Panhandle PBS — the PBS member station in Amarillo serving the Texas Panhandle region — launched the “Living While Black” content initiative and accompanying education/outreach efforts in 2020. Sparked by the season of protests and unrest across the United States, we asked Black Amarilloans to describe what “living while Black” means and what all of us — of every race — can do to move conversations forward to create change.
The Panhandle PBS content team (5 staff) compiled nearly 30 hours of extensive interviews with local residents — Black and biracial people of different ages and backgrounds — and experts. The wide-ranging conversations brought out intense emotions as contributors shared very personal stories. One theme remained universal: We have to learn to listen to one another. The series brought the voices of our Black neighbors to the forefront, to be heard in our local on-air newsmagazine, online through our website and YouTube channel, and on social media platforms.
Full episodes include What is Racism?, The Police Stop, The System Wasn’t Created for Black Americans, Black History is American History, The Bus Stop (school busing in Amarillo), and How Do We Move Forward? Other content facets include the vocabulary of racism; local history and demographics; segregation, desegregation and the renaming of schools; and how to move from protest to action.
Short segments were released first through the Panhandle PBS website, YouTube channel and social media platforms with the full season premiering on air in spring 2020. Education outreach launched at the same time and is ongoing.
Our education outreach has included three online events sharing “Living While Black” content, accompanied by moderated panel discussions to expand on defining racism, moving towards racial equity, civil rights movements then and now, and systemic racism. Panelists participated in live Q&A with attendees through an online chat. We are also working with a team of educators to use “Living While Black” content for classroom lesson plans to be shared with the free, national PBS platform for educator resources – PBS LearningMedia.
This original project using new, local content strengthens our community, fosters dialogue, sparks civic engagement, has a digital component, and has given voice to diverse audiences. It has attracted local funding, engaged audiences online, and will soon reach classrooms through new lesson plans. It can indeed be localized in communities.