Black Public Media Launches AfroPoP Digital Shorts Series

Black Public Media

( ENSPIRE Entertainment ) Black Public Media Brings a Monthly Digital Short Film Series to its YouTube Channel

ENSPIRE Contributor: Wesley Tran

Harlem-based Black Public Media (BPM), a national arts nonprofit known in part for its award-winning documentary series AfroPoP: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange (now in its 15th season), unveiled its new series: AfroPoP Digital Shorts. The series, which delivers contemporary stories about life, art, and culture from all corners of the African diaspora, launched its inaugural season on Black Public Media’s YouTube channel on Monday, May 22. The season launched with New York Emmy®-nominated director Carrie Hawks’ (they/them) film Inner Wound Real, an animated short about three BIPOCs with a history of self-injury who seek out new coping methods and reflect on their struggles and motivations.  Each story has a different visual style and subjects are Black, Filipinx, and Southeast Asian and the film touches on LGBTQ+ themes. Future films will be from Rodney Evans, Nailah Jefferson and Laurens Jefferson, Quincy Ledbetter, Bilal Motley, and Rasheed Peters.

Unlike AfroPoP: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange (BPM’s broadcast and streaming series), which frames each season around a central theme (such as season 15’s art focus), AfroPoP Digital Shorts explores different subjects and storylines, in both documentary and narrative forms.“With our new digital shorts series, we look forward to providing our filmmakers with a platform to reach a larger, often younger, audience that is eager to engage around a variety of issues and themes,” said BPM Director of Program Initiatives Denise A. Greene.

Carol Bash
Black Public Media

ENSPIRE was given the amazing opportunity to interview Carol Bash, the series associate producer of AfroPoP Digital Shorts and the programming coordinator at Black Public Media. A filmmaker in her own right, she created her feature documentary, Mary Lou Williams: The Lady Who Swings the Band and is currently in post-production on Blueprint For My People, a short, experimental documentary that interweaves Margaret Walker’s poem, “For My People” with rare archival cyanotypes (blue photographs or “blueprints”) of African American culture. Prior to her career as an independent filmmaker, she worked in broadcast television at CBS News. Based in the scenic Hudson Valley town of Peekskill, New York, Carol is a co-organizer of the annual Peekskill Film Festival and sits on the board of the Peekskill Arts Alliance. Read about her interview below!

What inspired you to create this digital short story series?

The AfroPoP Digital Shorts series idea was sparked by Denise Greene, director of programs at Black Public Media (BPM). The primary goal of the AfroPoP Digital Shorts series is to engage younger audiences, 20 to 35 years old, who do not consume media via television broadcasts. Our team at BPM wanted to bring our incredible content to where these viewers live which is primarily on social media. We also wanted to give short content creators a platform to showcase their work. There still remain very few options for short films to stream out into the world. BPM wanted to give those filmmakers, whose films fit within the AfroPoP series criteria, another option to be shown.

What are some issues that you want to address with these stories?

We thought it was important to open up the films to all genres and storytelling methods. In this light, whether the shorts be documentary, narrative, or experimental, they foremost must tell a good story that would resonate with our audience members who are interested in films that center around the African Diasporic experience. In our current season that is running now on our Black Public Media YouTube Channel stories range from mental health, instilling Black pride in youth, and environmental justice to the legacy of our senior citizens and historical Black neighborhoods. The sky is the limit! However, as is the mission of the AfroPoP: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange broadcast series, AfroPoP Digital Shorts presents and celebrates a global Black perspective.

What demographic of people do you want to get short stories from the most? Is it more important to have someone who identifies a certain way or is from a certain age group to give a story?

The only criteria we have for AfroPoP Digital Shorts is that a person who is part of the Key Personnel (producer, director, cinematographer, editor) identifies as being a part of the African Diaspora. However, that is a guideline that runs across all our initiatives. We exist to give Black storytellers an opportunity to tell the stories that matter to them.

How long does it take to create a short story? What goes into making it into a film and portraying the lesson within such a short time frame?

From my own experience as a filmmaker and from having the privilege of being in regular contact with our BPM grantees and AfroPoP Digital Shorts content creators, there really is no set answer to how long it takes to create a short story. The misnomer is that because it is short that it takes less time and costs less to make. The reality is that it depends on the story and how the filmmaker wants to tell it. Short stories can take a few days to years to make. The costs can range from doing everything in-kind to hundreds of thousands of dollars. I feel that one reason BPM wanted to highlight the short form is that these stories are just as impactful and creative as longer-form films. The added challenge to shorts is that they have to tell a well-crafted, dynamic story in less than 30 minutes. Ultimately, the goal for AfroPoP Digital Shorts is to help elevate the form and present it to the widest range of online viewers possible.

Black Public Media (BPM) supports the development of visionary content creators and distributes stories about the global Black experience to inspire a more equitable and inclusive future. For over 40 years, BPM has addressed the needs of unserved and underserved audiences. BPM continues to address historical, contemporary, and systemic challenges that traditionally impede the development and distribution of Black stories. 

Watch an official trailer for Inner Wound, a story within AfroPoP: Digital Shorts, below!

To learn more about AfroPoP Digital Shorts and Black Public Media, click here.

Related Articles: Black History Explored by New PBS DocuSeries HUMAN FOOTPRINTUSC Opens Its Doors to Honor Caribbean Heritage Month With Caricon