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Color Congress, a National Collective, Launches, Announces Funding and Support for POC-Led and Supporting Documentary Organizations

Color Congress, a national collective of majority people of color (POC) and POC-led organizations aimed at centering and strengthening nonfiction storytelling by, for and about people of color in the US, has launched in advance of the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. Founded by documentary impact and field-building strategists Sahar Driver and Sonya Childress, the collective will invite POC-led doc-serving organizations to apply for unrestricted two-year funding from a $1.35 million fund, and later in the year, they’ll be invited to join the Congress and direct over $1 million in grants aimed at addressing field challenges.

Of the selection criteria for the two-year unrestricted grants, the website informs, “We aim to support those organizations with the smallest budgets that have not benefited from national funding, but which offer critical support to the documentary field and to their communities (based on geographic location, racial and ethnic identities, roles and functions in the field, etc.).”

“After spending the last two decades leveraging the power of documentary film, I understood the power — and the limits — of what a single film can accomplish,” said Color Congress co-founder Sonya Childress in a press release. “Today’s existential challenges require a sea-change in thought and action; so to truly catalyze social change we need robust cinema authored by people closest to the most critical issues of our time. By supporting the organizations that nurture filmmakers of color, we can ensure impactful nonfiction storytelling will flourish.”

From the press release:

The Color Congress aims to build a stronger documentary ecosystem by:

  • Supporting leaders of color to sustain themselves and strengthen their organizations.

  • Funding organizations led by people of color to ensure they continue to serve filmmakers, leaders and audiences of color, and cultivate more storytelling about communities of color.

  • Connecting organizations led by people of color across identity and geography to build greater power, and to advance new solutions to shared challenges.

Despite systemic barriers, organizations led by people of color have historically served as the primary gateways for other people of color to enter the documentary field as artists and leaders. The Color Congress believes that the decades of commitment by these organizations to prioritizing the development, authorship, and impact of storytellers and audiences of color offers a blueprint for the future of the documentary field. As such, the national collective will resource and support the member organizations within its ecosystem to both articulate the challenges people of color face in documentary and be better positioned to lead the solutions to them.

“By moving collectively forward, Color Congress will build an unshakeable foundation for future generations,” said Tracy Rector, Nia Tero Managing Director for Storytelling.

The vision for Color Congress was informed by the Ford Foundation report, Beyond Inclusion: The Critical Role of People of Color in the U.S. Documentary Ecosystem. “What became clear through the research was that majority POC and POC-led organizations have consistently centered people of color in their programming. And despite being fragmented across communities, regions, disciplines, and priorities, I began to see this as a powerful ecosystem,” said Color Congress co-founder, Sahar Driver in the press release. “They have persevered in a field that has consistently underestimated, undervalued, and overlooked filmmakers, leaders, and audiences of color. So it is this ecosystem that will continue to ensure beautiful and nuanced POC storytelling saturates culture and helps to transform it. I am grateful for the opportunity to support, resource, and connect these organizations at a time when there is already so much energy and organizing afoot that deserves it.”

“The Beyond Inclusion report emphasized the unique contributions, common experiences, and challenges that diverse organizations experience across the nonfiction field,” said Chi-hui Yang, senior program officer for JustFilms at the Ford Foundation. “It made clear that with the proper resources, these organizations could become an even greater force for social change. The Color Congress responds to that call with a powerful, data-driven field building strategy and we are thrilled to be a founding supporter.”

Color Congress will host two virtual events at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival: “Shifting Power from Within: The New Gate Openers,” on Friday, January 21, 2022 at 10am PST and “Introducing Color Congress,” Co-hosted by Firelight Media and Center for Cultural Power, on Wednesday, January 26, 2022 at 11am PST. Both virtual events are free to the public.

The Color Congress is supported by the Ford Foundation’s JustFilms initiative, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the Perspective Fund.

For more information on Color Congress and their two-year unrestricted grants for organizations, visit the Color Congress website.

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