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Radical Remedies: Finding resilience, resistance and joy in community-based narratives

January 29, 2021 Category: FeaturedLongMediaPurpose
Radical Remedies is an initiative created in the summer of 2020 by Ryan Pearson, co-director of the Detroit Narrative Agency (DNA), as a rapid response to the dual pandemics of COVID-19 and anti-Black violence in the United States.

“We wanted people to be able to share their experiences as BIPOC people navigating these traumas in a way that felt authentic to them and from their perspectives,” Pearson said.

DNA provided an outlet through mediamaking, and awarded participants small stipends for their work as a way to put monetary resources back into their communities during a time when so many have been impacted financially, especially many creatives who have not been able to work.

Ryan Pearson.

And once the creative works were complete, DNA wanted to share them in different spaces. “To uplift [the mediamakers] lived experiences/stories,” Pearson said, “and help us all heal through this collective anxiety and grief.”

At that same time as DNA was formulating what would become Radical Remedies, Scribe Video Center in Philadelphia was reacting to daily images and media that devalued Black lives. Images such as the killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and others.

And then, as Scribe was beginning to launch its own initiative, the death of Walter Wallace Jr. took place in Philadelphia — a sad testament, Scribe’s Program Manager Marcellus Armstrong said, that a rapid response addressing the wellbeing of Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and people of color was a consistent need.

 

Scribe expanded DNA’s call for media works to Philadelphia and the greater region of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware.

“What was created as a need at that pivotal moment continues to be a need today, which is one of the reasons Scribe got involved,”  Armstrong, said. “When I reached out to Ryan about the idea of mirroring the initiative in Philly back in early August [2020], I remember telling her that it seemed that sense of urgency in which the initiative was created seemed to have passed — or rather, media coverage of the Black Lives Matter protests that were happening in June and July and populating our phones and news feeds were not covered in the same way in late summer.”

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Cases of COVID-19, Armstrong added, while not going away were declining. For a moment, he stopped seeing the daily social media posts of friends who had family members who passed because of COVID.

Marcellus Armstrong.

But, he added, “Both of our cities were faced with a rise of cases throughout the year [and] many of those cases were Black and brown people. We dually have a history of systemic racism and violence which was exacerbated even more by this pandemic — it just made sense to partner together to see if we could bring this wonderful and timely initiative to Philly.”

Scribe reached out to different communities and put out a request for media submissions that offered guides for coping, documented actions, and provided an internal view of what neighborhoods and streets are going through during this time.

The submissions focused on the actions of resilience, resistance, joy, grief, and collective care.

“We came up with those areas because they are all actions related to how we’ve cared for each other and ourselves during this time,” Pearson said. “It expresses a range of feelings and ways of coping with the effects of oppression and trauma, and gave people the freedom to choose what resonated with them instead of making the prompt super-specific and limiting,” Pearson said.

“We wanted people to truly share what deeply echoed with them in relation to these events, and give them the space to explore their emotions and experiences regarding the dual issues, through media that would be shared so we could collectively bond as communities,” she added.

Scribe has been working towards getting the word out about the initiative, reaching out to as many local organizations and press outlets that they can. Armstrong added that the submissions they have received so far are “pretty great.” Some are short and some are no longer than 10 minutes. Armstrong added that while he can’t really measure the quality of the submissions; he does believe that all of the responses received took the Radical Remedies call to heart.

“It’s nice to get a snapshot of how people are coping and experiencing this time, specific to Philly,” Armstrong said. “This initiative puts the emphasis on what the message is rather than how it was created, which I think is important when we think about media in relation to community-based narratives.”

“For me, I think it’s important to focus on what a ‘remedy’ is,” Armstrong added. “I believe DNA and Ryan didn’t want to focus necessarily on the injury or the affliction, but rather what are the ways in which you deal with that affliction, how do you heal? How do you set something ‘right’? Through that lens, the themes reflect that notion of reaching for a remedy.”

Scribe plans on having a screening with the submissions later this year.

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