Women's Corner Presents: Pop Culture Collaborative
Meet the duo changing the way we see things in media.
Pop Culture Collaborative
With passion for diverse storytelling and the desire to change, Bridgit Antoinette Evans and Tracy Van Slyke plan to alter the entertainment industry. With lack of diversity in television, movies, theater, and all other mediums, the newly formed Pop Culture Collaborative brought Tracy & Bridgit on board to lead the way towards change.
The Pop Culture Collaborative represents an innovative hub for high impact partnerships and grants designed to help organizations and individuals leverage the reach and power of pop culture for social justice goals. By driving authentic, just narratives about people of color, immigrants, refugees and Muslims in the media – we are helping to shift how mass audiences understand the past, grasp the present, and imagine an inclusive future.
With the vision and backing of a bold set of investors and managing partners, we are building a five-year, multi-million-dollar fund to advance this vital work – and accelerate the impact of artists, social justice advocates, culture change strategists, tech innovators, academics and more to affect change through entertainment and narratives in mass media.
How It All Started
Influences from childhood made a huge impact for Bridgit when her mother instilled a notion at the dinner table, “you can do anything you want in the world but you have to be improving the world”. Storytelling was vital to Bridgit, as someone who wanted to be an actor and create stories, “it embedded the question in me of how a story, a play for instance, could elevate or profoundly change me or you. And my career has been spent, investigating that question”.
Similarly, for Tracy, “my parents wanted me to be a nice person and to make change in the world and do good in the world”. After a career in journalism, media production, and grassroots organizing, she knew what was next. “My entire professional career, it’s always centered around storytelling and how millions of people want to create a just and equitable world for everyone”. Years later she would author a report called “Spoiler Alert” which detailed how social movement could connect to the power of pop culture.
From such experiences, Tracy and Bridgit were inspired to help run Pop Culture Collaborative and start their podcast, WONDERLAND.
Can You Hear Me Now?
The ladies had an idea, diverse storytelling on a large scale. “To spread awareness of the harmful narratives and the solution to the lack of justice in the industry, the ladies had an idea: diving down the narrative rabbit hole on a large scale via a podcast."
Merging the social justice movement and the entertainment industry could create a new conversation in an immersive way. They turned to audio. WONDERLAND was created wherein experts explore connections made between pop culture, human nature, and social change.
“We started with the idea of how to create that space. When we researched how to have those conversations and give them to different audiences it just really melded very well with what was at the time the beginning of the resurgence of audio experience, podcast, radio, storytelling, etc. and what we realized was that audiences listened and could learn from inside of a podcast really differently than a video or some type of medium”.
And a rolodex of guests will surely keep the conversation going, with backgrounds ranging from social movements, journalism, to psychology. The audience will hear a wide range of experience and points of view.
“And sometimes the conversation is intimate and reflective and sometimes its robust and sparkling and we’re really excited for audiences to get to dive down the rabbit hole of all these ideas and get to know all these different people who are doing amazing work and are learning from each other in these conversations”.
This is the year that women need to be believed Tracy thinks “the stories of so many women coming out cannot be set up for immediate dismissal”. In an industry that has been so heavily white and male, the duo hopes to change that. “One thing that we are really focused on at the collaborative is the intersection of gender and race”. And although many women have spoken out there is a demographic missing, women of color.
Bridgit applauds Anita Hill, who at a recent speaking engagement pointed to the role that the entertainment industry could play in helping create a different baseline of understanding sexual harassment and what it looks like.
Bridgit and Tracy were happy to congratulate a slew of deserving story tellers who were recently nominated for Golden Globe Awards; Sterling K. Brown, Issa Rae, and the animated movie, Coco. “But overall we are really actually disappointed that this year’s Golden Globes feel more like a step back more than progress”.
Diversifying the people who get to tell the stories, creates new stories that reflect a different kind of America that we want to build “an inclusive America we are all striving for”. But they applaud the television shows that are doing it right, “Blackish, The Good Place, Queen Sugar, Insecure”.
“I am incredibly fascinated by This Is Us because the response to it, it’s one of the most watched shows on television, the response is so deeply rooted in catharsis, the struggles and triumphs of this family. What does it say about we as American need from our television shows if they are bawling after each episode?”.
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Nora Ephron would live by a credo, “everything is copy”, where you own the things that happen to you and you get to control the narrative. Tracy lives by, and instills in her son, responsible creativity, “My son who is almost seven will often critique TV shows that don’t have enough brown people and so we talk about the stories you’d create that would solve that problem”.
And it’s worked, “I think that’s something that whenever he sees something wrong or unjust not only does he critique it, he does something to create a better version of what it should be”. Bridgit doesn’t forget her mother’s credo, “I think my mother’s mandate ‘go where you want to, be who you want to, do what you want to’ but how are you improving the world by doing it? That’s the thing I am living every day and what I pass along in a lot of my speeches that I do and the learning experiences I create”.
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