APRIL 13, 2021




By Leslie Fields-Cruz

Thanks for Making PitchBLACK 2021 a Success!

Last fall, when it became apparent that PitchBLACK might have to be radically different from anything we’d tried to do before, my staff and I took a deep breath. We then set out to design a virtual event that would be just as exciting and rewarding as it has always been in person. Thanks to them, our sponsors, our creative consultant Sandy Rattley, our 360 Incubator+ fellows and their mentors, the panelists, and all who contributed to the virtual PitchBLACK production, we were able to achieve our goal last week. Honestly, it turned out even better than I’d hoped. 

We ended up awarding $410,000 to five producing teams — the most BPM has ever awarded at PitchBLACK! Once again, I extend congratulations to our winners: Ameha Molla and Rajal Pitroda who, competed in the feature documentary category and were awarded $100,000 for their project Higher 15; and Hazel Gurland-Pooler and Naz Habtezghi, who also won $100,000 for their feature documentary Storming Caesars Palace. Awards in the amount of $75,000 each went to the projects Listen to Me, by Stephanie Etienne and Kanika Harris; and What’s in a Name?, by Malkia Lydia and Khalil Munir. And $60,000 was awarded to Inner Wound Real, an animated digital short by Carrie Hawks.


Feature documentary award winners (clockwise from top right: Ameha Molla ("Higher 15"); Hazel Gurland-Pooler and Naz Habtezghi ("Storming Caesars Palace"); Kanika Harris ("Listen to Me"), and Khalil Munhir, and Rajal Pitroda ("What's In a Name?"), with BPM Director of Program Initiatives (top left), Denise Greene and 360 Incubator+ Creative Consultant Sandy Rattley (top center).

Though only five of our fellowship teams came away with monetary awards, all 18 of the fellows are to be commended for delivering 10 outstanding pitches. Those of you who were in our virtual audience for both days of the forum can attest to how wonderful these projects are. We look forward to their continued development. You can read more about the makers and their projects in the PitchBLACK program booklet.

I also need to thank those of you who attended our first-ever BPMplus Showcase, featuring the makers — Carla LynDale Bishop, LaJuné McMillian, Fabiano Mixo, Bayaté Ross Smith, Tamara Shogoalu and Leonardo Souza. We hope you will spread the word about these amazing projects and their makers. And we look forward to working with any funders who might be interested in helping us develop the means to eventually offer grants through this program in the future. 

My sincerest thanks to our keynote speaker Topper Carew, who delivered a rousing message that I hope inspired all who heard it to continue pushing our industry toward greater equity and inclusion. And thanks to Marco Williams, our Trailblazer Award recipient, for his incredible body of work and steadfast commitment to mentoring, as well as for sharing such great stories last Friday, while we waited for technical obstacles to be cleared so Mr. Carew could join us. 

I am also grateful to Garland McLaurin — who is himself a former PitchBLACK awardee — for producing all the interstitial videos for these events; and to Lauren Ruffin and Jose Marmolejos, who produced the forum, showcase and awards programs. 

Finally, thanks to all who took time out of their busy schedules to attend PitchBLACK. Please follow this link to complete a brief survey so we can make PitchBLACK 2022 better than ever. As always, BPM is committed to supporting makers of compelling Black media stories, but our work wouldn’t be nearly as effective without audiences to cheer our makers on and demand more.


Topper Carew

Marco Williams

 Marco Williams

The past few months have been a whirlwind at BPM, but you can be sure there's more to come. I hope you caught our premiere episode of AfroPoP Season 13 on WORLD Channel last week. A new episode will air there each Monday this month, and the season will begin airing on public TV stations across the country in May. So, consult the schedule and tell your friends to do the same. 

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.

Copyright @ 2021 Black Public Media. All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is:  8 West 125th Street, Ste. 0D3117. New YORK, NY 10027