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While progress toward positive change in Washington, DC is deadlocked, the combined forces of social movements and entertainment have paved the way for a defining, once-in-a-generation moment that will determine our shared future as a country. The recent wave of NFL protests has driven millions of Americans to reckon with what it means to stand for justice and equality. Meanwhile, entertainment icons, artists and creators are taking hold of their power to enact meaningful change within the stories and experiences they create for mass audiences.
It’s through the shared experiences and stories across sports, movies, television, music and more that we, as a nation, will both start to come to terms with the truth about our country’s history, and imagine what’s possible – and necessary – to create a just future.
To move us towards this vision, the pop culture for social change field needs a special blend of curiosity, bold ideas and skillful expertise. So today, the Pop Culture Collaborative is proud to welcome our inaugural group of Senior Fellows. Working over the next six months on particular topics of narrative design, knowledge building, and shared culture change methodologies, these four Senior Fellows will engage in deep inquiry and research, strategy development, creative production, and cross-sector network building.
Maytha Alhassen is a Syrian-American journalist, poet and scholar, working to bridge the worlds of social justice, academic research, popular culture and artistic expression. Alhassen has performed and wrote for “Hijabi Monologues” and worked with Blackout Arts Collective to support the development of art and poetry projects for incarcerated youth.
As a Senior Fellow, Alhassen will lead a project to unlock new pathways to create and popularize authentic narratives for Muslim, Arab and South Asian (MASA) people in pop culture. She will curate a cohort of MASA stakeholders across advocacy, social justice, philanthropic, entertainment, marketing, and other fields to engage in a yearlong culture change learning and narrative strategy design process.
Jamilah King is currently the Race and Justice reporter at Mother Jones, having previously worked as a senior staff writer at Mic, and a senior editor at Colorlines. Her writing and reporting has appeared in the Washington Post, Salon, NPR, MSNBC, and in the Advocate.
As a Senior Fellow, Jamilah is testing the curation and production of stories, strategies and big ideas at the intersection of pop culture and social justice. She will produce monthly content packages to engage stakeholders and potential change agents in social justice, philanthropy and entertainment via the Collaborative’s web site, newsletter and social media platforms. Jamilah’s content will aim to dig deeply into critical narrative conversations, big strategy questions and emerging culture change models.
Erin Potts has worked over the past two decades to create change through culture, to guide organizations & movements towards financial sustainability, and to bring together unusual teams to achieve lofty goals. Erin co-founded with the Beastie Boys the Milarepa Fund and Tibetan Freedom Concerts. She has established and led several nonprofits, including Revolutions Per Minute—a nonprofit agency that supports over 1,300 musicians and comedians making change.
As a Senior Fellow, she will design a six-month cohort experience to help a cohort of culture change strategists align their efforts and build a shared process. This will include in depth interviews, research and joint planning exercises to expand this cohort’s capacity to work in deep alignment and coordination in their various client/collaborator projects.
Ryan Senser runs a consulting practice, It’s Not Safe Out Here, to help social change organizations reinvent themselves through strategic visioning, planning, narrative architecture and engagement. Ryan has consulted and led projects for a range of private, non-profit and advocacy organizations including Consumer Reports, 32BJ-SEIU, Color Of Change, Planned Parenthood Federation, Ford Foundation, Open Society Foundations, IBM, Starbucks, Microsoft, Johnson & Johnson, PepsiCo and the American Heart Association.
As a Senior Fellow, Ryan will work with a key set of creatives, media makers, cultural influencers, justice advocates, academics and thought leaders to develop a foundational ‘narrative system’ that can be leveraged in medium-to-long-term pop culture strategies built to engage key constituencies in America to hasten a more inclusive society.
Earlier this year the Collaborative issued over $700 thousand in grants to organizations innovating and building visionary culture change work. This is positioned to deepen and expand our collective work to advance a sustainable ‘pop culture for social change infrastructure’ and advance our mission to popularize authentic narratives for people of color, Muslims, immigrants and refugees in entertainment and mass media.
If you, or someone you know would like to explore becoming a Pop Culture Collaborative Senior Fellow, please read more about the program HERE.
The Pop Culture Collaborative Team – Bridgit, Tracy, Marisol and Jesse