NPO Spotlight: Black History Month

Posted by Arina Karkhanis on Feb 22, 2021 1:00:00 PM
Arina Karkhanis

For the month of February, VidMob celebrates Black History Month: a federally-recognized commemoration of the diverse contributions of African-Americans to the shaping of US history. Coinciding with the birthdays of Frederick Douglass (February 14) and Abraham Lincoln (February 12), Black History Month was instituted by black educators at Kent State University in 1970 before coming into full observance in 1976. In this post, we spotlight 3 partner Non-profit Organizations (NPOs) who focus on dismantling institutionalized racism through ending mass incarceration and addressing the prison-industrial complex. 

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In 2018, VidMob Gives officially adopted the United Nations’ sustainable development goals (UNSDGs) as the framework to our pro-bono video offering. UNSDG 16 targets building peaceful and inclusive societies with a targeted focus on “the reduction of all forms of violence and related death rates worldwide”. Here are some of the few non-profits who made this ambition a possibility in 2020.

Avenues for Justice (AFJ) - Second Chances for NYC Youth

Avenues for Justice (AFJ) has a straightforward objective: keep youth out of prison. AFJ serves over 600 youthful offenders and at-risk youth annually. These anti-recidivism efforts remain particularly crucial for low-income black youth who are disproportionately subject to the school to prison pipeline. From their dedicated centers in East Harlem and the Lower East Side, Avenues for Justice is heavily invested in juvenile arrest prevention.

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AFJ is built on a pedagogical model in which teens are re-entered into school and receive consistent tutoring and mentorship. AFJ organizers also instruct their participants on the interpersonal skills required to unlearn violence and develop healthier socialization strategies. 

Their work, however, doesn’t stop with school enrollment and academic performance. After schooling, the employment barriers for ex-offenders are often insurmountable, and formerly incarcerated people are unemployed at a rate of over 27% higher than the total unemployment average during any period in American history, including the Great Depression. Avenues for Justice is thus committed to workplace readiness and provides online and on-site job training for digital literacy and OSHA 30 hour construction safety. 

AFJ was faced with a new challenge during COVID-19 in which they worked directly with 275 quarantined youth. Their swift response equipped all their participants with phones and laptops by mid-March while moving all job training and group sessions fully online. Most recently, they restructured their workshops in the wake of Black Lives Matter to instruct youth on their constitutional rights if arrested. Avenues for Justice exemplifies the need to fight for a more humane and less carceral form of conflict resolution for youth. 

Malcolm Jenkins Foundation and Center for Policing Equity - Leveraging Video to Combat Misinformation

Malcolm Jenkins is a two-time Super Bowl champion and American football player for the New Orleans Saints of the National Football League. Yet, Jenkins’ praiseworthy achievements far exceed the football field. Jenkins is also a philanthropist and prominent social activist serving as the founder and chairman of the Malcolm Jenkins Foundation. 

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In partnership with the Center for Policing Equity, a research-oriented think tank based at Yale University, Jenkins sought to debunk the central myths surrounding abolition discourse and the push to defund the police in the United States. With great conviction and clarity, he articulated the importance of reallocating resources from the police in a video campaign with VidMob:

“Defund means creating a strategy to arrive at a reform of the current justice system.” As the video shows, defunding merely orients us towards equipped professionals, such as counselors and social workers, in de-escalating conflict.

The combination of Malcolm Jenkins’ voice with succinct definitions and accompanying graphics culminated in a deeply informative set of video campaigns. The galvanized momentum of the Black Lives Matter movement has undoubtedly called for increased public education on issues of race and criminal justice. However, the pandemic of racialized violence also coincided with the COVID-19 epidemic challenging activists to rest on digital platforms to spread their messages. Videos circulating across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok have proven crucial in this dual moment of racial awakening and social distancing. Malcolm Jenkins and the Center for Policing Equity used their clout for good in their powerful videos. 

Ameelio - Connecting the Incarcerated to their Loved Ones

While Avenues for Justice and Malcolm Jenkins focused on preventing unlawful arrests and recidivism, our next non-profit addresses the lives of those currently in prison. The United States is confronted with an incarceration crisis: nearly one in two Americans has a family member who has experienced jail time. We rarely consider how the prison system moves beyond the incarcerated individual and impacts their families, friends and entire communities. In May of 2020, VidMob Gives connected with Ameelio: the first free communication platform servicing incarcerated peoples and their loved ones. This technology non-profit seeks to radically restructure the current prison communication system that charges inflated prices for messages. As it currently stands, families can spend upwards of $500 a month to merely stay connected. A 15-minute phone call to a loved one alone can cost up to $25. 

Ameelio offers a full suite of communication services from letters, postcards and even video conferencing tools. Not only do they foster meaningful human connection for those in prison but they also challenge us to humanize the incarcerated, as we fight for a rehabilitative justice system. 

As a new non-profit founded in 2019, Ameelio required an emotive and coherent video for first-time users. With voice over and motion graphics, VidMob created a net-new explainer video of Ameelio’s story. In just 45 seconds, the viewer is transported through the entire journey of a free message delivery — starting with a user’s mobile device and ending at the hands of an incarcerated person. Gaining the trust of potential users is extremely important to non-profits, like Ameelio, and the first step in that process is being transparent about how an organization and its technology works.

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Ameelio’s co-founder, Uzoma Orchingwa, discussed the long-term benefits of Ameelio’s services in reducing recidivism:

The more contact incarcerated individuals have with their families the better they do post-release. Ninety-five percent of individuals released will go home to live with family members… Prisons are extremely isolated places, and it is common for a lot of people to lose hope while inside.” - Orchingwa, JD Supra, 2021

Ultimately, these three incredible non-profits continue to confront the current state of the American justice system, which has been run by racism and profit. We thank them for their continuous work, and we’re proud that VidMob’s videos could be a small part of the change.

Topics: diversity, vidmob gives