MD-based nonprofit introduces underserved children to media arts

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Robert Jackson is the founder of B-Roll Media & Arts, a nonprofit that introduces underserved children, including students with learning disabilities, to media and arts. (Courtesy Image)

By AFRO Staff

Suffering from an undiagnosed learning disability—dyslexia—made school a constant uphill battle for Robert Jackson. Media arts was his salvation—boosting his confidence and self-esteem and offering a path to a rewarding career. Now, he wants to offer that same lifeline to underserved children and those with learning disabilities.

Jackson is the founder of B-Roll Media & Arts, a Maryland-based non-profit organization. Founded in 2012, the nonprofit works with city and county organizations to provide free-of-cost media and arts training and education to underserved students aged 13 through 21, as well as to young people with learning disabilities or Individualized Educational Plans (IEPs).

“We believe that exposing youth to all the opportunities both upfront and behind the scenes in media and the arts can lead to a stable and economically secure future for them,” said Jackson, a 30-year veteran in radio, television, and film production, in a statement. He added, “They will be exercising their creativity doing work that they enjoy.”

That is the hope Asmaret and Kenji Darby have for their four children. The couple were excited when their oldest, Lion Darby, a 16-year old junior at Westlake High School in Waldorf, Md., exhibited a strong artistic streak at an early age.

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“He was drawing pictures of squirrels at age 2,” his mother said.

And, as he continued to grow older, so too did his affinity for expressing himself through art—drawing, writing and music. So, when she saw the flyer at her library for free extracurricular classes in the media arts offered by B-Roll Media & Arts Inc. she immediately applied on behalf of her then 13-year-old budding actor, musician, and writer.

“It started out as a hobby for me,” said Lion Darby of his forays into creative arts. “But at B-Roll I learned so much. Now, I’m working toward making media arts a career.”

The potential is certainly there. During his first stint in film-making at B-Roll, Lion was part of a team that won a “Promising Film-Maker” award from the Prince George’s County Annual Heritage Film Festival for a six-minute production called “One Tough Time.”

His parents thanked Jackson for helping to nurture that potential.

“We want to express our gratitude to Mr. Jackson,” said Mrs. Darby. “He has guided Lion to polish his skills and to visualize a future in the creative world he loves.”

Jackson’s experience has come from more than three decades working in the media at networks and productions such as BET, NPR, CNN News, National Geographic, and NBC’s Today Show, Meet the Press, Nightly News, and The Chris Matthews Show, among others.

Now retired, he works to share the skills of a lifetime with young people through B-Roll. In nearly 10 years, B-Roll has provided more than 250 youth with qualified, comprehensive and applied experience in film, television, audio engineering, art and music from in-house and at-large staff members.

While B-Roll responded to the Covid-19 pandemic by offering virtual training in 2020, it has since returned to in-person instruction. Slots will be available for courses this fall that include photography and film-making, among others. Those interested in enrolling are invited to visit the website at B-RollMedia.org for updates.

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