Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Southern Rural Black Women's Initiative and the New Visions Media Project

This week the Southern Foodways Alliance's Facebook page posted a video that caught our attention--and led us to learn more about The Southern Rural Black Women's Initiative and their New Visions program, which puts media tools in the hands of rural women and gives them the training and the platform in which to tell their their story. Here's an introduction to this organization:
The Southern Rural Black Women’s Initiative for Economic and Social Justice (SRBWI) grew out of a meeting convened by the Ford Foundation in New York, in late 2000. A small group of women met there to discuss with representatives of the Foundation, their experiences working in the rural South assisting low income, low skill and underemployed Black women who were trying to improve the quality of their and their families’ lives. In January, 2002 a slightly larger group of women held a follow-up meeting which led to the formation of the Southern Rural Black Women’s Initiative for Economic and Social Justice which works in a 77 county target area across the Black Belt regions of Alabama and Southwest Georgia, and the Delta in Mississippi.
The SRBWI now houses a number of programs designed to foster leadership skills within these communities and to recognize the qualities unique to the many social circles that comprise this region. Within that mission, the SRBWI also features the New Visions program:
New Visions engages and involves young women in the work of SRBWI through teaching marketable skills in media technology and production.    With trained local filmmaking-mentors in GA, AL and MS., New Visions Apprentices receive instruction on industry standard software, artistic forms of storytelling and technology throughout the year.   Participants produce short films and documentaries which are featured at the Unita Blackwell Young Women's Leadership Conference as well as other venues.

These films document and promote SRBWI’s work among our constituents and to others in the field.

The New Visions site offers much valuable work--in particular "Portrait" by Carol Perez, (who also created the video above), a piece that is a combination of spoken word poetry and autobiography. Like the work of the SRBWI as a whole, it reveals the other less-spoken-of stories that comprise life in the Delta. While popular notions of the Delta don't run too deep (blues, cuisine, etc), "Portrait" stands as an excellent example of the mission of this organization, and how it highlights the work of women who are, in every sense of the word, sustaining their families and their communities. (The video cannot be embedded, so please click on the "Film Production" link to locate Ms. Perez's work.)

A selection of these videos have been uploaded to SRBWI's YouTube page. As the Southern Foodways Alliance reported above, one of their oral historians, Amy Evans Streeter, has just completed a media project with New Visions. Here is the short video introduction to their work, which the SFA tells us was  "the product of an oral history workshop conducted on May 21, 2011, in Cleveland, MS:"