The talented documentary filmaker, Yoruba Richen, will receive the Black Public Media Trailblazer Award during the PitchBLACK Awards on April 27 at The Greene Space in Manhattan. (Courtesy photo)

Filmmaker and Educator Yoruba Richen to Receive Prestigious BPM Trailblazer Award

Black Public Media (BPM), the Harlem-based national nonprofit that has been funding and distributing Black films and content for more than 40 years, will hold its sixth PitchBLACK Forum and Awards, April 25-27 at The Greene Space in Manhattan.

Winners vying for up to $150,000 in funding for their projects will be announced April 27 at the PitchBLACK Awards honoring award-winning filmmaker and educator Yoruba Richen who will receive the BPM trailblazer Award (The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks, How it Feels to Be Free, The Sit In: Harry Belafonte Hosts the Tonight Show, The Killing of Breonna Taylor). Baltimore-based comedian Sir Alex will serve as the master of ceremonies.

With the honor, Richen will join the ranks of previous BPM Trailblazer Award winners who include: film producer Orlando Bagwell; filmmakers Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson; and documentary filmmaker Marco Williams. Netflix returns as a major funder for both this year and for next year’s pitching forum for stories about the Black experience before an audience of industry leaders, distributors, and funders – something which BPM’s executive director, Leslie Fields-Cruz said she’s especially proud.

“We are so happy to have Netflix continue its work with our organization through this partnership,” Fields-Cruz said. “Just as Netflix helped change the way audiences find and consume their entertainment, we at BPM are confident that this partnership will help us continue our work to help Black and independent storytellers and creative technologists forge new paths.”

The two-year Netflix sponsored grant, the Fund for Creative Equity, serves as a dedicated effort to help build new opportunities for underrepresented communities within entertainment. It builds on previous support awarded in 2020 to BPM that helped make the formerly biyearly event an annual
industry opportunity for Black creatives. Fields-Cruz said the Forum and Awards are all about connecting foundations, investors and distributors with untapped, talented Black filmmakers and media makers. “We have independent documentary and filmmakers as well as immersive media makers (also referred to as creative technologists) whose work we support,” she said. “This is an opportunity to garner needed attention to their projects by reaching out to industry leaders. BPM will fund two of the projects but we also want to attract other foundations and investors who we hope will take a serious look at the projects and the artists, engage with them, and consider supporting their projects.”

Since launching PitchBLACK in 2015, BPM has awarded more than $1.5 million to 17 different projects, some of which have premiered on PBS, WORLD Channel, Create and PBS Digital. Alumni from the program have produced for PBS, CNN, Showtime, Netflix, HBO, BET, NBC, The CW and
more. “It’s a great career builder that exposes new talent to the industry and give them the chance to show off,” Fields-Cruz said.

And the Winner is … Yoruba Richen

Fields-Cruz said she’s particularly pleased to honor Richen, who she’s known since she started the National Black Programming Consortium back in 1979 (now BPM). “She was a young, new voice back then and the story she told in ‘Promised Land’ was about land reparations in Africa,” she said. “I’ve seen her career grow and blossom and she’s done work in public and commercial media, mentored fellows in our 360 program and also served as an instructor at City University of New York.”

“She’s truly committed to telling Black stories and to the documentary genre. Even more, she continues to make sure the next generation will be able to benefit from her experiences as they move within this industry. I’m excited to be able to celebrate her work,” she said.

The PitchBLACK Immersive Forum and PitchBLACK Awards will stream live on BPM’s social media channels. The PitchBLACK Film Forum is invitation-only. For more information on BPM, visit Follow the organization and watch the events at @blackpublicmedia on Instagram and Facebook and @BLKPublicMedia on Twitter

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