Black Public Media Convenes Creatives on #BlackLivesMatter and COVID-19

National Black Media Story Summit running virtually June 23–25 to mobilize directors and industry insiders on the distribution of Black stories

NEW YORK (June 16, 2020) — As it continues to celebrate its 40 anniversary, Black Public Media (BPM) is convening Black creatives, public television executives, media networks, talent agents, distributors and funders for the second biannual National Black Media Story Summit (BMSS). The topic: how to distribute the Black stories so crucial to navigating these extraordinary times when #blackstoriesmatter more than ever across platforms including public television, commercial media and XR (extended reality). Taking place virtually this year, the event will focus on combating challenges specific to the Black creative community as well as the importance of maintaining Black control of Black stories as the world awakens to ongoing racial injustice following the killing of George Floyd and remains embroiled in sustained civil protests. The conference, which is free and open to the public with registration, runs Tuesday, June 23, through Thursday, June 25.

The 2020 summit will launch at 7 p.m. ET on June 23 with a town hall titled “The Pandemic Pivot,” exploring how organizations and storytellers are making adjustments to not only stay afloat but to engage audiences in new ways in response to the pandemic. Moderated by Stephanie McKee-Anderson, performer, choreographer, educator, and artistic executive director of Junebug Productions, the town hall will feature Ryan Wilson of the Gathering Spot and Jason Steer of the Apollo Theater in conversation on how these two venerated institutions are pivoting to develop online events showcasing Black talent during the COVID crisis. The town hall will be followed at 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 24, by the two-hour panel session “Rebuilding the Distribution Ecosystem.” The session will open with remarks from Phillip Agnew, a nationally recognized cultural critic, speaker and community organizer. In 2012, following the murder of Trayvon Martin, Agnew co-founded the Dream Defenders, an organization dedicated to ending the school-to-prison pipeline and private prisons and to addressing other issues affecting communities of color. Featuring speakers including Michelle Materre (Creatively Speaking), Maori Holmes (BlackStar Film Festival), author Dr. Yaba Blay and Aymar Jean Christian (OTV-Open Television). The panel will examine how the traditional distribution system across media has been upended by the coronavirus and ways in which Black content makers and creatives can use this challenge to level the playing field.

“Two major global events, the COVID-19 pandemic and the renewed call for justice by the #BlackLivesMatter movement, have highlighted not only the inequities faced by the Black community here in the U.S. and globally but those of storytelling itself,” said Leslie Fields-Cruz, executive director of BPM, now celebrating 40 years as a leading producer and distributor of Black film and television programming. BPM is the nation’s oldest national nonprofit media arts organization dedicated solely to supporting media content about the global Black experience. “Black creatives and executives in media must be a part of the decision-making on what stories are told and how these stories are being distributed to ensure they reach their intended audiences and share the full breadth of diversity of our experiences.”

The final day of the summit begins with a National Pride Month salute to trailblazing filmmaker Marlon Riggs, a two-hour “Clips and Conversations” viewing party at 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 25. Attendees are invited to join the discussion as they view a selection from the pioneering director’s film Tongues Untied as well as a clip from an archival interview with Riggs. Clips from the works of filmmakers Thomas Allen Harris (Family Pictures USA) and Luchina Fisher (Mama Gloria) will also be screened as both creators join Rhea Combs (Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture) in a conversation on Riggs’ legacy moderated by documentary filmmaker Yoruba Richen (The New Black).

The summit concludes that day with the BPM 40 Anniversary Virtual House Party at 7 p.m. ET. Attendees are invited to take part in the fun by preparing their own special #BPM40th DIY anniversary menu created by Celebrity Chef Ricky Moore as they enjoy music and conversation on the High Fidelity web platform. The owner of Saltbox Seafood Joint in Durham and a former Iron Chef competitor, Moore was featured in PBS’ The Hook, which spotlighted African-American culinary traditions rooted in North Carolina’s backwaters and beaches.

The National Black Media Story Summit is free with registration, but donations are welcome. To learn more about the event or to register, visit For more on Black Public Media and their 40 anniversary celebrations, follow the hashtag #BPM40th or follow BPM on Facebook or Instagram at @blackpublicmedia, or Twitter @BLKpublicmedia.

The Black Media Story Summit is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Acton Family Giving, and the New York Council for the Arts, and in partnership with the National Multicultural Alliance, WORLD Channel, ITVS, POV, and Saltbox.


Black Public Media (BPM), formerly the National Black Programming Consortium (NBPC), is committed to enriching our democracy by educating, enlightening, empowering and engaging the American public. The nonprofit supports diverse voices by developing, producing and distributing innovative media about the Black experience and by investing in visionary content makers. BPM provides quality content for public media outlets, including, among others, PBS and and, as well as other platforms, while training and mentoring the next generation of Black filmmakers. Founded in 1979, BPM produces the AfroPoP: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange documentary series and manages the 360 Incubator + Fund, a funding and training initiative designed to accelerate the production of important Black serial and interactive content.

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