Recently, Knotch has produced our ongoing series called Own Your Voice, which profiles and highlights the stories behind the storytellers at top brands. In honor of Black History Month, we’re launching a special edition of our series: Black Stories Matter. This will highlight Black storytellers and share the importance of their personal stories. Hear now from Ken Gibbs, Head of Series Social at Prime Video.
In my mother’s basement in Mattapan, Massachusetts where I started exploring the Internet via AOL chat rooms and warez sites.
When I was living off campus in my senior year and I got a call back from Philippe Wamba. I had emailed him about a job at Africana.com, a dot com opportunity that I discovered in the newspaper of all places (I’m dating myself here), and he called back to invite me to interview for the position. It was the first step in my career as a digital professional.
Reading. I’ve always been a voracious reader since elementary school and always wanted to be an author, so much so that one of my majors in college was English, Professional Writing. I went from wanting to write novels, to scripts, but in college realized the Internet was the one medium where you could tell stories with text, audio, images, video or all combined.
Omar T. Williams. He was my best friend throughout high school until he was killed in a car accident the day before Thanksgiving in our junior year. I was a knucklehead before meeting Omar on the first day of freshman year, but we became fast friends with plans of attending Morehouse College together when we graduated. Though neither one of us would make it to Morehouse, the president of the college came to Omar’s funeral and draped him in a sweatshirt from the school. The president had only met Omar when he visited the school on the HBCU college tour, but the loss he felt made me realize the possibilities they saw in all of us young Black men that we didn’t even see in ourselves at times. It motivated me to keep pushing and go on to do some of the things that Omar and I had dreamed of.
I think the only brands who got it right had public plans of action that were clearly thought out with measurable impact – like the 100 million dollar investment from Netflix in Black banks. In 2021, brands need to make race and equity a constant part of their business - not just reactionary posts when riding waves of racial solidarity. They also need more white voices speaking to white people, as it can’t just be the victims of the injustice and racism that speak about these problems.
The best stories come from employees who recognize they’re at a brand that treats them fairly.
#BLX (pronounced Blocks), a series I created at BET with J.P Lespinasse and Jomo Davis. We literally walked with celebrities on the blocks they grew up on as they told stories about how the environment molded them into the person they are today. It was also a subtle commentary on gentrification, because how much the environment had or hadn’t changed over the years told another kind of story.
Prime Video has a number of Black stories that are going to move the needle in 2021, most notably with Coming 2 America next month, but I also think people are going to be talking about The Underground Railroad. What Barry Jenkins has done with his adaptation of Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is just incredible.