Originally published on Rasmuson Foundation’s website on January 25, 2022.
For immediate release
Jan. 25, 2022
Contact: Angela Cox, 907-334-0510
Anchorage, AK – In January 2020, Rasmuson Foundation gathered with Alaska Black leaders to discuss critical issues and how the Foundation could be a closer partner. The conversations continued throughout the year, and a need for more positive media on and told by Black Alaskans was highlighted.
The Foundation is excited to announce the rollout of Black in Alaska, a multimedia project that shares stories of Alaskans who are Black through interviews, photos and short videos. Participants are from all over the state, and represent diverse backgrounds in age, gender and socioeconomic status. They include doctors, educators, entrepreneurs, nonprofit leaders, pioneers, a chef, a truck driver and faith leaders. Through storytelling, this project aims to dismantle stereotypes and create a deeper connection between the Black community and fellow Alaskans. Stories, photos and other media will live on Black in Alaska’s website, blackinalaska.org, and be shared on Facebook and Instagram. In coming months, we expect to share stories of 50 Alaskans.
A working committee made up of Alaska Black leaders directed and shaped the project, developing a pool of potential participants to feature. Working committee members are: Fairbank’s Bill Bailey of Alyeska Pipeline Service Co.; retiree Bernard Gatewood, who currently serves on the Greater Fairbanks Community Hospital and The Alaska Community Foundation boards; retired Anchorage municipal health and social services leader Jewel Jones; YWCA of Alaska CEO Theresa Lyons; and Renee Wardlaw, senior director of corporate compliance and associate general counsel for Bristol Bay Native Corp.
“At one of the Foundation’s convenings with Black leaders, someone raised their hand and suggested a media project that tells the stories of Black Alaskans,” said Angela Cox, who led the project as Rasmuson Foundation vice president of external affairs. “If you are Black in Alaska, you can often feel misrepresented or unseen. Our goal with this project is to help change that.”
Nominate someone or share your own story for possible inclusion in the project here.
“The Black in Alaska project has provided an incredible opportunity to spotlight the diversity of the Black community in the Far North,” Jewel Jones said.
Rasmuson Foundation teamed up with local artists and other creatives to bring Black in Alaska to life. The production team is led by Jovell Rennie, an Anchorage-based photographer and co-owner of Akela Space, a gallery in downtown Anchorage. Rounding out the production team is producer Willie Dalton, writer Sydney Stokes and videographer Thomas McIntyre.
“To me the experience of being Black in Alaska is unlike being Black anywhere else. It’s a collection of blackness from so many other areas: Sudan, Trinidad, Africa, Caribbean, other countries. Some have a rich history in the South. Some are now homesteaders in Alaska,” Rennie said. “This project celebrates how we come together to experience a collective blackness that is uniquely Alaskan. Stories matter.”
In addition to Rasmuson Foundation, the project is supported by Alaska Airlines, The Alaska Community Foundation, Alaska Humanities Forum and Akela Space. Jontue Hollingsworth, a local designer, created the logo and designed supporting graphics and the website, with Vern Smith as web developer.
“I’m honored to be part of what I hope becomes an ongoing community project,” Rennie said. “My goal is to tell stories in a thoughtful manner, and that reflect the integrity and dignity and the joy of the participants. And it’s my hope others are compelled to share their stories, too.”
Follow along as we share more of this project. Meet the people, listen to their stories and get a glimpse of what it means to be Black in Alaska.
About the Foundation
Rasmuson Foundation aims to promote a better life for all Alaskans. Main funding areas are solutions to homelessness, health care, the arts, organizational and community development and human services including projects to address domestic violence, child abuse and services for seniors and people with disabilities. The Foundation was created in 1955 by Jenny Rasmuson to honor her late husband E.A. Rasmuson.