Free Spirit Media

Empowering Chicago's black and brown youth to counter negative stereotypes and create their own media narratives.

The Problem

The black and brown neighborhoods of U.S. cities are depicted in the media as crime-ridden and dangerous, and none more so than the West and South sides of Chicago. Outsiders looking in get only a partial-- and sharply negative -- glimpse of these neighborhoods. Focusing on the undeniable problems — high unemployment, a lack of opportunity, underinvestment, and hopelessness, among other challenges — they miss the energy, creativity, talent, drive, and potential that exist in abundance. Negative media images perpetuate negative and stereotypical impressions of youth of color, a dynamic that impacts not only white Americans' perceptions of these communities but these communities perceptions of themselves -- their worth, their potential, their self-respect.

The Solution

Free Spirit Media seeks to transform media and society by creating opportunities for communities of color to shape and define their own narratives, providing teens and young adults in Chicago with a foundation in media literacy and hands-on media production experience. Since 2001, Free Spirit Media has empowered more than 6,500 youth to “share their stories, discover their potential, build 21st century skills, and engage with peers and communities through digital media.” Young people in Free Spirit Media programs produce over 700 media pieces each year, from documentaries and sports broadcasts to news packages, audio stories, PSAs, and narrative films. Through this training, marginalized youth "develop their own authentic voice while actively participating in their community's growth," as they develop from "emerging creatives to productive, connected, and engaged adults."

Stage of Development

  • Early Stage
  • Established Prototype
  • Scaling
  • Other

Organization to Receive Funds

Free Spirit Media

This project was nominated by: