PitchBLACK Gratitude and Joy

Black Public Media
4 min readApr 30, 2024

by Leslie Fields-Cruz

Last week was full of great Black storytelling, gratitude and joy. I am so grateful for everyone who contributed to the success of our 2024 PitchBLACK Forum and Awards program. I hope those of you who attended in person enjoyed the chance to interact with your peers as much as I did. The spirit of family was apparent throughout the two-day experience. I hope those who joined us virtually felt the love radiating across the internet. One of the only good things to come out of the Covid-19 pandemic is our ability to seamlessly livestream events so that geographic barriers don’t interfere with our ability to share and engage with our community.

NPR’s Brittany Luce (rt) interviews BPM Trailblazer Sam Pollard at PitchBLACK Awards. (credit: Ed Marshall, Ed Marshall Photography)

Our heartwarming celebration of Sam Pollard’s work was a highlight of the evening. Thanks to NPR’s Brittany Luse for hosting our filmmaker chat and to jazz vocalist Andromeda Turre for her stirring performance. If you haven’t watched any of the films featured in our Pollard Film Retrospective yet, there’s still time. The streaming window closes this Sun., May 5.

Salute to the Winners

PitchBLACK Award winners (left-right): Camilla Rodriguez-Estrada, Juan Dávila, Andrea Walls, Ethel-Ruth Tawe, and Elisha Tawe. Photos by Kat Walsh. Photos by Katelyn Walsh.

In case you haven’t yet heard, The Jacquie Jones Memorial Fund award went to American Sons by Andrew Gonzales and Laura Varela. The NCU Fellowship went to Ethel-Ruth Tawe. The $50K PitchBLACK Immersive Awards went to Image Frequency Modulation by Ethel-Ruth Tawe and Elisha Tawe. The $25K PitchBLACK Immersive Award went to The Museum of Black Joy: Ring Shouts, Rituals and Rising Signs, by Andrea Walls. The $150k PitchBLACK Film Award went to Zenón, by Juan Davila and Camilla Rodriguez-Estrada.

To all the creatives who pitched last Wednesday, I hope you enjoyed the opportunity to introduce your projects to the audience. We had a full house at both the pitch forum and the awards ceremony. I thank all the station programmers, public media executives, funders, and others who join us. Your presence affirms that you understand the imperative of bringing Black media stories to the public.

In last week’s Dispatch, I thanked our sponsors, supporters and friends, but I must thank them all again. Especially Netflix, PBS, CPB, and the Sonder Foundation. Without their monetary investments in PitchBLACK, the BPM Trailblazer Award, the Jacquie Jones Memorial Fund, and the Nonso Christian Ugbode Fellowship respectively, we wouldn’t be able to recognize Black storytelling excellence in the ways that we do. If you don’t believe me, just ask our makers. It makes a difference.

I’m also grateful to the BPM board for their unwavering support at PitchBLACK and beyond. To our PitchBLACK Forum host Tameka Kee and our PitchBLACK Awards host Sir Alex. To our video production partners at Black Heart who made sure our livestream was first rate. To Garland McLauren and Olumuyiwa Baker for the wonderful Sam Pollard reel they created for the occasion. To our graphic designer Giselle Wynn and our promo editor Funmi Ogunro. To the staff at Stanley Kaplan Penthouse. To our DJ King Iven. And to the incredible BPM staff. I also offer a special shout out to my colleague Qiona Woffard, who is our special programs manager, and who served as the producer of PitchBLACK.

Icing on the Cake

Learning, last Thursday, that one of our AfroPoP Season 15 episodes was nominated for a Peabody Award was icing on an already spectacular cake. We congratulate filmmakers Rosalynde LeBlanc and Tom Hurwitz for this achievement. Their film, Can You Bring It: Bill T. Jones and D-Man in the Waters, is streaming for a limited time on worldchannel.org and WORLD’s YouTube channel. So, if you didn’t get to see it last year, hurry and check it out before the free streaming window closes. The announcement about Peabody Award winners is due May 9. I’m sending out positive energy in the hopes that a win is in this magnificent film’s future. Stay tuned …

Date Night

Finally, I urge those of you who live in New York City who might be free this evening (April 30), to check out DOC NYC’s Spring Season offerings. Tonight’s featured title is This World is Not My Own, by directors Petter Ringbom and Marquise Stillwell. It profiles the work and life of self-taught African-American artist Nellie Mae Rowe. The 20th century artist from rural Georgia created a breathtaking body of work across a plethora of mediums, reflecting the American political and social movements of her time. Showtime is 7 p.m. ET at the IFC Center, 323 Sixth Ave, NYC. Secure tickets while they last here.

— Leslie Fields Cruz is the executive director of Black Public Media



Black Public Media

Black Public Media (BPM) develops, produces, funds, and distributes media content about the African American and global Black experience.