Honoring Our Colleague/Friend Leanne Ferrer
It’s not often that people remain in the same company for more than 5 years, let alone nearly 20. But come December, I will have been at Black Public Media for two full decades. In that time, I have seen many changes in the public media system, some for the better and some for the worse. Right now, I think we’re entering a moment that will be for the better, especially for those of us working to advance the voices of BIPOC communities. Which is why the unexpected passing of Leanne Ferrer, executive director of Pacific Islanders in Communication (PIC), has hit me, my colleagues, and others in the public media community so hard.
I met Leanne at an American Public Television (APT) conference during my fifth year at BPM. Over the past 15 years, our relationship as NMCA colleagues developed into a true friendship. We had so much in common — we were both mothers and wives, and we were both committed to advancing the voices of our respective cultural groups.
Leanne Ferrer (left) and Leslie Fields-Cruz, 2019
Our professional growth mirrored each others’ as well. We both served as program directors for our respective organizations and, over time, found ourselves in the position of leading them.
Leanne became E.D. of PIC before I was appointed to lead BPM. I reached out to her many times during my first year as E.D. and she was always there to provide a word of support or food for thought.
Leanne Ferrer (2nd from left) with Fields-Cruz (rt.) and their NMCA colleagues during a meeting with U.S. Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) (center).
As the years wore on, we exchanged texts and calls about work, family and life in general. Our conversations ranged from our frustrations with the public media to the importance of a woman’s self-care. We discussed joint projects, problematic filmmakers, and the importance of culturally specific organizations.
The last time I saw Leanne in person was at PIC’s Producer’s Summit in fall 2019. Not only was the summit a wonderful event, but I also had a chance to watch my friend “in her element,” leading PIC and championing the voices of Pacific Islanders. Leanne was supposed to come to New York in June 2020 for BPM’s National Black Media Story Summit, but when the pandemic hit, travel was out of the question.
In recent months, Leanne and I discussed the seeming changes in the public media system, the impact of the Beyond Inclusion movement, and our plans for how to use the recent increase in support from CPB to strengthen our organizations’ ongoing work of advancing the voices of BIPOC creatives.
There’s no doubt in my mind that PIC will continue to realize what Leanne had planned for it. Her team — Cheryl, Malu, Roann — and the PIC board will make sure of that. But I will miss my colleague, my comrade in arms, my friend Leanne, whose warmth and generosity I will forever cherish. My sincere condolences to the Ferrer family and to the PIC staff and board.
BPM Executive Director