As a fellow in the OpEd Project’s recent Public Voices fellowship with the Ford Foundation, I learned that the word “OpEd” is a synonym for “just have the guts to say something of consequence.” Our voices need to be heard. We are the experts we have been looking for! At the same fortunate time that my fellowship cohort was meeting last year, exciting movements such as Black Lives Matter were growing in strength and scope. As someone who writes on the intersection of race and class, this was a sweet spot for me. I birthed a new project with the help and inspiration of my OpEd Project family (especially my good friend, OEP Senior Leader Mary C. Curtis). The project is called Say Their Names.
Say Their Names is a bold and groundbreaking multi-media effort to create narrative change. Humanizing the black lives that have been lost so unjustly strengthens the community, attacks racial bias, and can move policy. The time is ripe. Say Their Names’ centerpieces are: a 100-page coffee table book that will document the lives of 20 black families nationally who have tragically lost a loved one to law enforcement or vigilante violence and how they have overcome; 3-5 short film pieces; and a 20-minute documentary on these families produced by award-wining filmmakers Michèle Stephenson and Joe Brewster. Michele and Joe did the film American Promise and are currently doing The New York Times OP-DOCS series on race.
The Say Their Names coffee table book will have a broad appeal that an academic paper cannot, give visibility to the family members whose lives have continued despite the loss of their loved ones, and serve as an empowering exercise by which surviving family can personally use their narratives to encourage racial healing. For families participating directly in the Say Their Names videos, sharing their experience on camera can be a unique approach to healing. It will welcome a wider community to share similar narratives – be it at home, with their friends, at work, or on a more public social media platform – creating a ripple effect that will have a wide reach in the black community and beyond. The short films will be a source of understanding of an intimate experience that many often visit only in the privacy of their own home.
I am launching an Indigogo crowdfunding campaign for Say Their Names, here. Thanks so much in advance for your support. I feel very proud to share this new project with my OpEd family.
2015 OpEd Project Public Voices Fellow with The Ford Foundation