Free Spirit Media celebrates 20 years of Media Magic

On Thursday, May 20, Free Spirit Media celebrates 20 years of media magic, 8,000+ participants, 50,000+ unique pieces, and 1,000,000+ views. This momentous occasion demarcates how its participants have used media to create the world they envision-past, present, and future. 

Free Spirit Media, a North Lawndale based, Emmy award winning nonprofit and social enterprise has paved the way for youth media creation and set an incredible foundation for media makers across Chicago. 

Since its inception, Free Spirit Media has been on the forefront of using media to activate change and to shift the landscape of media to include Black and Brown creators and leaders.

Free Spirit Media uses digital media arts, journalism, and creative workforce development programs to transform media and society by providing opportunities for emerging creators, primarily from communities of color, to produce and distribute original content and to pursue artistic, personal and professional aspirations. 

“This 20-year milestone is a testament to our driven and compassionate staff, participants, partners, community members, supporters, and friends that truly understand the power that media has to shape a future that centers the voices and the lived-experiences of underrepresented people–Black, African American, Hispanic, Latino, Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender and identities / perspectives that have been marginalized in mainstream media and society. This extraordinary network and mission have sustained and inspired us throughout the brightest and most difficult times. We are excited at what this next chapter holds for us,” – FSM Team Member 

As part of commemorating their 20th anniversary, they will be hosting 20 unique community events, screenings, and learning opportunities centered around racial healing, storytelling, and media as a tool for social elevation and transformation.

The first gathering will be on Wednesday, June 16 from 4pm – 5pm to meet and get to know new leader and Executive Director, Aurora Toshiko King.

Free Spirit Media recognizes that the potential for media and journalism to create change rooted in transparency and accountability is vast. FSM media makers have influenced understanding and policy–impacting decision-makers and inciting change. 

○ In 2004, we partnered with Umoja to produce the short film “We Are Being Delayed” about public transit access on the CTA 54/Cermak Blue Line (now the Pink Line). The film helped draw attention to issues of access and the resulting community organizing. As a result, the CTA board voted to restore night and weekend service to the line. 

○ In 2009, our film “Hungry for Change” helped raise awareness about poor food access and unjust policies in Chicago’s food distribution practices. The piece was used by numerous organizers and advocates in food justice campaigns; the YouTube link alone has over 25,000 views. 

○ In 2011, our film “It’s Their Life, LGBT Youth in Chicago” won the Media That Matters Film Festival in New York City and was used extensively to teach tolerance, compassion, and human dignity. 

○ In 2014, we produced “Restoring Justice” about the school to prison pipeline as part of the School Project series, in which we partnered with Kartemquin Films, Catalyst, WTTW, and others to raise awareness around school and education policy. 

○ In 2017, The Real Chi newsroom was established to address the need for community news, the amplification of marginalized voices, and local platforms for community engagement. 

○ In 2019, The Social Change Communications Fellowship was developed in partnership with West Side United to capture stories and community narratives of the West side of Chicago. 

○ In 2020, The Covid-19 Response Hub was established alongside a transition to virtual programming that could benefit current participants, new participants, and community members 

○ In 2021, “Bermuda,” a film about a Nigerian American woman in her mid 20s in pursuit of self-liberation freedom, captures the intersectionality of women, social institutions, and authentic Black and African experiences. 

For more information about Free Spirit Media’s 20th anniversary, FOCUS celebration and fundraiser visit

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