Back in 2018, when we took the bold step of rebranding the National Black Programming Consortium under the new name Black Public Media, we imagined a future in which this organization would have a presence and voice in any and every new media space that the public has access to. Honoring our traditions, we also remained committed to eking out a larger presence for Black creatives in traditional public media. As 2021 closes, I’m proud to say that we are squarely on mission. The future for BPM and Black creatives in the public media sector is bright.
I don’t have to tell you that the past couple of years have been tough, especially for independent media makers. The pandemic has all but eviscerated what remained of the traditional cinema industry. The festival circuit is struggling to regain its footing. And though there is an abundance of opportunity in the virtual media space, Black makers continue to be grossly underrepresented in every corner of that rapidly emerging sector
Throughout these difficult times, BPM has worked hard to provide encouragement, financial support, training opportunities, and information about where the opportunities are for seasoned and emerging makers alike. Our funders have been terrific about providing the means for us to help Black creatives branch out in the virtual media terrain — largely through our BPMplus and 360 Incubator+ programs — and our traditional media partners are sharpening their commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.
Looking back, 2021 has been a good year for BPM. We’ve secured a few new funding partners, which has enabled us to: expand and strengthen our staff, invest more than a half-million in funding to traditional and emerging media projects, increase the number of fellows we serve through professional development and mentorship programs, and grow our presence on social media and in other virtual media spaces. We are also proud to see so many of our recent grantees and alumni bringing fire to the public media landscape. They’re doubling down on stories about Black brilliance and exposing injustices that have long plagued our communities.
Of course, we realize there is still much work to do, which is why my staff and I look forward to being on vacation during the days between Dec. 24 and Jan. 3. We’re resting up for 2022, a year for which we have ambitious plans that you’ll hear more about in January.
For now, we wish you all a joyous, safe and restful end of the year. I hope you’ll join us at our virtual holiday party this evening (Dec. 21), at 6 p.m. EST. Registration is free and still open. The password to enter the party is BPM2021_Holiday. We’d love to see you there. Of course, if you can’t make it, we’ll catch up with you in 2022.
Four years ago, as we embarked on this journey of expansion, I was quoted as saying:
I think it’s important for everyone to know that we have a relatively new name, but we continue to provide quality and purposeful content, and our ongoing support for filmmakers of African descent has not changed. We are going to ensure that our voices and our perspectives [as Black people] are fairly represented in the media.
My colleagues, our board and I continue to stand by these remarks.
One more thing before I go: BPM is excited to announce that we will host our first BPMplus Mixer in two years during the Sundance Film Festival next month. The mixer, which is part of the New Frontier Program, will be held on Fri., Jan. 21, on New Frontier’s online platform. Our session is open to the public, but a Sundance Explorer Pass ($50) is required to attend. The pass gives users access to all the amazing immersive experiences in New Frontier’s 2022 lineup, plus the festival’s episodic and shorts program, so it’s a great deal. Buy your pass here.
— Leslie Fields-Cruz is the executive director of Black Public Media