A panel of young professionals made it clear that Free Spirit Media is worth the hype that it consistently generates during an event at the Arts Club of Chicago on October 1. Explaining the organization’s worthiness to a room full of film industry leaders at the annual Founder’s Circle fundraiser, they transformed the occasion into a celebration of insight, passion, and inspiration.
Free Spirit Media is a nonprofit that helps emerging young creators, especially those from communities of color, produce and distribute original content.
The Founder’s Circle is a network of contributors who keep it going by “generously donating $1,000 and above,” according to the evening’s program.
Attendees included Chicago Film Office Director Kwame Amoaku, Kartemquin Films Board Chair Pamela Sherrod Anderson, and Nolo Digital Film Partner Joe Flanagan.
Facebook photo album of the Building Bridges event.
The event, titled Building Bridges, included an hour-and-fifteen-minute panel discussion between the opening reception and the closing dinner. It began with a reel of Free Spirit’s work and an introduction from founder Jeff McCarter.
“What we’re doing is powerful, relevant, and real,” he said. “But we want to grow smarter … in a sustainable way … for the right reasons: the focus on our young people, on building these bridges, and really to our mission of transforming media and society.”
The transformation, he explained, includes building a framework that will help young people “journey through to creative and economic fulfillment, and also civic engagement, participation in this world, the world we want, something that’s vibrant and accessible and equitable and just.”
The panel discussion
The members of the panel — who have previously or are currently participating in Free Spirit Media programs — set the bar high from the get-go with diverse answers to the opening question, “When you hear ‘Building Bridges,’ what comes to mind?”
Candace Moore, Tiffany Walden, Troi Strongspirit Valles, and James Gross
Candace Moore Chief Equity Officer, City of Chicago
I think about alignment. There are lots of needs across our city and the work that we have to do to align them with the work that is happening, the work that needs to happen in our city and really what is that infrastructure to actually align those things … and the ability to do it in a way that is not just a temporary bridge.
Tiffany Walden Cofounder and editor-in-chief of TRiiBE, a digital media platform dedicated to reshaping Black Chicago’s narrative.
“For so long, the Black community has felt as if the only time media comes into their communities is when there’s some type of violence or crime that has taken place. A lot of our work is educating and also repairing the relationship between the Black community and the media.”
Troi Strongspirit Valles Filmmaker, writer, actress, and current Quriosity Productions intern who has worked with the likes of HBO, Bleecker Street, and Ambrica Productions.
Honestly, what comes to mind is the political divides we have in this country right now and rebuilding media to kind of reach across the aisle and try and right some of that.
James Gross Junior at Chicago Agricultural High School, current participant in Free Spirit’s sports program, HoopsHIGH, and aspiring professional broadcast pro.
Networking … a lot of resources coming to communities, a lot of young people who get into it like I did … learning something new, new skills, to get close to a dream.
Leading the discussion was Free Spirit Media’s articulate and engaging Deputy Director Glenance Green. She got the crowd into it by delightfully commanding them to respond to her calls.
“Before I bring up the panelists, I’d just like everybody to stand to their feet, yes, yes yes” she said. “And I want to do like a call and response here, because that’s just my jam, how I get down. Just repeat after me.”
Then she sang — ‘Building bridges … We building bridges … Building bridges … We building bridges ” — and the crowd enthusiastically followed her.
Send your film updates to Reel Chicago Editor Dan Patton, email@example.com.