- Don’t wait until the end. Writers, showrunners, and producers working in Hollywood and Muslim-community organizations—such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Pillars Fund, Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative (MuslimARC), MPOWER Change, MOST, Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN), and more—should be included as partners in story creation on an ongoing basis instead of being brought in as consultants after the concept, script, casting, set design, etc. have already mostly been developed and determined.
- Gain “intimate knowledge.” Both Muslim and non-Muslim artists should engage with source material such as oral histories and first-person narratives to inform plotlines and portrayals. Advisors are abundant: Zaheer Ali at the Brooklyn Historical Society; director of research Dalia Mogahed from the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding; Sapelo Square founder Su’ad Abdul-Khabeer; MuslimARC managing director Margari Hill at ReThink Media; Sahar Ullah of Hijabi Monologues; Hussein Rashid; The Secret Life of Muslims; and more.
You aren’t doing us a favor. It’s to your benefit to get the story right and to tell the authentic story that the audience wants. –Kalia Abiade, Pillars Fund
2. Build and expand creative and career pipelines for Muslim artists within the entertainment industry.
Hollywood is doing a decent job with the entry level, but we need a middle tier of Muslim writers who can be decision makers and have power. There’s currently nowhere for them to go. In this bottom-heavy industry with a pyramid structure, lots of entry level people will be pushed out. How do we make sure that the artists who are breaking in now have 20+-year careers in the industry? -Sameer Gardezi, television writer
Philanthropists and the entertainment industry can make substantial, ongoing investments in all stages of the pipeline for Muslim creatives, starting at points of entry and continuing through a long-term career trajectory. This includes:
Philanthropists and the entertainment industry can make substantial, ongoing investments in all stages of the pipeline for Muslim creatives, starting at points of entry and continuing through a long-term career trajectory.
- Map the access points. Develop, update, and share tools that map available resources, fellowships, and diversity programs to help more emerging Muslim creatives know about and have access to entry-level creative and executive opportunities—and make these tools available to Muslim-serving organizations and Muslim artist collectives involved in theater, fine arts, authors and more.
- Redesign pipelines, support long-term career trajectories. Traditional diversity fellowships offer an important foot in the door to writers’ rooms for some aspiring writers and executives. However, these fellowships can fall short of influencing the overall power dynamic within the industry in terms of who is creating and greenlighting content. Also, fellowships aren’t setting up enough individuals to have long-term, sustainable careers in the entertainment industry.To address this problem, many entertainment artists are developing their own pipeline models to focus on artists of color, women, Muslims and more such as Color Creative and ARRAY Alliance. BoomGen Studios—is exploring the design of a content incubator that supports emerging artists to develop work and pitch it for television or film while gaining the tools and relationships to navigate and negotiate the business aspects of the entertainment industry.Look to these companies and projects as potential partners and/or inspirational models.
3. Invest in Muslim communities’ ability to advance long-term narrative change and participate in the pop culture for social change field.
We need to build our capacity for coordinated responses around important political moments and pop culture moments, and we need to build the infrastructure for a long-term, multifaceted narrative inclusive of the diversity of Muslim communities. This includes pipelines for talent to break into the entertainment industry, support with how to navigate it and go-to relationships between Muslim community leaders, Muslim artists and entertainment industry leaders such that the right people are tapped and hired when opportunities arise. -Marya Bangee, executive director, Harness
- Design a transformative narrative; engage in long-term pop culture change strategies. Muslim-community social justice organizations, artists, strategists and philanthropy can come together to design and invest in a long-term narrative vision. Currently, the Pop Culture Collaborative and the Pillars Fund are partnering to create the American Muslim Pop Culture Cohort—a group of individuals and organizations from social movements, entertainment, the arts, advertising, and academia, as well as other Muslim stakeholders—to design a long-term narrative vision and culture change strategy for and by the Muslim community.
Culture change strategies are multi-faceted, and include the ability to:
- Build pop campaign power. Muslim-community social justice organizations can build power by mounting campaigns at important pop-cultural moments, whether to advance a narrative strategy and vision (e.g. National Domestic Workers Alliance’s The Help campaign) or to hold pop culture content accountable for advancing false stereotypes (e.g. Color of Change’s Cops campaign).
- Learn how to navigate, and partner, with the entertainment industry. Support the thoughtful work and deep expertise it takes for Muslim-community stakeholders to build partnerships with artists and entertainment executives, and to become effective advisors on scripts, casting, and production. Muslim-focused organizations ready to engage in this deep partnership building need mentorship from individuals, organizations, and networks rooted in social justice communities who are already working closely with writers’ rooms and production companies. Examples of these existing narrative-strategy experts: Storyline Partners, Define American, ACLU, Color of Change, Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative (MuslimARC), Harness, MOST of Unity Film Productions, SILA Consulting, and the report’s author Dr. Maytha Alhassen.Muslim-serving community organizations and networks can learn from these existing models and/or partner with these organizations to effectively navigate and build relationships in the entertainment industry. Philanthropy can support both mentorship as well as learning and partnership development.