#FilmMajorFriday: The Merze Tate Explorers Club Is Empowering Girls Through Writing, Photography, and Videography

Last week, I had the opportunity to be the personal videographer and videographer instructor for the Merze Tate Travel Writers Club‘s 2016 Tate-Stone Travel Writers Academy.  IMG_0041The Academy is a program for 4th-12th graders, and is a 6-day residential academy on Kalamazoo College’s campus. The program provides travel opportunities and interaction with women where they work while serving as reporters to capture the adventures through writing, photography, and videography for the annual Girls Can! Magazine. The program was created by Sonya Bernard-Hollins.

I must say, it was one the greatest and most rewarding experiences that I’ve had to date. It was an amazing feeling being around so many girls that were as passionate about traveling and media just as much as I am, and girls who really wanted to advance their skills in writing, photography, and my personal favorite, videography.

IMG_0003Throughout the week, I filmed the events that took place throughout the week. We went to the Whirlpool headquarters in Benton Harbor, Michigan where the girls had the opportunity to meet and interview the CEO. We participated in Youth Day at Bible Baptist Church as part of the Black Arts and Cultural Center’s 2016 Black Arts Festival.  Later in the week, we traveled to Detroit, Michigan and went to the Motown Museum and ate dinner on the Detroit Princess River Boat. We ended the week by traveling to Niagara Falls, Canada where we were able to take a tour and ride the boat through the Falls!

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My favorite part about the Academy was just simply being a positive influence and that person the girls could look up to not just as a videographer, but a mentor as well.IMG_0110 Representation matters, and when you see someone who looks like you, doing what you want to do, and desire to be like, it gives you all the more reason to chase your dreams. If she can do it, so can I.

I feel so blessed to have been a part of this fantastic week with girls who are inspired and passionate about traveling, writing, and media. I wish I was a part of a program like this growing up. I think that it’s incredible that these girls are gaining these experiences at such a young age. We need more programs like this that give children the opportunity to learn, explore, and see the world. There’s so much out there and if more children were given opportunities like this, I know that it would give them more hope and motivation to work hard, achieve their greatest aspirations, and reach heights higher than they could ever imagine.

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6 Black Media Outlets That You Should Be Supporting

Essence Magazine? Not black-owned.

Ebony Magazine? Not black-owned.

Huff Post: Black Voices? Not black owned.

The Root? You guessed it! Not Black owned.

Crazy, right?! And all this time I thought that these were outlets for black people, BY black people.

Finding out this information inspired me to research and look for other media outlets I can support, ones that are actually black-owned. I came across a thread on Twitter that had a list of black-owned media outlets that every person should be supporting!

I must say, it’s a pretty fantastic list:

 

  1. TWiB! Nation Unknown

This Week in Blackness (TWiB) is an award winning multimedia digital platform founded by Elon James White. TWiB houses the online broadcasting network TWiB.FM, the digital magazine VALID, and the video on-demand site Blackness.TV.

Like them on Facebook and Follow them on Twitter!

 

  1. Seven Scribes                                                                Unknown

Seven Scribes is a new media site that is committed to creating a space where black and allied young writers and artists can offer commentary and analysis on politics, pop culture, literature, and art. The Scribes include Josie Helen, fivefifths, Frank Jackson, Eve L. Ewing, Trey Smith, and Erika Stallings.

Like them on Facebook and Follow them on Twitter!

 

  1. Black Youth Project                                                                                      Unknown-1

Founded by Cathy J. Cohen, the Black Youth Project examines the attitudes, resources and culture of the young black millennials. Their three areas of focus are knowledge, voice, and action. It is the ultimate cyber-resource center for black youth and all those who are committed to enriching the lives of black youth.

Like them on Facebook and Follow them on Twitter!

 

  1. Blavity                                                                                         Unknown-2

Blavity is another outlet that serves as a voice for black millennials. This community of multi-cultural creators and influencers aim to reach a wider audience, amplify their message, and fund their hustles. Blavity is a fairly new media outlet. It was founded in 2014 by Morgan DeBaun.

Like them on Facebook and Follow them on Twitter!

 

  1. Afrikan Black Coalition                                                     Unknown-1

The Afrikan Black Coalition was created in 2003 by black students within the University of California system who found the low admittance and retention rates of black students intolerable. Founding members included Jewel Love (UCSB), Ainye Long & Edwina Williams (UCSC), Na’Shaun Neal & Catherine Sylvester (UCLA), Raniyah Abdus-Samad & Renita Chaney (UCB), Adia Smith & Venita Johnson (UCD), Tiana Lynch (UCI), and Stephanie Akpa (UCSD).

For the past 13 years, the organization has branched out to be more inclusive of all black students and community members in California. Though maybe not technically a “media” outlet, I still think it’s a cool organization that everyone should support, especially if you’re a student residing in California. Plus, they have a blog!

Like them on Facebook and Follow them on Twitter!

 

  1. PushBlack                                                                                           -nDb-zD-

Being the first mobile-based black civic engagement group, PushBlack attracts and engages black people through their text news service, PushBlack Now. Throughout the week, they text their subscribers the top black news stories of the day, representing black people and people of color and their unique experiences. The media site was co-founded by Darrell Scott.

Like them on Facebook and Follow them on Twitter!

 

Feel free to add to this list by commenting on this post!

 

Women of Color Wednesday: Viola Davis

This week’s #WomenofColorWednesday shout out goes to one of my favorite actresses, Viola Davis!

I’ve always been a fan of Davis, but I completely fell in love with this incredibly talented, intelligent, brilliant actress during her acceptance speech during the 2015 Emmy Awards.

Watch Davis give her speech here.

What stood out to me the most is when she said, “The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity.” I’ve never heard a truer statement than that. So many women of color miss out on chances to reach the peak of their potential not because they’re not good enough, talented enough, or educated enough, but simply because they lack the opportunities to do so.

Davis is one of the reasons why my life mission is to be a part of the change that the film/media/TV industry needs today: more women and more people of color. I want to be able to tell diverse stories by diverse story tellers, and create opportunities for those who would otherwise not receive them.

The fact that Davis is the first African American to win an Emmy for best actress in a drama (for How To Get Away With Murder) says a lot about the racial inequality in Hollywood and the lack of opportunities for people of color in the industry. There’s definitely a diversity problem, and that needs to change.

At this year’s SAG Awards, she said that “diversity should not be a trending topic…No matter what is going on in the business, I will find a way to practice my art, and all of the actors of color who I know don’t place any limitations on themselves either. So regardless of what is going on with the Academy, regardless of what is going on in Hollywood, they will find a way to be excellent. We always have and we always will.”

People like Viola Davis are the driving force to the changes that need to happen in the industry, and it’s important that people of color lead by this example and advocate for more opportunities for people of color — and women — in the industry. Our stories are just as valid as anyone else’s.

Viola Davis, thank you for being one of my greatest inspirations. It’s people like you that give me hope for diversifying an industry that is dominated by white men.

Afro-Textured Hair IS Good Hair

“I wish I had good hair,” is what I used to say before I fully fell in love with everything about myself, hair included.

Growing up, many Black girls like me are conditioned to believe that our hair is not good unless it’s 1) long and 2) straight. Perms/relaxers were the cure to “nappy” hair. If your hair was anything outside of the norm, it was considered unkept. Being natural wasn’t even a thing like it is today, so rocking an afro definitely wasn’t encouraged.

Now that I think about it, I am completely disgusted with myself for believing in these ideologies, which led me saying things like, “I wish I was mixed so I could have good hair” and “I’m going to marry a white man so my kids can have good hair.”

What if society fetishized afro-textured hair as much as it fetishizes mixed-raced hair? I mean, everybody always loves Becky with the good hair. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for my sistas with the afros.

Mainstream media contributes to this lack of love for afro-textured hair. It’s underrepresented and isn’t considered as beautiful as softer, curlier textures. Even people I know personally have this false ideology of what good hair is supposed to look like.

It’s time that we change the idea of what it means to have “good hair.” Black women have good hair. I have good hair. Afro-textured hair IS good hair. I had to stop and question…I don’t have good hair? According to what? The media? Pop culture? Men that drool over these Instagram honeys who are biracial with long, curly hair?

Caring for your hair, loving your hair, and keeping your hair healthy is what should constitute as having good hair. As Maya Payne Smart said in her article, “This Is How You Learn to Love Your Hair, your hair should “reflect great self-awareness, self-confidence and vision. Always remember who gave you that head of hair–your parents, your ancestors, your Creator. Then care for it like the inheritance it is.”

It’s time that we forget everything we were told about Black hair, and restructure our thinking to be more inclusive to all hair types, and realizing that mix-raced hair isn’t the only type of good hair. And for that reason, I rock my afro with dignity, confidence, pride, and love.