June 22, 2021
BLACK PUBLIC MEDIA
By Leslie Fields-Cruz
BPM team members, (l-r) Kat Walsh, Cheryl D. Fields, Leslie Fields-Cruz, and Diane Carr Joseph, at the Un(re)solved installation in Manhattan's Battery Park.
(Photo credit: Indira K. Langhum)
Welcome to the Summer of Rebirth
Ordinarily, spring is the season of rebirth. But after more than a year of pandemic restrictions, this summer of 2021 is the scene stealer. Last Thursday, three of my co-workers and I got together in person for a business lunch and to visit some of the XR installations we’ve funded, including Un(re)solved (Tamara Shogaolu) and POV: Points of View (Alton Glass), that were part of the Tribeca Festival. It was the first time we had met in person since March of 2020, and for Kat Walsh, our social media coordinator who was hired last fall, it was their first time being in the physical presence of their co-workers. Our team made the transition to remote work more smoothly than I think any of us expected, but being able to sit across the table from one another, stand shoulder to shoulder, and respond to one another’s body language is a whole different level of engagement.
Thanks to the work of our staff and the commitment of our funders, BPM is emerging from the pandemic stronger, and more nimble than ever. Our team will continue to work remotely, but we welcome the opportunity to come together from time to time to do the type of deep work that is only possible when you share the same physical space. We also look forward to meeting in person with makers who live and work in places where we have a physical presence — New York, New Jersey, Atlanta, Washington, D.C., and Pittsburgh — as well as locations across the nation where we have partners. During this summer of rebirth, I’m focused on reconnecting.
Last weekend was the first time our nation celebrated Juneteenth as a federal holiday. I spent it with kids from the community youth theatre where I serve as artistic director. We staged our year-end production on Saturday and Sunday. The middle and high school-aged participants are mostly Black and Latinx, and the show we staged, Melanin Magic, was partially written by them and addressed issues of race and culture. During the cast party, the company founder and I invited the youth to reflect on what the year meant to them. Their comments included everything from how much they enjoyed being in the program — during a time when everything else, including school, was on lockdown — to how Melanin Magic filled them with a sense of cultural pride at a time when so much of the public discourse amplified our nation’s racial polarization.
One of the parents who attended the party said she wished those adults who are slamming the 1619 Project and Critical Race Theory could have been in the room to hear what those young people were saying. “Our kids welcome opportunities to learn about their country’s richly diverse heritage,” she said.
Sentiments like this are why I love the work we do here at BPM. For nearly 100 years, the story of what happened on Juneteenth was restricted to Texas and a few communities in neighboring states. Just as the Tulsa Race Massacre was largely unknown outside of that region until a group of Black historians, policy makers, journalists, educators and media makers got together and said, “No this story will not be forgotten.” The stories BPM supports are evergreen, there’s no reason to relegate them to one day, one weekend, or one month.
So, as we re-emerge from the pandemic this summer, let’s be bold about sharing our stories. Not just those from the nearly forgotten past, but those from a few months ago and those that are unfolding even now. We are re-emerging into a new era, one in which Black voices and Black stories must get the exposure they so richly deserve year-round.
Black Public Media is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, with further funding from the MacArthur Foundation and the New York State Council on the Arts. Support for Afropop: the Ultimate Cultural Exchange and the 360 Incubator+ Fund comes from the National Endowment for the Arts. BPM is the only nonprofit that offers training, funding and distribution for projects solely about the Black experience. We are seeking foundations, corporations and individuals to help our work. 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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