Public Media Builds Community Connections with ‘Making Black America’
October 3, 2022
“Making Black America: Through the Grapevine,” the new PBS docuseries by Henry Louis Gates Jr., chronicles how Black people, excluded from white America, built their own social networks and organizations to create a world that highlighted their ability to collectively prosper and define Blackness in ways that transformed America itself.
Dozens of public media stations throughout the country, public radio as well as television, are connecting with those networks and organizations to celebrate the series, which premieres at 9 pm ET/8 CT on Tuesday, October 4, on PBS, PBS.org and the PBS Video app. The four-part series, written, executive produced, and hosted by Gates and directed by Shayla Harris and Stacey L. Holman, airs every Tuesday night in October.
“This is an opportunity to reach young people and connect them to this often-neglected heritage, and also to draw attention to some of the Black music institutions that helped form the soundtrack of Black America,” said Bill Johnson, general manager of WRTI, the classical and jazz public radio station in Philadelphia. The station participated in a recent event on the change agents, social networks and organizations who built Black community through music in the Philadelphia region, including the Philadelphia Clef Club and Chicken Bone Beach. The event was held by the Temple University College of Liberal Arts Intellectual Heritage Program, whose faculty is building the theme of Making Black America into the spring curriculum. And throughout October, WRTI is promoting the series on-air by spotlighting music from Black-owned labels, often created by musicians unable to get fair, if any, contracts with mainstream record companies.
Dozens of other public media stations across the country, many backed by CPB grants, are producing local programming and holding screenings, discussions, and other events -- often working with Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Black Greek organizations, and other networks. Some examples:
- In Louisiana, home of the Southern University system and Dillard, Grambling State and Xavier of Louisiana universities, the four-part series “Crossing Over: Black Greek Life” will air on the Louisiana Public Broadcasting newsmagazine “Louisiana: The State We’re In,” starting Friday, October 7. Anchor Kara St. Cyr hosts the series on the legacy of Black Greek organizations in Louisiana, airing statewide on LPB and in New Orleans on WYES. Both WYES and WWNO, the NPR station in New Orleans, are promoting the series. In addition, WYES and WWNO, NPR’s New Orleans affiliate, along with Dillard University, will hold a “Making Black America” screening and discussion on October 6.
- WHUT, Howard University Television in Washington, D.C., is hosting a Dinner and a Movie screening on October 4. The event includes a Fireside Chat and trivia game with historical questions promoting the documentary. Howard University’s radio station, WHUR, is also promoting the series.
- In Texas, public television stations KERA in Dallas, Houston PBS, and Texas PBS in Austin collaborated with KSTU, the public radio station licensed to Texas Southern University, to host a recent virtual screening and panel. KTSU will also host in-person events with the Divine Nine Black Greek organizations and the Houston chapter of the NAACP.
- Milwaukee PBS and Radio Milwaukee are rallying around the series to engage their audiences. Element Everest-Blanks, a DJ and brand ambassador for HYFIN, Radio Milwaukee’s Urban Alternative channel, spoke at a recent PBS Milwaukee event at the at the Wisconsin Black Historical Society to preview “Making Black America,” along with “Harriet Tubman: Visions of Freedom” and “Becoming Frederick Douglass,” which are airing October 4 and 11 after “Making Black America.” Radio Milwaukee is also promoting the series, including the episode featuring the Prince Hall Masons history in Wisconsin, on-air and at events.
- Maryland Public Television and WEAA-FM in Baltimore are hosting a series of Conversations for Change screenings and discussions, including an event at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum in February. In addition, WEAA is airing radio interviews of six Baltimore Visionaries, all at least 60 years old, sharing their perspectives and stories of Baltimore’s racial, political and social history on the weekday radio show Today With Dr. Kaye
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