As we close the chapter on the first half of 2020, there is so much to reflect on. Coronavirus/Covid-19 hasn’t just changed the way we make movies, it’s also encouraged us to think deeply about our values. For several months I found myself frequently sad and overwhelmed with all the new information to process, daily.
Then the killing of George Floyd brought Black Lives Matter front and center. Social media and popular media embraced solidarity statements and brands began making concrete, measurable commitments to change. I was surprised at how angry I felt – not a new anger, but the reawakening of something that had been in me for many years.
For the Together Pictures team, these conversations didn’t begin in 2020. Our leadership has been prioritizing the health and wellbeing of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) communities for decades. We do this by being a diversity hirer. By mentoring young professionals. By ensuring that the media we create include positive images that are diverse and inclusive. We changed our company name to make this commitment even more clear (from Community Bridge Video to Together Pictures). What happens when instead of having to fight for a seat at the table, we build a new table together?
In 2020 and beyond, we will continue to talk about and plan for progress. As storytellers, we’re used to planning for and building a future that doesn’t yet exist. Our team will never stop reaching, learning, pushing, and growing our understanding of systemic racism and how the media landscape plays into maintaining this broken status quo. We are committed to dismantling systems that keep people down and to building and maintaining new methods and processes that will help to make filmmaking a place where EVERYONE can succeed.
This weekend, I will celebrate the bittersweet holiday of July 4th, knowing that righteous anger is a form of love. I love the future that we are building together by having tough conversations and doing the hard work. Together, we can.
In the spirit of solidarity, I offer this powerful poem from Langston Hughes.
Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.
(America never was America to me.)
Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.
(It never was America to me.)
O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.
(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)
Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?
I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.
I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!
I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean—
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.
Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That’s made America the land it has become.
O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home—
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”
Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay—
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.
O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME—
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.
Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!
Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again!