Black Public Media grants US$410K to doc teams at PitchBLACK Awards

Five teams competing at Black Public Media’s (BPM) PitchBLACK Forum were granted a total of US$410,000 to fund their productions at the annual PitchBLACK Awards, held April 9. This marks the ...
April 16, 2021

Five teams competing at Black Public Media’s (BPM) PitchBLACK Forum were granted a total of US$410,000 to fund their productions at the annual PitchBLACK Awards, held April 9.

This marks the fourth edition of BPM’s 360 Incubator+ fellowship, a professional development program designed to help bring quality Black content to market. The event was hosted by BPM executive director Leslie Fields-Cruz and keynoted by noted producer Colin “Topper” Carew.

Five creative teams that participated in the incubator received funding, announced by BPM director of program initiatives Denise Greene and 360 Incubator+ creative consultant Sandra Rattley.

Awarded $100,000 each were feature documentaries Higher 15, by Ameha Molla and Rajal Pitroda (about a former Ethiopian revolutionary turned lead witness in an FBI investigation against his murderous prison guard in war torn Addis Ababa); and Storming Caesars Palace, by Hazel Gurland-Pooler and Naz Habtezghi (about Ruby Duncan, a co-founder of the National Welfare Rights Organization, who launched an extraordinary grassroots movement for economic justice, a universal basic income and Black women’s empowerment).

Awarded $75,000 each was Listen to Me, by Stephanie Etienne and Kanika Harris, which captures the pregnancy and postpartum journeys of four Black women in the U.S., where Black women are at high risk for complications from pregnancy and childbirth; and What’s in a Name? (pictured), by Malkia Lydia and Khalil Munir, which follows Munir, a performance artist, as he examines his bittersweet South Philadelphia upbringing and the names and legacies he’s inherited from previous generations of Black men.

Inner Wound Real, by Carrie Hawk and Chelsea Moore, scored $60,000 in funding for the animated digital short about three BIPOC individuals who used to self-injure but now find creative ways to cope.

PitchBLACK judges were ViacomCBS vice president of original documentaries Pamela A. Aguilar, Maryland Public Television senior vice president and chief content officer Travis Mitchell and award-winning broadcaster and executive producer Donald Thoms.

In addition to the funding for the incubator participants, the PitchBLACK Awards also celebrates Black media pioneers. This year’s BPM Trailblazer Award was presented to Marco Williams, for his decades of work in public media as a producer, director, writer and editor, and for his commitment to mentoring the next generation of directors. The Emmy nominee and Peabody Award winner is currently working on a documentary with Stanley Nelson about the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921, scheduled to broadcast on History this May on the centennial of the tragedy.

Creative technologist Josie V. Williams was tapped for the second Nonso Christian Ugbode Digital Media Fellowship, an honor named after BPM’s late director of digital initiatives, designed to acknowledge young makers in digital media. Support for the NCU Fellowship is provided by the Tarver Walls Foundation.

The 360 Incubator+ and PitchBLACK are funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Netflix, PBS, the MacArthur Foundation, Acton Family Giving, the New York State Council on the Arts, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and SHIFT online collaboration platform for media creatives.

About The Author
Jillian Morgan is a special reports editor at realscreen with a background in journalism and digital marketing. She joined the publication in 2019 after serving as the assistant editor to trade publications HPAC and On-Site. With a bachelor of journalism from the University of King's College in Halifax, she also works as a freelance writer and fact-checker.