Newark’s Black Media Story Summit follows a similar event at Google’s New York headquarters last year.
“This is our second regional summit,” said Gregory Warren, Black Media Story Summit regional program director. “Some of the challenges are the same, funding, distribution, there’s a need for platforms specifically dealing with that black content. But we need to start the conversation somewhere and these Summits are meant to do just that.”
Gregory says the Black Media Story Summit aims to bring together key stakeholders to support a diverse number of voices in the community.
“Filmmakers, content creators, journalists, funders, distributors, tech folks and social justice leaders to have these conversations around the challenges for making black content,” he said.
Multiple panel discussions are a part of the summit, where some respected artists and writers share content while giving insight into their work. Filmmaker Nefertiti Nguvu is the founder of the production company Hollywood Africans. Her 2014 feature film In the Morning, about a group of nine interconnected New Yorkers, has won several awards including Best Narrative Feature at Philadelphia’s BlackStar Film Festival.
“I have an ideology as a black woman and a black woman filmmaker,” she said. “But when I’m creating work my faithfulness is to the truth of my experiences, so I feel that all of those things I believe in ideologically come out into the work. I’m not sitting around thinking about those things.”
Newark born director, producer, play and screenwriter Richard Wesley has been at the forefront of creating content depicting the Black experience since the 1970’s.
“You’re brining to the page all of the influences, ideas, and feelings you’ve had about your life and the things that influence your life,” he said. “You’re interpreting your art through those influences. Every artists’ first audience is themselves.”
Wesley is a chairperson for the Newark Black Film Festival. He says cinema offers more opportunities today than in the mid-70’s when Sidney Portier asked him to write Uptown Saturday Night and Let’s Do It Again.
“The biggest change has been the expansion of people of color into positions behind the camera as filmmakers’ directors, producers, and most importantly studio executives,” he said.
And while some at the summit were there to share their knowledge in the media industry, some were there to make connections.
“What I want to get out of this summit is finding new ways to distribute black art and black cinema,” said Curtis John, executive director of The Luminal Theater in Brooklyn. “To understand how different people are exhibiting it and also to connect with all of the different people sharing these stories.
The Black Media Story Summit heads to Houston, Texas next, before heading to Minneapolis, Minnesota.