has begun a concerted effort to collect hundreds of stories of African-American men and boys talking about what they do to make a difference in their communities.
Thanks to a $390,000 grant from The Heinz Endowments, the media company is partnering with Black Male Engagement (BMe
), which has already piloted this story-collection project in Philadelphia, Detroit and Baltimore.
The idea behind the project, says Darryl Ford Williams, WQED's vice president of content, is to hear in particular from black men who are involved in community service, as well as those who are doing things "on a smaller scale. Is there one person in the community, one kid on the street you're helping keep up with their homework?" Do their activities as a father, coach, Sunday School teacher or neighbor change their community or the lives of one person in a notable way?
Such positive activities are "never reflected in the media," Williams says, which mostly features African-American men when they are involved in crime, sports or entertainment. BMe will embody "the idea of improving the self-image in the African-American community and the way in the larger community we know, accept and relate to each other."
BME will continue the effort begun by WQED and the Endowments last year with its “African American Men and Boys: Portrayal and Perception” initiative, which included a televised town-hall meeting and four documentaries portraying African-American entrepreneurship, musical forms and media images.
The BMe project will also result in documentaries and a town-hall discussion this spring. Participants can upload their stories through BMe's online portal. WQED will also send out street teams to collect stories and hold BMe Days at local barbershops, churches and community organizations. Each story, 1-4 minutes long, will be collected on video, capturing each person's experience serving their community and their hopes are for its future.
"Ultimately, the goal is to connect people here in Pittsburgh with people in other BMe cities," Williams says. "How can they connect what they are doing in the community with what people are doing in Detroit? We hope to leverage the power of numbers."
Looking for additional places to aid the local African-American community? Connect with PACE: The Program to Aid Citizen Enterprise
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Darryl Ford Williams, WQED