Forward Movement by Lia Crawford

Today marks the birthday of both my brother and a woman who has greatly inspired the hashtag slogan #ChangetheNarrative, Ava Marie Duvernay. Former publicist turned A-list writer, director and producer, Queen DuVernay has created Academy Award nominated films like Selma. My favorite works are I Will Follow, her debut film, Middle of Nowhere and of course, Queen Sugar under her Forward Movement company. (Yes, I borrowed that for the title.)

DuVernay has changed the narrative with her film distribution company ArrayNow, which celebrates people of color and women like no other organization has done in the past. Her relationship with Netflix kicked open a door and several windows of opportunity for women and people of color, seemingly encouraging Scandal and Grey's Anatomy creator and showrunner, Shonda Rhimes, to join the fray as well.

Let us not forget the groundbreaking documentary, 13th, which highlights the injustices within the Prison Industrial Complex in the US. Highly acclaimed, 13th is a must-see for anyone living or visiting the United States of America, in my opinion, especially if you have children of color. It also bravely points out the companies invested in incarceration with interviews with esteemed scholars in the field.

Keeping along the same thread, she is now producing Central Park 5, presenting the story of the five young men of color accused of raping a white woman in 1989. Those of us who were alive at the time can remember the buzz surrounding the case, particularly the part where Donald J. Trump shelled out about $85,000 to place full-page ads in New York City papers indirectly condemning these young boys while practically demanding the return of the death penalty. Although each had their sentence vacated due to DNA evidence 14 years later, your President has never apologized for his actions. Of course you know not to hold your breath on that one.

Moving on, Ava DuVernay embodies the courage, the determination and the vision of change I support in the film and TV industry. I would love to continue to see more work that speaks truth and compassionately celebrates people from diverse experiences. ArrayNow is specifically designed to help filmmakers get their completed work out who have done just that already. Lailia Productions is primarily designed to help beginners shape and build their work so they can get to the distribution stage.

We can all figure out a way to work together to #ChangetheNarrative. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has transformed their policies because of people like us. Keep up the good work. As Ava DuVernay says, "Onward!" Until next time, take care of you and tell your story or someone else will.

A Change in Progress... by Lia Crawford

Things are changing, there's no doubt about it. In one barrel, we have children being separated from their families, abused and detained, poisoned by their city's water, murdered by police for being black or latinx, murdered by their parents for being themselves. All while there are elected officials playing a sordid game of wack-a-mole with our laws and basic humanity in general.

In another barrel, we have what many of us would consider "positive change." Of course, the same people who moved to rip children from their families and try to justify why the police would kill a kid, probably don't agree. Regardless, we now see more films and writer's rooms centering people of color, more women of color at the top stratospere in corporate businesses, more people of color picking up cameras and daring to share their unique narratives. Since Black Panther, there is no turning back and attempting to claim that there is no audience for black films, that they don't make money and that no one is interested in seeing black women in action films.

As a nation and worldwide community, we changed the narrative. Let's keep going. Ava DuVernay is working on the Central Park Five story. Michael B. Jordan and Ryan Coogler are working on the Mansa Musa story. LeBron James is working on at Showtime docuseries, "Shut up and Dribble." Rebecca Hall, Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga are working on a project called "Passing." They all seem like people with an abundance of wealth and power but they all started without it at some point. You, too, can tell your story. A story you connect with strongly. A story you KNOW needs to be told.

I feel like # (The Pound) is one of those stories. It speaks to the pain drowning citizens of the South and West Sides and how fear from outsiders makes for a more devastating social climate there. Nate's story needs to be heard because he's a human who deserves to be heard. He may be a human Coby and I created, but his voice represents a collection of voices that go ignored regularly. This story shares fear, happiness, anger, determination and feelings of suffocation and isolation. These are feelings many of us walk around with daily.

Our feelings are our barometers, helping us make decisions daily, even if we feel they were horrible decisions later. Our emotions help to write our life stories and they deserve a platform. You have the power to build that platform for yourself and others just as those above have managed to do. You got this. There's more room out than in, they say. Express yourself, by any means necessary.