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B-Roll Arts & Media Helps Teens Learn to Love Learning
D.C. Area Non-Profit Offers Free Classes in Arts and Media
B-Roll also recently formed a partnership with Community Empowerment Association, Pittsburgh, PA to offer classes there and is hoping to expand to other communities across the country.
In eight years, B-Roll has provided more than 250 youth with qualified, comprehensive and applied experience in film, television, audio engineering, art and music from in-house and at-large staff members.
“At B-Roll, we believe that traditional education is not designed to accommodate non-traditional learners,” said Jackson. “We believe there is a need to flip the script on education, building a student-centered plan for learning.”
One hundred percent of the youth who are identified as potential beneficiaries and who enroll in the program have finished successfully, he noted. “More than 10 percent go on to higher education or further studies in the arts and media field. Seven percent of those who complete the training get jobs or internships based on the B-Roll work they have produced,” Jackson said.
B-Roll successes Riley and Gray both exhibited interest in the arts early in life. Riley, 16, a junior at McDonough High School, got the arts gene from her father, who she describes as a “art freak”. “He loves photography and trained me to use a camera when I was little.”
When her father gifted her an expensive camera at age 14, her mother found B-Roll classes for her to learn how to use it. Riley has attended every session since. “I learned everything about a camera and about angles and composition. Then I took videography classes and learned about staging and lighting and editing.”
“It’s one thing to sit in a classroom and listen to a teacher go on and on about something you’ll never use,” Riley said. “It’s quite another thing to participate in a real photo shoot and be excited and engaged.”
Riley plans a career in broadcast journalism and wants to explore filmmaking as well. “I’m looking now for colleges that offer the courses I need,” she said.
Gray, 17, is a senior at Dr. Henry A. Wise, Jr. High School. Her parents are both architects and, she said, “They tell me I was using the 3-D computer drawing program Sketchup before I could talk.”
“My dad found B-Roll for me 5 years ago and I’ve attended every time they offered a session,” she added.
Gray exudes excitement and energy when she talks about a future in the arts. “I love fantasy, sci-fi and the supernatural,” she said. “I want to create pictures or films that either make you unsettled or happy or both.”
She notes that it’s important for women to tell their own stories in film and photography. “When men tell women’s stories, they may not get it right. Most people’s worlds are shaped by media and I hope to be able shape their perceptions.”
Gray is currently looking for opportunities to intern or work full time after she graduates in May. “I want to work where I can help to make short films,” she said, noting that she currently has written seven scripts that she’d like to produce.
“My life is in the arts,” she says, “That’s where I’m comfortable.”
For Jackson, young people like Riley and Gray are where his life is. As a youth, he experienced the struggles and humiliation of going through school with an undiagnosed learning disability --Dyslexia. He found solace and direction in media arts which gave him confidence, built his self-esteem and put him on the path to a highly successful career in media & broadcasting. He has worked with notable companies such as Black Entertainment Television, NPR, CNN News, National Geographic, and NBC’s Today Show, Meet the Press, Nightly News, and The Chris Matthews Show, among others.
Jackson now works to share the skills of a lifetime with young people through B-Roll.
“We believe that we can redirect the lives of youth who struggle in classrooms by focusing on positive activities in media and the arts that can lead to a stable and economically secure future,” Jackson said.
View both students' work below:
Top Row: Monchelle Gray
Bottom Row: Chinarose Riley
When high school students Chinarose Riley and Monchelle (Momo) Gray stepped out of the box of traditional education and signed up for free classes with B-Roll Arts & Media, Inc., a non-traditional, non-profit training program, they both fell in love with learning.
“Thanks to B-Roll I found my passion in videography and film-making,” said Riley. “I learned to expand my creativity and how to use the tools that are available to make a statement with art. Hands-on learning experience is what I needed. It was like falling in love.”
Gray agrees. “I’m not good with words and I’m not comfortable in static classroom spaces,” she said. “Photography is my medium. My pictures help me say who I am. B-Roll has helped me hone arts and media skills that will last me a lifetime.”
Their shared experiences and collaborations also sparked a mutual respect and a long-lasting friendship. “Oh yes, Momo and I definitely BFFs,” said Riley, with a smile.
Founded in 2012 by Robert Jackson, a 30-year veteran in radio, television and film production, B-Roll Media & Arts, Inc. is a Maryland state-based 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.
Chinarose Riley (left) & Monchelle Gray
B-Roll works with city and county organizations to provide free-of-cost media & arts training and education to underserved youth ages 13 through 21, as well as to youth with learning disabilities or Individualized Educational Plans (IEPs).
Founder of Maryland Media Non-Profit On His Journey From Learning Disability to Stellar Career in TV
Nadine Matthews | 2/7/2020, 6 a.m. Baltimore Times
First came the weeping, then came the whipping. In the aftermath of a fire mistakenly started by him and his sister in their one-room apartment while his mother was at work, Robert Jackson’s shaken mother fell to weeping. The tears were brought on by relief that her kids were okay and likely guilt that as a single working mother, she had to leave little Robert and his sister to fend for themselves. After regaining her composure, she wiped her tears. She then gave Robert the whipping of his life. The post-beating lecture, Jackson recalled in an interview with Baltimore Times included her telling him, “You are too smart to be doing something like this because if you were stupid, then you wouldn't be alive right now. That really made an imprint on me.”
Jackson had undiagnosed dyslexia all through his youth, which in those days, was often misread. But, Jackson, buoyed by is mother’s belief in his intelligence, found ways to enrich himself educationally and ultimately achieved a long and successful career in media arts, including television and radio.
With his own unhappy experience in traditional education in mind, the Washington DC-raised Jackson started the non-profit B-Roll Media & Arts, Inc. in 2012. With his own money and funding from a number of sources, the program offers free of charge, eight-week sessions in photography, video, filmmaking, music production, and animation. Through a partnership with PG County Parks and Recreation, many of the classes are offered at their locations. The program is open to anyone thirteen to twenty-one though certain tracks are open only to older students. “The filmmaking program,” Jackson explains, “is for ages sixteen to twenty-one because younger kids just didn't have the discipline to sit and get the theory.” They also ask for a firm commitment to completing the full eight weeks of the program from participants.
Troubled that the sub-standard housing they were in might have played a part in how easily the fire had started, Jackson’s mother wrote to President Dwight D. Eisenhower and asked to be moved to better quality housing. Jackson isn’t sure if Eisenhower himself read the letter, but he does know his mother saw results. Recalls Jackson, “Shortly after she wrote that letter. We got moved. A car came and got us and took us to these newly-built projects in southwest DC. It made an impression on me.”
After a teacher at his elementary school told him he wasn’t smart Jackson says, “I knew I was better than that and I felt that I was going to prove them wrong.” Jackson joined the chess club and deliberately he says, “did activities where I had to use my brain.”
He became an ace football player, runner, and a gifted visual artist. He was also a drummer in the Anacostia High School Band and the VIP Drum and Bugle Corps, an experience so special to him, he made a short film about it.
A mom unafraid to write to the president for better housing for her children raised a son unafraid to write to his congressman for assistance. His dyslexia made it difficult to pass the test that would have allowed him to pursue photography while he was in the Navy, which he joined after high school, so Jackson wrote his DC Congressman. Jackson was then allowed to work in the photo lab where, through his own efforts, he picked up the necessary skills. “I became a Navy photographer,” he recalls triumphantly.
After a medical discharge from the Navy, he used the GI Bill to go to American University, double majoring in Visual Communications and Audio Technology. He then failed, more than once, the test for his FCC license which would allow him to get a job in the broadcasting field. Jackson persevered- again. “After several tries, I passed the FCC test and got my first license and became a broadcast engineer.” Jackson went on to a hugely successful career as an engineer and in technical operations management for companies like BET, NBC, CNN, and NPR.
As his stellar career wound down, Jackson realized he “wanted to be of service to young people.”
In the internet era, the programs taught in B-Roll are at least as important as reading and writing, and in some cases, are even more important. Jackson notes, “The sky is the limit for kids who go through these programs.”
He’s been impressed with the comfort Generation Z has with technology. “This younger generation is unafraid to tackle technology of any type.”
He also notices a downside. “They want immediate gratification so the concept of being goal-oriented and working toward a specific goal gets lost, and needs to be focused on.”
Starting and running B-Roll is challenging and Jackson reveals he experienced moments of discouragement that pushed him to consider giving up. However, the universe always shows up, gently but firmly urging him to carry on. A spiritual connection he felt during a near-death experience in the wake of major surgery, really solidified his belief in what he’s doing. He says, “This was my Creator’s way of telling me that I have more work to do on this planet in this physical state. I've been given another chance to do this work, so I can't walk away, I gotta continue this journey.”