Studies continue to show that media fails to represent the demographics of the country. But Dr. Dyke Redmond—founder of Changing Hearts with Images and Media Empowerment (CHIME), an after school program that works with minority students to teach them everything involved in media design—believes that the problem lies in a lack of diversity among media creators.
Redmond won the 2015 “Creative Director” DILA Award and the “Winners’ Choice: Educator” award, voted upon by all 17 winners of the DILAs, and he thinks that there aren’t enough minority media producers, especially black and Latino ones. Where does that begin? His own experience indicates that it’s early academic exposure: Redmond won an arts scholarship to UCLA, and there he discovered media design and production. He was outraged no one had ever told him about it before.
That’s why Dr. Redmond runs CHIME. He’s done it for 30 years, and on any given day, the job includes a mixture of teaching pitching, storyboarding, pre-production, filming and post-production. This year, he’s working with 143 schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District, from kindergarten kids to eighth graders. He works with one group every day for 40 minutes a day, and his students produce a weekly series, “Whitey P. Presents,” on the local PBS channel KLCS. They’re gearing up for a new season, which will start in early 2016.
We sat down with the Emmy-nominated producer and teacher to talk theology, when success sours, and how the LAUSD iPad initiative could have worked.
Q: What’s the greatest setback you’ve experienced with these programs?
A: Well, we’ve had a lot, but let me give you an example. In Inglewood, we had one of our best, most successful programs. We were in every school in Inglewood every day. We had an end of the year program called the Wood Awards, and the students dressed up like attendees at the Academy Awards. We had them picked up in limousines, there was a red carpet and it became the biggest program in the entire district. One of the board members saw the success of the program and said, “I need to take it over.” She made her son emcee of the show without competing for the role or going to rehearsals or any preparation. She destroyed the program.
And what about successes?
The same night: The Wood Awards. On that red carpet, students came looking good, feeling good and saying good things about the program. They talked about learning pre-production, post-production, how to use a tripod and how to take pitches. They telling what they were learning, so you knew the success of the teaching.
Why is multimedia production the answer to problems you see in students’ lives?
Let me specify, it is especially important to minority students’ lives. Records show that minority students—Latino and black most of all—watch more media than any others in America. They’re already acquainted with and driven by media. If you take something that they’re used to, and you’re able to get their attention, that’s the first step in teaching. Then you can maybe direct them in the right way.
I was a student at UCLA on an arts scholarship, and it started with me. I knew I could draw, and I knew I could paint, but then they offered a program in “design,” which I had no conception of. I went into design, learned about industrial, photographic, graphic and even media design. I thought, “My god, why did no one tell me about this before?” So I was upset about these disciplines I knew nothing about.
Later on, I saw that there are very, very few minorities in media and design professions. I saw it as a mission, no matter where I worked or what I did, to train young minority students in the field of media. That’s how we started.
After my brother died of AIDS, I took it on as a full mission. I asked myself, ‘What would I really want to do with my life if I were to die soon?’ and I answered, ‘I’d like to change some lives.’ That’s where Heart and Soul came from, and that’s where CHIME came from.
In about every place, one of my students took my place when I left. Even though they did nationwide searches, my students were better trained than most people coming out of colleges and universities. I was very proud of that. That’s how it started, and we just keep growing.
Could you tell me more about how you measure the success of your students?
Our students in LA produce a 30-minute PBS show every week. USC doesn’t do that, UCLA doesn’t do that, and I’d put any of my students up against any college student. My students are doing green screen in elementary school. They’re doing graphics like you wouldn’t believe, photography you wouldn’t believe. The proof is in the pudding. The success is there! You can see it. They are putting it out. If you don’t believe it, you come to us and tell us what you want. They’ll do it.
First of all, they have to storyboard. That’s how we teach our academics. You have to write, read, research and then you get the equipment and shoot. Then we teach them editing, which requires some math skills. It’s all there.
You mention St. Augustine and “Imago Dei” in the description of Heart and Soul and CHIME. What role does theology play in your work and what you aspire to?
Most people don’t know that I am a pastor. Theology is very important to me. St. Augustine’s three points of life are “You must know you exist, you must know why you exist, and you must be happy about it.” Those sound simple, but how many of us succeed at that? Theology is one of my frameworks for teaching life lessons.
Another framework that’s more explicit is ACT—attitude, community, teamwork—because those are the three main problems in every single school we’re in. Improving attitudes, getting committed and working together even if you like that person or not. That becomes important because of our gang situation. We’re teaching that you can work with somebody and you don’t even have to like them. Our students not used to that concept.
How do you fund these operations?
I operate Heart and Soul Design Communications as a professional production company, so we funnel the money we make as a professional production company into CHIME and the nonprofit.
Do you have any advice for teachers looking to integrate media into their teaching or their after school program?
I do: Stop being afraid. It takes me ten times longer to train a teacher than a student. The second thing: Allow yourself to be taught. Let the student teach you. It’s easy to let Johnny grab the iPad and show you what to do. Johnny knows how it works. LAUSD bought all these iPads, but the students outdid the administration with the iPads. Why not take that intelligence and use it? Don’t fight it. If you started mentor programs and let the high school kids teach the junior high kids, it would have exploded! Instead, they’re trying to keep students out, which is a waste of time.