Talking about issues of Race and Immigration are tough. They are polarizing topics that often send people into a defensive state, and in between the terrible tragedies which mainstream media outlets cover in very polarizing, inflammatory ways, the topics often aren't discussed at all.
While just talking isn't the solution, it's the first step towards building relationships that might slowly heal cultural divisions. That's why I've been so grateful to Kansas City Public Television for getting behind the Your Fellow Americans project.
Your Fellow Americans is a YouTube documentary series discussing issues of Race and Immigration, and how those issues impact the idea of the American Dream. Myself and Nathaniel Bozarth are asking average Americans from our local communities how their experience in America has been impacted by these issues. The goal is to prompt a conversation and so we're asking people who have to live through these issues every day.
Right now, KCPT has been sponsoring a 6-month run of the series where we join multiple generations from six different families of varying ethnic backgrounds around the dinner table. The station took a risk on us when we pitched them this series (Nathaniel and I are outside contractors). They took a risk by agreeing to make this their first series aimed at a Web audience without any specific plan for broadcast. They took a risk just by being willing to start a conversation about these issues, and when we held our first community panel discussion, the crowd left with many differing opinions. Some people wanted to hear concrete action plans. Some wanted to hear what White people think about Race. Some wanted to say more. But everyone was glad that the series is happening and that the discussion is starting.
The conversations and perspectives have been fascinating. I would love for people to watch the videos and let us know if they are helpful or if they are completely missing the mark of how we need to discuss these issues.
You can find out more about the series by visiting it's microsite at kcpt.org/yourfellowamericans, by subscribing to our YouTube page, or by Liking our Facebook page. We set out with a goal to publish a video every Monday for six months, and it has been a grueling, but rewarding struggle as we wrap up the work of sharing the stories of these first six families.
As we complete this six month pilot series, KCPT is hoping to re-edit the raw material into an hour-long documentary for broadcast. After that, the future of the project is exciting, but depends a lot on what other member stations think. As we've shared the concept and the videos with several member stations in our region, they've been very interested in replicating it. This series seems to be an incredible and innovative way for stations to do a couple of key things: it's a way for them to tell important, local stories; it's a way for them to engage their communities in dialogue; and it's a way for them to begin learning how to engage an online audience.
My own hope for the series is that we can develop a network of national partner stations who are all collaboratively producing local stories under the Your Fellow Americans banner that are showcased under a national website. These productions would be coupled with community screenings and conversation events, because the true goal of the series is to get people talking about these sensitive issues.