Four months after George Floyd's death in police custody sparked protests and calls for racial justice around the world, the push to raise awareness of and increase oft-ignored Black voices, stories and experiences continues to be a priority for media outlets and businesses across the country.
Now, Google-owned YouTube hopes viewers will tune into shows and specials, produced and supported by their Black Voices Fund initiative, aimed at celebrating Black culture and raising awareness of the issues that disproportionately affect Black communities, from incarceration to public health.
The Black Voices Fund development comes amid complaints of discriminatory practices at the video sharing company. In June, four women filed a class-action lawsuit against the company and last month, the case grew to a total of nine plaintiffs and two amended complaints.
Many of the nine plaintiffs identify as "African American content creators, viewers, and consumers" and claim that YouTube and its parent company, Google, use "the race, gender, sexual orientation, identity, political viewpoints, an/or other personal characteristics of consumers, to restrict or deny access and/or services under the pretext of content based rules and terms of service that are supposed to apply equally to all consumers," according to court documents obtained by TMRW.
What is the YouTube Black Voices Fund?
YouTube announced in June that it was launching a $100 million fund “to present fresh narratives that emphasize the intellectual power, authenticity, dignity and joy of Black voices, as well as to educate audiences about racial justice.” The three-year initiative would provide financial support for different original projects including an upcoming documentary series, livestreams and a special.
Susanne Daniels, global head of original content for YouTube Originals, said in a statement that “YouTube is committed to spotlighting community-driven storytelling and the important issues that people of color and other marginalized communities face everyday.
“Now more than ever, it's essential that we develop, support, and elevate content that is created by and for the Black community."
Malik Ducard, YouTube’s vice president, content partnerships, added that “Race has never been an easy issue to confront but the events over the last few months have opened up doors of dialogue and action that had once seemed closed.
“Across YouTube, we have a tremendous opportunity and responsibility to contribute to these conversations about racial justice in a meaningful way. Through our $100 million content fund and other initiatives, we are continuing the important work of amplifying Black voices, making YouTube a better place for Black creators, educating people on the diversity of the Black experience, and centering Black people as the messengers of their own stories.”
What shows has the fund supported?
On Wednesday, YouTube announced 11 new and returning projects affiliated and supported by the fund that will debut on the video platform. “Resist,” the first of the new shows, will premiere on Tuesday, Oct. 20. The 12-episode series highlights the people and organizations fighting against the expansion plan of Los Angeles county’s prison system in 2018.
“Resist” features Patrisse Cullors, one of the co-founders of the Black Lives Matter movement, and JusticeLA members Jayda Rasberry and Helen Jones, both of the grassroots organization Dignity and Power Now, Bamby Salcedo, president and CEO of TransLatina Coalition, and Johnathan Perez, a co-founder of Immigrant Youth Coalition.
Less than a week later, YouTube will host “HBCU Homecoming 2020” on Saturday, Oct. 24, a virtual presentation of homecoming celebrations and traditions at historically Black colleges and universities amid the global coronavirus pandemic.
The two-hour livestream will feature in part, HBCU students and alumni, step performances and marching bands Sonic Boom of The South of Jackson State University and Marching 100 of Florida A&M University.
In December, “Bear Witness, Take Action” Part Two (working title) will debut, in a follow-up to “Bear Witness, Take Action” that aired in June. The initial show centered around a conversation about racial justice between rapper Common and actor Keke Palmer and raised awareness of organizations like The Equal Justice Initiative. The second show will showcase “unique voices from the Black community producing short form content to share their perspectives and experiences on racial inequity”
Next year, YouTube plans to launch “Onyx Family Dinner” and “Barbershop Medicine” (working title).
“Onyx Family Dinner” is a kid-friendly family show that features Mirthell, Rita, Shalom, Sinead, Shasha, and Shiloh of the Onyx family, whose YouTube channel boasts over 3 million subscribers. They will share “different perspectives and thought-provoking stories” and each week, welcome a new guest at the dinner table to have “open conversations about life and what's going on in the world.”
“Barbershop Medicine” is set in a barbershop, where creators, community members, musicians and physicians will gather and discuss how race and socioeconomic factors affect a variety of public health issues — from cancer and diabetes to mental health and vaccines.
Other forthcoming original shows and series that are centered around Black experiences and stories will also be featured under the Black Voices Fund but were developed before the fund was created. These include “Booktube” (premieres Oct. 22), season 2 of “Glad You Asked” (premieres February 2021), “Lockdown” (new episodes premiere Nov. 19), “The Outsiders” (premieres February 2021), “Together We Rise” (now streaming) and “Trapped: Cash Bail in America” (premieres Oct. 12).
How about future shows?
YouTube Originals are available in nearly 80 countries and artists, creators, filmmakers and musicians can apply for grants and programs under the Black Voices Fund to showcase their work. YouTube Originals are Applications opened Wednesday and creators can submit their information for consideration until 5 p.m. PST on Oct. 21. The application and more information can be found on the YouTube website.