WQED video vignettes to capture black men, boys making a difference in communities

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WQED Multimedia and The Heinz Endowments announced Saturday that they want to collect hundreds of video vignettes showing how black men and boys are making a difference in their communities.

The messages, as long as a few minutes each, represent a new phase of WQED's efforts to cast black males in a positive light. Last year's big initiative -- a documentary series titled "African-American Men and Boys: Portrayal and Perception" -- is set for a second season.

A $390,000 grant from The Heinz Endowments will support the efforts, officials said at a news conference at Manchester Academic Charter School, where youngsters spent part of the day making mini-catapults out of mousetraps and plastic spoons and using them to fling mini-marshmallows across the room.

The students were participating in a program, established by Observatory Hill resident Darryl T. Wiley, to nurture interest in science, technology, engineering and math. It's the kind of unheralded effort that WQED wants to promote through the vignettes.

WQED will partner with Black Male Engagement, BMe, a group that already collects vignettes from residents of Baltimore, Detroit and Philadelphia and posts them at http://bmecommunity.org.

Pittsburghers may visit the same site to upload messages. In addition, Darryl Ford Williams, WQED vice president of content, said residents may be invited to neighborhood shops or other locations to make recordings. She also envisions "watch parties," where people can gather to view a selection of locally made vignettes.

"Coaches, teachers, ministers, parents -- we want all of their stories," Ms. Ford Williams said.

Only men and boys can make the vignettes. During the recording process, they'll be prompted to answer a series of questions about challenges they've overcome and contributions they've made to their communities. Contributions big and small are welcome, Ms. Ford Williams said.

"Did you fix one kid's bicycle?" she said.

Mr. Wiley's program will be featured on an upcoming episode of WQED's "Horizons" program. Brandon Nelson, a Penn Hills High School student and volunteer for Mr. Wiley's program, was among the first to tape a vignette.

"I just want to shine a better light on the African-American community," he said.

Ms. Ford Williams said WQED will produce four more half-hour documentaries in the "Portrayal and Perception" series. They will feature the contributions of black media representatives, doctors and trailblazers, among others. The documentaries will air throughout the year and culminate with a town hall meeting.

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Joe Smydo: jsmydo@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1548.


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