A new multimedia project aims to improve how Black Alaskans are represented in the media and increase their visibility.
The project, called Black in Alaska, came out of a series of conversations the Rasmuson Foundation held with Black community members in the months before and after the murder of George Floyd in 2020.
Attorney Renee Wardlaw, an advisory committee member for the project, said on Talk of Alaska Tuesday that the goal is to portray stories of Black Alaskans overcoming struggles and succeeding, both for those born and raised here and for newer arrivals like herself.
She says when she arrived over a decade ago, there were 12 Black attorneys in Alaska. Now there are 19.
“And so we have so much work to be done,” Wardlaw said. “Yet I’m not entirely sure I would have stayed in the state but for those now 18 colleagues, friends and loved ones who are part of the Black attorney community wrapping their arms around me to make sure that I was successful and that, most importantly, I stayed here to expose what this career could be like to Black Alaskans coming up in the next generation.”
An important element of the project also lies in who is telling the story. The advisory committee made up of Black Alaskans identifies individuals to profile, and a diverse creative team interviews them.
The videos, photos and essays are posted on blackinalaska.org and on social media.
The project will produce 50 profiles of Black professionals and community members across the state, like Traci Gatewood, a business owner in Fairbanks.
“I have always wanted to represent — and represent positively — and try to get people to think outside of the box and the stereotypes about what we as Black people can do, either in Alaska or in the world,” Gatewood said in her profile.
Anyone can submit an individual to be profiled, as long as they live in Alaska.
The team behind the project hopes to profile a diverse range of people from different communities, age groups and careers to create more understanding about the experiences of Black people in Alaska.