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Firelight Media Launches a New Community Action Division



Our Mission
From the Freedom Riders to Emmett Till to the American Indian Movement, we at Firelight are engaged in telling stories about pivotal events, movements, and actors in American history. For us, media can transform passive viewers into active citizens. Through film broadcasts, community engagement campaigns, transmedia applications and mentorship programs, Firelight Films and its non-profit sister group Firelight Media are dedicated to harnessing the power of story-driven media as tools for education and action.

For that reason, Firelight has launched a Community Action Division that will combine our proven track record in educating and recruiting diverse audiences to reflect on important historical events and draw parallels with contemporary social justice issues. Engagement specialist Sonya Childress spearheads this effort. In 2003, Sonya led a range of Firelight campaigns for films such as Favela Rising (2005), Africa Unite (2008), and the acclaimed Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes (2006), the latter which is often cited as setting a high standard for film-based community engagement campaigns. She returned to Firelight in 2011 to launch the new division, manage the community engagement campaign for Nelson’s award-winning film Freedom Riders, and to support the work of filmmakers in the Producers' Lab.

A Legacy of Community Action
Firelight has implemented strategic outreach efforts around its films for over a decade. One film, Beyond Brown served as a centerpiece for reflection on the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education by such organizations as the NAACP, the National Baptist Convention, and the Children's Defense Fund after airing nationally on PBS in May 2004. And the massive card and letter-writing campaign for The Murder of Emmett Till, which raised the profile of the presence of witnesses unearthed in the film, was cited by the U.S. Justice Department as influential in its decision to reopen of the historic murder investigation.

While many of Firelight’s films examine pivotal moments in American history, we are equally committed, and adept, at helping communities use media to grapple with contemporary human rights issues such as criminal justice reform, immigration, marriage equality, youth violence and the cradle to prison pipeline.

Our Services
Firelight’s Community Action Division meets the needs of producers, organizers, audiences and philanthropists by connecting high-quality films with concrete and innovative ways for audiences to become inspired, educated, and mobilized into action. The Community Action Division primarily services producers by conceiving and implementing well-structured, multi-platform community engagement efforts around a range of social issues. A team of documentary and new media specialists will be on hand to assist projects at various stages of development. Our services include:

  • Consultation on the elements of a successful community engagement campaign (including advice on potential goals, campaign partners, materials, public programs, broadcast and distribution strategy, and new media applications);

  • Implementation of the campaign elements (from strategic planning meetings through evaluation, or discrete pieces the effort); and

  • Workshops and presentations that share best practices of multi-platform engagement with the field.


  • For a fee, Independent Producers seeking outreach specialists can retain Firelight’s Community Action Division to advise on or implement full-scale multi-platform engagement campaigns. The Division will capitalize on Firelight’s proven community engagement strengths – employing innovative promotional strategies to bring non-traditional audiences to public television, working closely with community based organizations that serve people of color, and providing exciting opportunities for engagement both online and offline.

    For information on Firelight’s Community Action Division, please contact Sonya Childress at sonya@firelightmedia.org.