October 17, 2022
Dr. Jimmeka Anderson
We’re excited to announce the third $10,000 Non-profit Grant recipient of 2022. Congratulations to Dr. Jimmeka Anderson, Founder and Executive Director of Black Girls Film Camp.
Recently, WomensNet Advisory Board member Jama Hernandez sat down with Dr. Anderson for an exclusive interview. You can listen to their conversation and view the transcript below.
WomensNet: Hi everyone. This is Jama Hernandez with the WomensNet Advisory Board, and we are so excited today to be speaking with our third quarter nonprofit winner, Dr. Jimmeka Anderson, Founder of Black Girls Film Camp. We are so excited to be able to connect with you and talk more about your organization and the amazing things that you’re doing. So, welcome and congratulations.
Jimmeka: Yay. I’m so excited. Thanks for having me.
WomensNet: Yes. So please, will you share a little bit about your nonprofit and your mission?
Jimmeka: So, Black Girls Film Camp is a 501C3 nonprofit organization. We initially launched as just a camp. It was a project. I actually got funding for a while…I was in my PhD program, because I was interested in doing work on narrative shifting and empowering young black girls, adolescent black girls, to construct their own narratives, engaging literacy and tech [and] create their own short films.
Well, the camp ended up being so successful in its first year, we decided to turn it into an actual nonprofit organization. So the grant was in 2019 when we first got it. We actually incorporated the organization in 2021, and it has grown exponentially. What happens in the camp is, we put out a call for applications for young black girls, or girls that self identify as black girls, or gender expansive, where they can apply and pitch a story idea for a short film.
We then vet through the application, select some of those teens for interviews, and we select the top 10 finalists that will come on board for the cohort of that year for the camp. Each girl is paired with an adult woman editor and an adult woman creative coach to serve as her production team.
Everything’s completely free. So the professional support that she’s getting to help her produce her film, the workshops and trainings that they do, additionally: technology, they get cameras, ring lights, Beats by DRE is one of our sponsors. They’re getting headphones, software to write their scripts and do the editing, and so the whole experience is completely free. They also go on an in-person retreat because the program is hybrid. So the sessions are virtual. This is a national program, but we have moments where we come together in person; they go to a L.A. retreat. They learn from professors at one of the top film schools in the country. They also have fun. We go visit the Academy Museum. We’ve done skate nights and visited Hollywood Boulevard. So fun is definitely incorporated into their experience.
And then we come back and finish out the camp with our virtual sessions where they start shooting their films and editing their films. Then we premier them to the public over the summer in June. So we do a public premier where we invite a celebrity speaker and we give out awards for like best writer, best director. So, this experience, it’s a lot. It’s a 12 week program where they’re going through all of that. And then after the camp, we debut their films at film festivals across the country. And so we’ve had the opportunity to screen some of their films at Bentonville Film Festival and Mill Valley Film Festival. And we’re still building some of our festival partnerships as we’re continuing to grow. We’re only in our third year.
WomensNet: Wow. What an amazing opportunity. And I can see why your organization has produced so much growth, because what an awesome privilege for ones that are selected. So, how did you end up founding a business like this?
Jimmeka: I’ve been a media literacy educator for almost 15 years. So my work has consistently been invested in the space of media creation in helping youth understand media, how to create it, how to look at it critically, understand the subtext and texts hidden and unhidden messaging. So all of my work has had to deal with media creation. So past projects I’ve done have been like photo campaigns and PSAs, and so I have been in this youth media creation space for a while. But it was when I did my PhD program and my research started focusing on black girls specifically, I was looking at the disparities that black girls were facing with literacy and tech. They score the lowest out of their gender peer group in the United States. And then additionally writing about doing a lot of publishing and writing book chapters about misrepresentation, misrepresentation of black women, black girls, in the media.
I have a young teenage black girl as my daughter. She just turned 13. And a lot of the television she loves to watch on Disney and Nickelodeon. It’s very rare that she gets to see herself in those television shows and movies where she’s the subject and not, you know, someone on the side. And I said, we need to do something about this. I’m tired of writing about it! So, I form a space where black girls can come together, a space that’s very authentic, where they can be their most authentic selves, free from micro-aggressions, free from code switching, where they can create authentically and share their stories and in this space and feel comfortable.
And so that’s how Black Girls Film Camp came about. I wanted to create that space where they could do that and also shift the narrative. I want young black girls to see these stories that these young filmmakers are making, and adults too, and other groups and other races so they can learn that black women and black girls, although there’s been limited representations in the media, we are not a monolith, we’re multidimensional. We go through the same experiences. Those stories just aren’t being captured. And so these black girls are capturing that in their work. So, we’re really proud of what has come out of this program thus far.
WomensNet: Absolutely. For viewers — if you haven’t checked out the website yet, if you look at some of the girls from the 2022 cohort… just some beautiful stories and movies with really profound topics. Topics about confidence, managing strong emotions, finding your voice and pride. And so they’re really creating films that delve into topics that are not just so needed, but expressed in such a beautiful and creative way. So thank you so much for what you’re doing. We really do feel inspired.
So maybe can you share a little bit about how this grant will support your business?
Jimmeka: Definitely. So as I shared previously, the organization has grown exponentially. And so we are trying to match our capacity to how much growth we’ve experienced. When we say match our capacity, it’s hard to build capacity without funds. So, right now, me and my co-founder, we do wear a lot of hats and one of the hats that I wear is I do all the grant writing. So, I am always saying we need to bring someone on to help with the grant writing. And so this funding will definitely help support bringing on a part-time contractor to assist with grant writing, to help build sustainability and help secure more funding for the organization as we continue to grow. So I’m super excited about that.
WomensNet: Amazing. And so what is an upcoming milestone for your business?
Jimmeka: Yes. So many milestones have happened. Like I said, we’re continuing to grow exponentially this year. We have already over 800 girls across the US that are waiting on the interest list for applications to open. Applications are opening November 30th, 2022, and closing December 15th.
And just to see so much excitement, around applications opening with all of those young girls signing up to be on the interest list…it just blows my mind. I gotta say this. The first year we only had 200. So to see that growth, it’s like, wow. Beyond that, we’re looking forward to continuing to see an increase in our films being viewed. So the films are available on our social media platforms and also on YouTube. Then like I said previously, we have partnerships with film festivals where they have our films on streaming apps.
To date, we have already had over 50,000 views of our films. And so I’m looking forward to continuing to grow that. I’m really excited about the new 10 girls that are gonna come on and adding additional 10 new short films to our collection…increasing it to 30 short films. I’m super excited to partner with new organizations like the Gina Davis Institute, and also USC Bass Lab, The Justice Lab that just launched at Annenburg, at USC Annenberg… they’re coming on as a partner. So really super excited about the new partnerships, new line of speakers in the industry and Hollywood that are coming to speak at the camp this year, and we’re also launching cinema clubs in 2023.
So we’re taking our films and we’re creating curriculum for organizations, schools, rec centers. They can actually pull the curriculum and create clubs around the films that are in our film collection created by these girls. We want the stories to reach, you know, their peers . And so, we really wanted to frame discussion and discourse around the topics and themes that are arising in the narratives that these girls are creating. And the best way we thought to do that is to figure out ways to support communities coming together and discussing these films. So that’s the purpose of the cinema club. So we’ll be launching the cinema club guide to start cinema clubs at your local school, rec center, library. So we’re really, really excited about that, launching in 2023.
WomensNet: You know, I’m so excited that you said that because as I was watching some of the snippets of the girls’ films, I was thinking, how can we get this into some of the classrooms in schools after school programs? And so that really makes me happy.
Jimmeka: Yes, we were thinking that too.
WomensNet: Awesome. So how can the WomensNet network support your business? What can we all do? What can we keep an eye for? Please let us know.
Jimmeka: Oh, definitely. One, thank you for this grant. That is one way we’re super excited that you all are supporting. But any of the women that are part of WomensNet, that are fans of it and get to see this video, we would love for you to follow us on our social media platforms at Black Girls Film Camp. We’re on pretty much all of the social media outlets. Share our organization with other potential collaborators. We’re telling you about the curriculum and the cinema clubs that are gonna be launching in 2023. So if you’re connected to schools or organizations, have them reach out to us so we’ll know that they’re interested and we’ll make sure we go ahead and create connections and collaborations to let them be first in line to launch some cinema clubs in their communities.
Also we are always open to donations. So, any support, whether that’s the kind that jingles or the kind that folds, we accept it all. So, all forms of support. Share, donate, connect with us. Those are definitely the ways you can continue to support.
WomensNet: Wonderful. And can you please share your website with us?
Jimmeka: Yes, you can find Black Girls Film Camp at www.blackgirlsfilmcamp.org. And if you wanna email us, we’re firstname.lastname@example.org.
WomensNet: Wonderful, thank you so much. So we will definitely continue to connect with you throughout the year and see all the awesome things that you are continuing to do.