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Black Public Media’s PitchBLACK Winners Take on the Criminal Justice System

Three projects that indict the American criminal justice system have been chosen as winners of PitchBLACK, an interactive pitching session that culminates Black Public Media’s 13-week 360 Incubator+ for broadcast programs, web series and virtual reality projects. The Black Public Media (BPM) incubator and talent development program, designed to identify and pipeline quality black content while honing the skills of brilliant makers, awarded a total of $320,000 in funding. The winners were announced during the inaugural PitchBLACK Awards at Apella by Alexandria on Manhattan’s East River, hosted by K. Neycha Herford.

Two broadcast, one web and one virtual reality (VR) project took prizes at PitchBLACK, which took place Thursday at The Jerome L. Greene Performance Space in Manhattan, hosted by veteran producer Sandra Rattley. Both broadcast projects as well as the digital project winner will be offered funding and a license agreement for public media distribution.

The broadcast project Commuted, by Nailah Jefferson (mentor Yoruba Richen), wins $100,000. The documentary program tells the story of Danielle Bernard Metz, a mother of two who was sentenced to triple life plus 20 years for her role in her husband’s drug ring. Metz’s sentence was commuted by President Barack Obama in 2016, and the film follows her fight to reconcile her present life with past regrets. The 3,000 Project by Keith McQuirter and LaNora Williams-Clark (mentor Chris Hastings) explores how Wisconsin — one of the most incarcerated states in the nation — is grappling with parole reform; the broadcast documentary program wins $100,000.

The VR experience Points of View (POV) by Alton Glass and Donovan DeBoer (mentor Michael Premo) is set in Los Angeles in 2025, where weaponized police drones govern the skies, raising questions around how much privacy we will surrender as law enforcement technology develops. POV will be awarded $60,000 for its community engagement campaign.

The fourth winner, Heroes of Color by David Heredia (mentor Kimson Albert), is a vibrant, illustrated educational web series designed to create a more inclusive — and historically accurate — K-12 curriculum and inspire pride among youth. The project, which targets younger audiences, a demographic BPM has set its sights on, will receive $60,000 toward production of its first season.

Broadcast jurors were Andrew ColesWendy Llinás and Rachel Watanabe-Batton. Digital and Engagement jurors were Christie MarcheseOpeyemi Olukemi and Kamal Sinclair.

Winners were announced by BPM’s Denise Greene, administrator of the 360 Incubator+, and Rattley, the program’s creative consultant.

“Given the strength of all the projects and the enthusiasm in the room for them, we wish we could have funded them all. We will continue to support every project as we facilitate the connections with the distributors and funders at the pitch forum and field additional interest developed,” said BPM’s Executive Director Leslie Fields-Cruz. Based in Harlem, Black Public Media (BPM) is the nation’s only nonprofit dedicated solely to media content about the black experience.

Acting Commissioner of the New York City Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment Anne del Castillo was on hand to present veteran documentary filmmakers Michèle Stephensonand Joe Brewster of the Rada Film Group with the first-ever BPM Trailblazer Award; the award recognized the duo for their strong body of work and proven track record of mentoring emerging media makers, including through the 360 Incubator+. Kian Kelley-Chung, a student at the University of Maryland and storyteller in film, video games and VR, was presented by former BPM executive Kay Shaw with the first Nonso Christian Ugbode Digital Media Fund award, named after BPM’s late director of digital initiatives.

The 360 Incubator+ was launched in 2014. Past 360 Incubator+ winners and participants include Shukree Tilghman, who has gone on to become a writer and co-producer of the hit NBC television program This Is Us; Garland McLaurin, whose POPS web series premiered on ITVS’ Indie Lens Storycast; Dominique Taylor, whose Read Awakening premiered in July as a PBS Digital Studio’s Facebook Watch digital miniseries; and Nosarieme Garrick, whose My Africa Is documentary premiered on BPM’s signature public television series AfroPoP: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange in 2017.

The 360 Incubator+ is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the MacArthur Foundation, the NEA, the New York State Council on the Arts and New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.

For more information on BPM, visit www.blackpublicmedia.org or follow the organization on Twitter (@BLKPublicMedia) or Facebook (@BlackPublicMedia). For more information on the projects, visit https://bit.ly/2UDLvaf.

About the Author

New York Trend is a weekly news publication that focuses on issues and lifestyles of the African & Caribbean American communities throughout the New York metropolitan area and Nassau and Suffolk Counties of Long Island. It is a respected and well recognized news publication that has been in existence since 1989. Owner, Publisher and Executive Director, Dr. Teresa Taylor Williams has been at the helm of this award-winning publication since its inception. New York Trend continues to be the only black woman-owned, metropolitan newspaper in New York and Long island. New York Trend is the largest black-owned newspaper throughout Nassau and Suffolk counties.

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