"Changing the Narrative,” a 14-part digital series produced by NBCUniversal News Group and sponsored by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, takes viewers on a journey examining the impacts of racial trauma across the country - past and present - all while highlighting the people working to heal and uplift their communities. NBC News journalists connected with a diverse group of local leaders and activists for honest conversations about race and to give viewers a look at the impact their initiatives have had on creating a more equitable future. The digital series allows viewers to hear directly from community members on how to better support their communities and each other.
The series focuses on changemakers and how they created spaces of healing in their communities despite the impact of racism, a history of segregation, and its lasting effects. The series aims to showcase the challenges people across the country face because of racism and how, despite that, these communities are changing the narrative and making a difference within their neighborhoods and cities. By highlighting socio-economic and geographical issues that affect certain communities more than others, NBC News informs viewers about the impacts of systemic racism in the U.S. The series also showcases resources around racial healing, as well as inspires conversation and action towards a more equitable future by spotlighting the work of activists and community leaders.
Through a sponsorship with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the NBCUniversal News Group produced the 14-episode digital series, “Changing the Narrative.” Because of the Kellogg Foundation’s deep connections in these spaces, NBC News journalists Maya Eaglin and Claretta Bellamy gained unfiltered access to communities of color across the country impacted by the legacies of racial trauma and spotlighting the grassroots work being done in those communities. The series explored a wide range of issues from language discrimination to the effects of Jim Crow laws to a mass shooting. These communities included Buffalo, New York; Battle Creek, Michigan; Selma, Alabama; and the New Orleans, Louisiana, area. Eaglin and Bellamy immersed themselves in the neighborhoods alongside activists and community leaders who work to change the narrative surrounding race in the U.S.
Overall, the series aims to uncover how to be better allies and support local communities in tangible, accessible ways. To further extend its impact, the series was published on NBCNews.com and partly streamed on NBC News Now and Peacock leading up to the National Day of Racial Healing Town Hall specials hosted by MSNBC and Telemundo in New Orleans. The town halls sought to illustrate how to navigate the path to racial healing through panel discussions about these issues, which also furthered the goal of the digital series to highlight resources and encourage solidarity across communities.
The NBC News team carefully crafted their reporting around the portion of the series covering issues in Buffalo, New York. NBC News explored the history of the Eastside neighborhood to understand how racist government policies in the past, like redlining and housing policies and highway projects, created a dire socio-economic landscape that led to a food desert after a mass shooting closed its only grocery store for months. With an abundance of historical context, it was important to strike a balance in this story by providing this historical context, while also maintaining focus on the community members who were still reeling from the deaths of their 10 neighbors killed in a racist mass shooting just five months earlier. It was a challenge to find voices who could bridge the gap between the past racial inequalities in Buffalo and connect that to the present hardships. Given the topic, it was also important for the editorial team to be empathetic in their reporting process. It was essential that this story included the voices of young Black men in the community, as they could personally speak to the shooting and its impact. NBC News’ journalists and editorial team needed to be sensitive while encouraging these men to open up on camera and assuring that it was a safe space to share their experience and hardships.
“Changing the Narrative” explores multiple issues and showcases communities finding success through tangible change across the country. While such a big undertaking presented challenges, NBC News and WKKF’s resources combined allowed for the digital series to amplify these stories and voices on a larger scale.
“Changing the Narrative” has amassed nearly 150,000 viewers and addresses a broad range of topics. It showcases how communities are tackling systemic racism and climate injustice, and how they’re overcoming language barriers and economic inequity. Given the rise in hate speech and racially-motivated violence in recent years, it was important to shine a spotlight on the topic of racial healing. It was equally important to showcase how activists and changemakers are working together to change the narrative in their hometowns, what solutions they’re using to combat racial issues, and the historical context of racial trauma that underpins the grassroots effort.
By highlighting multiple cities across the country, “Changing the Narrative” provided viewers with real-world examples of success in communities dealing with racial trauma. The series aimed to inform viewers who may not have understood the depth of racial trauma and racial healing in the U.S. about specific issues and projects working toward positive change across the country. And perhaps most importantly, the series may have inspired viewers to change the narrative in their own lives and communities. The 14-part series was published in the months leading up to the National Day of Racial Healing and the town hall specials on MSNBC and Telemundo, which included information and clips from the series to inspire discussions of racial healing and changemaking on an even larger stage.