On Monday night Truth In Reality, along with partner Naturals4Change, held the second New York City based event as part of Truth In Reality’s Redefining HERstory movement at The New School. Sponsored by The New Black School, a student group based at the University, the panel discussion entitled “Creating Empowering Content for Women of Color” fell in line with the organization’s mission of creating more diverse media representations of women from the African diaspora. The panel discussion focused on introducing the packed house to innovative concepts of content creation as well as exposing them to the stories of successful content creators within the media and entertainment industries.
"Many attendees from our first event back in August expressed a desire to learn how they can get their content seen," said Sil Lai Abrams, founder and CEO of Truth In Reality. On working with Naturals4Change founder Natasha Gaspard, Abrams also added, "Natasha and I are very focused on providing our supporters with a myriad of tools that they can use to change the dominant media narrative of women of color and a content creation panel was the perfect follow up event."
Panelists included journalist and publisher Karen Hunter; TV personality, actress and founder of Africa TV Africa Miranda; author, producer and filmmaker Crystal McCrary; and editor in chief of Tribe Called Curl Imani Dawson. Abrams hosted the interactive event, asking panelists questions about their background in media and entertainment, why they chose to embark on the path that they did, and how their experience has influenced the content that they create.
Most of the panelists agreed on what their motivating force was to becoming content creators: they realized how impactful media was to shaping society’s views on women of color, and recognized how important it was to have the power to draft your own narrative about yourself, your culture and your people.
“Power comes through ownership,” Hunter simply stated as she explained her experience as a journalist and publisher. She continued as she delved into the prevalence of racism in America, “I didn’t know how racist our country was, and not in the overt ways like lynching or Jim Crow. But there’s this inherent lack of knowledge of another’s culture. ‘I don’t get your culture at all. Like I don’t know you at all.’ Like we are aliens. It’s very bizarre.”
Besides providing flashbacks on their experiences working in the media and entertainment industries, panelists also gave insight on how to be successful as a creative producer. With so many digital avenues to tell a story, the Internet has become a content creator’s haven.
“One thing that I have grappled with since I started Tribe Called Curl is balancing my personal life and social media presence,” said Dawson. “There’s something to leveraging your personal life as content. People want you to share part of your story.”
During the audience Q&A portion of the event, panelists addressed a range of topics. But one common dilemma many women expressed was how their need to work in unfulfilling jobs just to be able to pay their bills limited their ability to pursue their creative endeavors full time.
“I can’t stress enough the significance of live streaming devices, because you can create content without spending a dime,” explained Miranda. “Use your connections and establish relationships. It doesn’t take a lot of money to build a following.” She also recommended that up and coming content creators shouldn’t leave their jobs until they have the financial means to support their endeavors, which is a common financial mistake many young content creators make. “I didn’t leave my job until it was really apparent that I wasn’t working there anymore. I was traveling and on set so much that it was hard for me to continue working there.”
Panelists also addressed the falsehood that creative work with integrity lacks entertainment and drama. Many of the panelists reiterated that the essence of storytelling lies in the producer’s and writer’s ability to create conflict without reproducing harmful stereotypes and narratives.
“There needs to be a way to represent people with their dignity still intact,” answered McCrary. “That’s not saying you can’t have characters making love, or characters having disagreements, but there shouldn’t be any gratuitous nudity or violence or drama just to meet ratings."