There are so many stories by and about Black people that have yet to be told. The National Black Programming Consortium (NBPC) works to help creators bring these stories to light.
Founded in 1979, NBPC develops, produces, and funds media content about the Black experience for various public media outlets, including television, digital radio, as well as online.
“There are many creators looking for an outlet to get their project made, we try to offer this opportunity,” says NBPC Director of Programs and Acquisitions and AfroPoP Executive Producer Kay Shaw.
The NBPC continues to grow and in fact, since 1991, the organization has invested more than $10 million in documentary content for public media outlets, including PBS and PBS.org. The organization also trained, mentored, and supported a wide array of producers.
One show to come through the NBPC is the popular AfroPoP, now in its eighth season. This season, the documentary series is currently hosted by Empire actor Jussie Smollett. The show, which has been hosted in the past by Idris Elba, Anika Noni Rose, Wyatt Cenac, Gabourey Sidibe, Anthony Mackie, explores contemporary art, life and culture across the African Diaspora. It is produced by NBPC and co-presented by American Public Television.
For example, AfroPop recently covered Pablo Garcia Perez de Lara and Marc Serena’s Tchindas which focused on Tchinda, a transgender woman so loved in So Vicente, Cape Verde in West Africa. “The NBPC popped up in the Google search and the filmmaker contacted me; we decided to showcase the film because we really try to counter the negative images people have of Africa. And usually you hear about the LGBT community in Africa not being treated well, being persecuted, so this showed a more positive story. We also try to present a range of topics and we want diverse voices from the Diaspora and Africa every season,” says Shaw, who came to NBPC after having served as director of communications for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. Prior to this, Shaw worked for several nonprofit organizations as a community organizer and media consultant throughout the 1980s.
One of the major obstacles for creators of color is a lack of access to funding. The NBPC steps in and provides much-needed financing for projects, “We, right now, have three ways in which we fund projects. One is the 360 Incubator where we are actually developing and nurturing and playing a producer role,” explains Shaw.
Established in 2015, NBPC’s 360 Incubator and Fund helps launch nonfiction multi-part (two to three parts) projects for broadcast, as well as webisodic stories, and interactive/transmedia about the Black experience. Additionally, the 360 incubator and fund offers training, mentorship and funding support for producers of color, designed to harvest and pipeline engaging stories.
So how does Shaw feel about the lack of diversity in Hollywood? “”It seems like every time we think it’s getting better, when we have a banner year, when you have people of African descent being nominated for a number of awards, then the next year, nothing. It?s like feast or famine. And until we see consistent funding, people playing roles behind the scenes–writers, producers, directors–and not just in Hollywood but also on TV commercials, we still have a major diversity problem,” says Shaw. “I think #OscarsSoWhite was a call to action to create a framework for people to express their frustration; I just hope that it’s not short lived.”
(CLICK HERE to read our interview with Bobbito Garcia, co-director of “Doin’ It in the Park,” which aired during the AfroPop series in January 2014.)