fiction stories.

AR Museum for the People


The Maker

Damien is a creative technologist, digital archivist, and augmented reality (AR) artist and developer from Oakland, California. He is the founder of Black Terminus AR, a camera app and augmented reality art studio in your pocket that helps bring archives to life. His mission is to keep redlining out of the metaverse by developing and inspiring the next generation of Black creative technologists to use culture and art as a way into creative tech.

In Kandaka , we enter the ruins of the Kushite Empire through the perspective of Amanirenas, a one-eyed warrior Kandaka (queen), known for defeating Roman forces. Visit Sudan’s pyramids, learn about the Black Pharaohs, and meet Amanirenas herself as she awakens the spirit of her past, unleashing an indigenous consciousness of ancestral strength and feminity into the future through this three-part installation.



The Maker

Based in Los Angeles, Ainslee Robson is an award-winning Ethiopian-American director, writer, and media artist who crafts emancipatory narratives and worlds. She is a Sundance Interdisciplinary “Art of Practice” Fellow (2021-2022) and Sundance Humanities Sustainability Fellow (2022-2023). With a BA in philosophy and MA in fiction and entertainment, Ainslee focuses on narratives that deconstruct hierarchy and colonial legacies using emerging technologies in digital art and film. She developed an experimental visual language for reconstructing memory in the afrosurreal experience “Ferenj: A Graphic Memoir in VR,” which premiered at Tribeca, and was awarded the Special Jury Prize at NewImages in Paris. Robson’s commissions and collaborations have been exhibited by IDEAL Barcelona, Zurcher Hochschule De Kunste, Forum de Images, Institue für Auslandsbeziehungen (IFA), and MoMA New York, respectively.
In Word Games, worlds collide in a showdown between AI and humans in this spoken word album that blurs the line between art and technology.

The Maker

Kacieis a creator and arts advocate based out of Atlanta, Georgia. She earned her BS in Music Recording Technology from Hampton University and MFA in Sound Design from Savannah College of Art and Design.

Word Games


After participating in the 2019 Spotify Sound Up accelerator program she formed the production company Could Be Pretty Cool, the mission of which is to produce unique creative experiences to inspire community building through the arts. She is the creator and host of the Spotify Original podcast “You Heard Me Write” and has been named one of the ’40 Under 40 in Podcasting’ by Podcast Magazine. Kacie has also served as a theatrical sound designer, arts administrator and speaker for local and national arts and cultural organizations.

@couldbeprettycool on Instagram

In Ki Es Ou Ye?, three former slaves reckon with their newly declared freedom during the Haitian Revolution.

The Maker

Dominick is an artist, teacher, writer, producer, director, and general maker of things. His work seeks to link and explain the fragmented sections of his unique life and experiences. Much of his worldview was shaped by his status as a first-generation immigrant, survivor of childhood trauma, and having grown up in a deeply conservative Christian household.

Ki Es Ou Ye?


His processes were shaped by 12 years of experience working as an IT specialist for the US government. Combine these off with natural inclinations towards technology, video games, biology, music, and art education; at the intersection of all these points, you get Dominick’s artistic practice. First and foremost, his art attempts to create a language or system wherein he can compartmentalize all of his competing inspirations. Allowing these a space to inform and interact with one another serves as his greatest catalyst for creative inspiration and evolution.

@domrabrun on Instagram

UNCHARTED VR  is an immersive performance inspired by 5,000 years of knowledge generation from the continent of Africa.

The Maker

Kidus’ design merges the boundaries between spatial practice and futures informed by Africa and its diasporic conditions. With a background in architecture and speculative world-building,his works focus on the hybrid



nature of  reimagining transcontinental archives to form counter-narratives of Black consciousness. In the past, Kidus has collaborated with international artists and institutes including Studio Other Spaces, Studio Olafur Eliasson, Forum des Images, Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen (IFA), and Contemporary And (C&). As a former EDGE fellow at SCI-Arc, he holds an MA in fiction and entertainment. In 2022, Kidus co-founded Guada Labs an art, film, and new media practice based in Los Angeles.

@kidus_hw on Instagram

The Unseen is an abstract documentary and real-time motion capture performance that showcases, celebrates and honors Black figure skaters of the past and present.

The Maker

LaJuné (they/them) is a multidisciplinary artist, and educator creating art that integrates performance, extended reality, and physical computing to question our contemporary forms of communication.

The Unseen


They are passionate about discovering, learning, manifesting, and stewarding spaces for liberated Black Realities and the Black Imagination. LaJuné believes in making by diving into, navigating, critiquing, and breaking systems and technologies that uphold systemic injustices to decommodify our bodies, undo our indoctrination, and make room for different ways of being. Previously, they were the director of skating at Figure Skating in Harlem, where they integrated STEAM and Figure Skating to teach girls of color about movement and technology. They have continued their research on Blackness, movement, and technology during residencies and fellowships at the Jerome Hill Artist Fellowship, Eyebeam, Pioneer Works, NYU ITP, Barbarian Group, and Barnard College.

Yoruba Richen is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and educator whose work has been featured on multiple outlets including PBS, Netflix, MSNBC, HULU, HBO, Frontline, Field of Vision, and New York Times Op Doc. Her recent films include: The Rebellious Life of Mrs Rosa Parks, which was nominated for a Critics Choice award; American Reckoning (2022), part of Frontline’s award-winning multi-platform series Un(re)solved; Emmy nominated How it Feels to Be Free (2021); Peabody and Emmy nominated The Sit In: Harry Belafonte Hosts the Tonight Show (2020); and The Killing of Breonna Taylor (2020). Her 2019 film, The Green Book: Guide to Freedom, premiered on the Smithsonian Channel; and her films The New Black (2013) and Promised Land (2010) won several awards before being broadcast on PBS’ Independent Lens and POV, respectively. In her role as the founding director of the documentary program at City University of New York’s Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, she is preparing future generations of documentary storytellers. In 2020, she was recognized among BPM’s 40 Game Changers as part of the organization’s 40th anniversary celebration of influential and prolific Black media storytellers.

2023 Trailblazer – Yoruba Richen

Orlando Bagwell’s work reflects some of the industry’s most influential storytelling about the civil rights movement and the history of American race relations. His award-winning documentaries have captured the history of Black resistance — from slavery to the civil rights and Black power movements, to present-day stories of race and conflict in contemporary society. As a producer, director, funder, and mentor, he has had a profound impact on the American documentary landscape. His extensive filmography includes: two episodes of the groundbreaking Blackside series Eyes on the Prize (1987, Mississippi: Is this America? and Ain’t Scared of Your Jails); Roots of Resistance (1989); A Hymn for Alvin Ailey (1993); Malcolm X: Make it Plain (1994); Frederick Douglass: When the Lion Wrote History (1994) and the multi-part PBS series Africans in America: America’s Journey Through Slavery (1998).

2022 Trailblazer – Orlando Bagwell

Marco Williams is an award-winning director who has been creating films and telling impactful stories for a long time. His credits include: Crafting an Echo, Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Lonnie Holley: The Truth of the Dirt, The Black Fives, The Undocumented, Inside the New Black Panthers; Banished; Freedom Summer; I Sit Where I Want: The Legacy of Brown v. Board of Education; MLK Boulevard: The Concrete Dream; Two Towns of Jasper; Making Peace: Rebuilding our Communities; Declarations: The Spiritual Deficit and The American Dream; Without a Pass; In Search of Our Fathers; and From Harlem to Harvard.

2021 Trailblazer – Marco Williams

Award-winning Filmmaker, artist and author, Michèle Stephenson, pulls from her Panamanian and Haitian roots and experience as a human rights attorney to tell compelling, deeply personal stories in a variety of media that resonate beyond the margins. Her work has appeared on broadcast and web platforms, including PBS, Showtime, New York Times Op-Docs, and MTV. Her documentary short, Elena, was featured in Season 13 of BPM’s AfroPoP: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange. She is the co-founder of Rada Film Group.
Producer and Director, Joe Brewster is a Harvard trained psychiatrist who uses his psychological training as the foundation in approaching the social issues he tackles as an artist and filmmaker. Brewster, in conjunction with his Rada Film Group co-founder, Michèle Stephenson, have created stories using installation, narrative, documentary and print mediums that have garnered support from critics and audiences internationally.

2019 Trailblazers – Michèle Stephenson & Joe Brewster