An exciting documentary series recently launched by Mic, the Millennial news and cultural platform, tells the story of unsung heroes working in marginalized communities on the front lines of poverty and other struggles. The series is called “The Movement,” and it’s the brainchild of writer and activist Darnell Moore, a native of Camden, N.J., one of the poorest cities in the country.
“Rather than solely and overly focusing on the social, political and economic concerns plaguing these communities, we’ve chosen to focus on the work of the unsung heroes who are working to bring an end to systemic inequity and injustice across the country,” Moore said in a piece releasing the series. “The people and groups we cover are change agents tackling big issues in real time — sometimes with sparse resources — without the benefit of large social media followings, public recognition and large platforms.”
Mic producers and editors said they grew dissatisfied with the national dialogue over the past year around race, income inequality and violence in the United States.
“What has been missing from the conversation is an honest exploration of the solutions and the voices of the people who are actually living with the consequences of our mistakes day in and day out,” producer Antonia Hylton said in an interview. “‘The Movement’ is meant to remedy some of that. We’ve tried to give a visual platform to stories that tend to be watered down to talking points. For our team at Mic, success would simply be exposing our audience to new perspectives and encouraging a media landscape that’s mindful of representation and marginality.”
Hylton said there is a mistaken assumption that negativity and hyperbole are all that sell within the news business; that viewers and readers only care to hear about underserved populations when motivated by fear and disaster or “the kind of pity that often verges on condescension (e.g. poverty porn).”
“This has the unfair effect of impressing upon people the idea that these communities aren’t doing anything to solve their own problems — that at worst, they don’t care and at best, they’re sitting and waiting for a hero or an agency to rescue them. ‘The Movement’ illustrates so well that this narrative could not be more false, and I think we should be skeptical of any format that requires us to assume the worst of the people whose stories we tell and the least of the people who consume them.”
The stories Mic chose to highlight are about people or groups fighting to reclaim their communities, affirm their heritage and create opportunity where there is serious structural disadvantage, Hylton explained.
“It is a challenge connecting with the right people because they aren’t exactly getting featured in the New York Times,” she said. “Meeting folks for this series required a lot of word-of-mouth, on-the-ground attention. Part of the intention behind a series of this kind is that it will encourage dialogue and urgency around questions of racial equality and poverty. A sentiment you’ll hear repeated time and again in each of the five episodes is that a community or even an entire city has felt ignored. We, of course, hope that being a part of ‘The Movement’ opens doors for the people we profiled but beyond that, we hope that it makes them feel as though they’ve been able to take back the narratives spun around their neighborhoods in some way.”
“The Movement” is just one of many more documentary-style pieces coming from Mic. The company’s video team, which generates millions of views each month, is growing rapidly and Hylton said the company is looking to expand not just on “The Movement” but into other areas of policy and culture.
Hylton said building “The Movement” was a team effort, largely inspired by Moore’s own experiences in activism and education.
“For me, the most challenging part of the experience has been translating complex and often highly personal stories into a short-form visual format, when each individual topic could probably command an entire textbook or series of its own,” Hylton said. “Everyone on the team felt the weight of personal responsibility in this way. For the Camden story, for example, there was the added element of it being Darnell’s hometown. During production our team was especially careful about how we built relationships and approached interviewees, and in post-production we were highly collaborative, in an effort to make sure every second of each video did the stories justice.”
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Carrie Sheffield is the founder of Bold. She is passionate about storytelling to empower and connect others.