Channel Black

The work of Channel Black is crucial to building trust with the new American electorate and highlighting the voices of a diverse, and often under-heard, population. Besieged by a landscape in which “fake news” and “alternative facts” have fomented suspicion and willful ignorance among a large sector of our population, we are aiming to back up our work with thoughtfulness and critical attention to the true forces that keep us divided.

To ensure a fair and just democracy, it is imperative that we express dissent with clear, fact-based arguments and that we affirm what is true and fair using the same tactics. While people remain entrenched in the corners of these old stories, real, damaging, prejudicial legislation is being implemented; biased and deadly policing continues unchecked; and interpersonal and inter-community violence keeps Black communities and Black folks reeling. It’s time to intervene. All of this demands that we respond strategically. If we are awarded a grant, we will have some of the support that will be so vital in pushing this work forward. Your support would catalyze specific projects that prepare the next generation of Black leaders to build and a new narrative of justice and equality and relationships that engender trust, collaboration.

Channel Black Summary

Channel Black is an immersive training program that prepares this and the next generation of Black leaders to construct, optimize, and implement strategic interventions through the media. Our innovative curriculum and seasoned trainers provide wraparound support for Black millennials to absorb, implement, and evaluate best practices in political strategy, media spokespersonship, cognitive science, improv, and debate.

We are diversifying the faces of people identified as experts and featured on television, radio, and in-print media discussing and intervening on important and polarizing issues that impact Black communities. Through our work, we are transcending barriers to empathizing with and understanding Blackness and the plight of Black communities in America; developing the strategic thinking, media savvy, and persuasive debate skills of Black millennial leaders; and supplementing tried-and-true, on-the-ground organizing tactics with empirically backed interventions that lead to reduced racial bias and prejudicial treatment by law enforcement, vigilantes, and everyday people.

Channel Black is the first progressive training program to start from the premise that the diverse lived experience of reporters, analysts, and pundits is vital to accurate empathic reporting, and that increasing the number of Black people seen as experts on their own experiences will help reduce bias. People need to understand the pain of whole communities that are silenced. The only way to create that understanding is to stop silencing those who are most impacted. To that end, Channel Black taps into the robust lived experiences of Black leaders and positions them as experts who will drive critical media conversations that affirm Blackness, disrupt white supremacy, and change human behavior.

The Problem

Since the publication of Drew Westen’s 2008 opus on the role of emotion in political messaging, “The Political Brain,” progressive media specialists have been working on the problem of a White male monolithic perspective in mainstream outlets. The trouble with this perspective is that only a narrow band of empathy tends to be conveyed to mass audiences. In other words, in the daily emotional discourse underlying news reporting on important current events that affect everyone, much of the country is left out, or vilified. People running the show refuse to give us opportunities to understand everyone’s experience.

The Solution

The work of Channel Black is crucial to building trust with the new American electorate and highlighting the voices of a diverse, and often under-heard, population. Besieged by a landscape in which “fake news” and “alternative facts” have fomented suspicion and willful ignorance among our population, we aim to back up our work with thoughtfulness and critical attention to the true forces that keep us divided. To that end, we will catalyze specific projects that prepare the next generation of Black leaders to build and a new narrative of justice and equality and relationships that engender trust, collaboration.

The Channel Black initiative provides a platform that centers the experiences and analyses of Black people, specifically Black women and Black trans women who live at the intersections of anti-Black violence and solutions-oriented community healing. Channel Black trainers have developed a nimble training program that will grow the strategy, intervention, and spokesperson skills of Black organizers in the fight for social justice in order to help people understand and celebrate Blackness and draw attention to the plight of Black communities in America. As the conversation on race and racism in America continues to evolve, we will bridge the empathy gap, have courageous conversations, and ensure that democracy includes all Americans, not just a select few. It is all too easy to fear the unknown. It is time to change that dynamic. By giving voice to communities who have not had one, Channel Black will move not just the Black community forward, but the entire nation.

The Methodology

Debate

Breaking down barriers to empathy and understanding requires more than a regurgitation of talking points and sound bites, although both are critical to this work. We support movement leaders by growing their critical thinking, strategy, and effective communication skills to debate with top-tier pundits on live television. To ensure a fair and just democracy, particularly given the current political landscape, it is imperative that we express dissent with clear, fact-based arguments and that we affirm what is true and fair using the same tactics.

Improvisation

Getting comfortable in front of the camera takes rigorous practice. While we want trainees to be precise and consistent in their messaging, their honest expressions and experiences should be front and center. Improv breaks down the barrier between the mind and the brain, helps us conquer our fears (real and imagined), and facilitates moving past discomfort. It allows for the artistic development and expression of ideas, which translates to the ability to think on our feet.

Political Strategy

Understanding and executing on-the-spot strategic thinking is just as important as strongly executing media training in real time and developing improvisation and debate skills. Because one of our core commitments is to ensure that trainees are not simply talking heads for the movement, we are also placing an emphasis on strategy development and making the connection to a broader, long-term political power-building strategy.

Policy and communications strategists within the movement provide movement leaders with ongoing education in strategy and leadership development. Through this effort, we will encourage a set of techniques and skills and communicate a well-articulated philosophy about our present course and work that allows each trainee to develop leadership behaviors that result in our collective success.

Cognitive Science

Because racism and bias is at the center of the problem we are aiming to solve, we are committed to understanding the cognitive implications of anti-Black racism and how to undermine and eradicate them.

Media Spokespersonship

Media training is at the core of the Channel Black curriculum and program. Understanding how the television, print, and radio markets work, being comfortable behind the camera, and trusting your own instincts when it comes to what will move people from racism to empathy to alliance are all topline goals in this.

One-on-One Coaching

Because each trainee comes from a different background with varying levels of expertise in spokespersonship and strategy, a one-size-fits-all curriculum would be largely ineffective. To supplement the quarterly days-long training courses, we will provide mandatory one-on-one coaching for each movement leader to givethem real-time feedback about their performance and solutions on how to course-correct. We will also provide them with specialized training in areas in which they need support, and we will encourage and support them when challenges arise.

Our People

Black women, Black trans women, GNC people, and masculine-of-center people are the most underrepresented and misrepresented people in mainstream media. Media representation is critical to ensuring that the experiences of Black people and other vulnerable communities are shared. These voices and experiences are necessary to inspire an unobstructed national dialogue about anti-Blackness, transphobia, and racism, and to ensure a fair and just democracy.

We are committed to subverting traditional ideals regarding professionalism and who is and is not considered an expert. We commit to both rigorously preparing movement leaders and to cohorts that are wholly representative of the Black population, including people from the South, trans and gender-nonconforming (GNC) people, women, and people who are masculine of center.

Read more about Channel Black at www.channelblackmedia.com