Editor’s note: This double interview in our Feminist Giving IRL Series introduces Bridgit Antoinette Evans and Tracy Van Slyke, who are respectively the CEO and Chief Strategy Officer of Pop Culture Collaborative, a learning community of philanthropic resources and funders.
1. What would you like to know when you started your profession?
Bridgit Antoinette Evans: I wish I had been introduced to Octavia E. Butler much earlier in life. Octavia wrote about this concept of “positive obsession”, which she described as “not being able to stop just because you are afraid and full of doubts”. My mom and her siblings were leaders of the civil rights movement in Savannah, and while she strongly believed that her daughters could be whatever we wanted to be in the world, she was very clear that we needed to improve. the world while doing it. I wanted to be an artist, and so as a teenager I became obsessed with a question: “What is the relationship between a great story and a generalized cultural change?”
I think if I had experienced Octavia’s lyrics, which bring such dignity to the bumpy journey that artists and organizers can take on their way to our lifelong work, especially the culture change work. , when I was 16, I might have seen more clearly how my obsession could one day turn into a passionate career, which led me to the incredible job I now have at the helm of Pop Culture Collaborative, a fund that supports a powerful field of artists, organizers, strategists, researchers and funders who are just as fascinated by this issue as I am.
2. What is your biggest professional challenge today?
Bridgit Antoinette Evans: Since our launch in 2017, the Pop Culture Collaborative has offered our staff and over 200 funders, we have convened a lab to study how to resuscitate pop culture for the social change field to achieve change goals. narrative on the scale of millions. of people.
Before 2020, I would have said that our biggest challenge was to make the case in philanthropy that the work of narrative change is real work, as is the work of organization, politics and litigation. If righteous systems are the bones of a healthy society, pluralistic culture is its breath, heartbeat and muscles; one cannot flourish without the other. But the COVID pandemic, the protests for racial justice and the election season have made it clear that the next chapter in the march towards justice, democracy and our pluralistic potential is taking place in the field of culture, including culture. pop that we engage with every day. Toxic movements driven by racist and misogynistic narratives and ideas recognize this and build up the narrative infrastructure they need to fight for the future they seek. In order to strengthen the narrative power of social justice on this scale, philanthropy must make historic and transformational investments in the realm of narrative change. Our team does everything possible to increase the resources of our beneficiaries.
3. How does your gender identity inform your work?
Bridgit Antoinette Evans: As a philanthropic leader, my strategic approach is rooted in the Abundance Mindset. It’s no accident: I’m a black, queer woman whose mother and aunts brought their genius to the Deep South movement to dismantle Jim Crow. The breadth of imagination it takes to believe that social change of this magnitude is possible is astounding. Like these women, I know that no matter how fierce the backlash, it is so often black people, especially cis and trans women and non-binary people, who have the instinct for a dead end; dream and then build the future even when others lose hope. This resilient abundance practice is at the heart of my leadership at the Pop Culture Collaborative, where we recognize that BIPOC, cis and trans women, and non-binary people are the natural custodians of America’s future. From Patrisse Cullors to Crystal Echo Hawk, from Tarana Burke to Ai-jen Poo, from Ava DuVernay to Imara Jones and Storm Smith, our grantees guide millions of people through this portal moment and on the path to the pluralistic society that we are capable of becoming. Philanthropy can do more to invest in their ability to fight for narrative and political power at the national and global levels.
4. What inspires you the most about your job?
Tracy van slyke: I walked home from school every day with my nose buried in a book. My parents regularly received calls telling me that I almost got hit by a car because I never looked up when crossing the street. Combine my passion for immersive stories with growing up in a family steeped in the fights for justice, and it is only fitting that I am now a strong advocate for the power of women and the storytellers of BIPOC, leaders of the movement and pop culture fans to co-create new narrative environments that can lead us towards a pluralistic future.
I love how Pop Culture Collaborative is often the number one funder among leaders who design, test, and build fundamental narrative infrastructure. For example, when we launched, we listened to artists who knew how broken the entertainment industry was. Since then, we have invested in beneficiary partners Break the Room, Unleashing Giants and The Barcid Foundation to design alternative models of TV rooms. We have supported ARRAY Crew, ColorCreative, Yes, And Laughter Lab and Starfish Accelerator to launch new pipeline programs in the industry. All of these efforts ignore band-aid solutions and focus on innovative leadership that focuses the narrative power of BIPOC, artists, and trans, disabled and immigrant workers in Hollywood.
5. How can philanthropy support gender equity?
Tracy van slyke: At the narrative level, the gender justice movement is siled into reproductive justice, security, caregiving, equity at work, gender identity; and even race, economic strata, geography and religion. While there have been significant investments in strategic communications, it has been difficult to engage in a shared narrative analysis, vision and strategy design powerful enough to encompass the racist and patriarchal narratives ingrained in the media. mass and pop culture that underlies all of these issues and communities. This is a critical time for philanthropy to invest in the narrative infrastructure of the gender justice movement: cross-sector partnerships within mass media industries; investments in value-aligned artists as storytellers and entrepreneurs; multi-year support for cultural change strategies of BIPOC, gender justice organizations led by immigrants and trans people; and more. In addition, the Collaborative explores how to help a cross-section of gender justice leaders and artists to continuously come together in a cohort to share learnings on narrative change strategies, explore the fundamental mental models that are currently shaping the opinions of millions of people on race, patriarchy and society; building transformational relationships; and co-create a long-term narrative vision.
6. In the next 10 years, where do you see the gender equality movements leading us?
Tracy van slyke: Gender justice touches all aspects of our work and our world. It’s not just related to women; it is intrinsically linked to queer and transgender, racial, immigrant, indigenous, disability, climate and reproductive justice issues. If philanthropy invests appropriately to unleash the narrative superpowers of gender justice movements and artists to, as Bridgit puts it, “transform the narrative waters we swim in,” 10 years from now tens of millions of people will recognize that it is their job to fight for a society free from the toxicity of racist and patriarchal beliefs and systems. The gender justice movement will have played a vital role in establishing gender, racial and economic justice as societal norms; and create new ways of understanding our roles, our relationships and the way we behave towards each other. In this world, men have re-imagined themselves outside of misogynistic norms, and women, transgender and fluid people will be able to appropriate their joy and have a deep sense of belonging. We will have created the infrastructure, systems and policies to support these communities as essential and essential members of our society.
Learn more about Bridgit Antoinette Evans and Tracy Van Slyke:
Bridgit Antoinette Evans is CEO and Tracy Van Slyke Chief Strategy Officer of Pop Culture Collaborative, a philanthropic and fundraising resource learning community working to transform the narrative landscape in the United States around people of color, immigrants , refugees, Muslims and indigenous peoples, especially those who are female, queer, trans, non-binary and / or disabled.
This interview has been minimally edited.