Celebrating our Partnership with American Son

January 31, 2019

When Kerry Washington first read American Son, the powerful play of a family in the midst of a deeply personal reckoning, she knew that this emotionally charged story might be challenging for audiences. So she turned to The Opportunity Agenda to help develop materials that could be used to discuss the difficult issues raised in the play.

Our collaboration with American Son has reached thousands of people. During the play’s 13 week run, the theater distributed 55,000 programs with copies of The Opportunity Agenda’s discussion guide inside. Along with Kerry, we hosted two talkbacks with the cast, social justice leaders and audience members. Kerry appeared on The View and The Tonight Show to discuss the play and her partnership with us. To an audience of 1.4 million households, Jimmy Fallon held up the discussion guide on camera. President Alan Jenkins also wrote an op-ed about American Son in the Hollywood Reporter reached 1.7 million readers.

But that’s not all, Netflix is now producing an adaptation of American Son and will use the guidance and discussion guide provided by The Opportunity Agenda. Hundreds of thousands will now have the chance to experience this incredible play, and use our tool to participate in conversations that change hearts, minds, and policy.

In other partner news, photographer and Creative Change retreat alum L. Kasimu Harris (CC ‘17) is having his work displayed in four upcoming exhibitions. The photographs highlight issues of Black masculine identity, formerly incarcerated women and racial justice.

Our Creative Change alumnus Douglas Miles (CC ‘16) partnered with filmmaker Audrey Buchanan on a short and beautiful film about his project, APACHE Skateboards. This month, National Geographic showcased the film, “The Mystery of Now.” Douglas connected with the filmmaker through dream hampton, who he met at our Creative Change Retreat.

Speaking of dream hampton (CC ‘16), her Lifetime documentary series, “Surviving R. Kelly,” has been an international success and received attention from major media outlets. The New Yorker staff writer Jelani Cobb wrote that the project, “indicts a public that knew of his character and did nothing about it, a public that constructed an elaborate architecture of denial and has chosen to live in it.” Listen to dream’s interview with New Yorker Radio Hour.

Our former Communications Institute fellows, Khalil Cumberbatch (CI ‘15) and Topeka Sam (CI ‘18), launched New Yorkers United for Justice, a statewide campaign led by two formerly incarcerated New Yorkers “to ensure reforms to a broken system and create opportunities for thousands of New Yorkers.”

Jonathan Jayes-Green (CI ‘18), co-founder of Undocu-Black and a Communications Institute alum, was awarded the 2019 Haas Jr Fund Award for Outstanding LGBTQ Leadership for Immigrant Rights.