One of The CW's most unique community outreach efforts involves Boys & Girls Clubs of America, a 160-year-old non-profit with more than 4,700 Clubs across the country serving 4.6 million youth annually. That relationship established a new threshold April 10, through the kickoff of "Whatever It Takes: Fight For Your Voice" which also launched "Smart Girls: Growing Up Black," a video-based discussion guide designed to facilitate listening sessions and provide a safe place for youth to process their feelings through conversations that recognize and acknowledge injustices. "Whatever It Takes" is a series of virtual events where Club members interact with notables from entertainment and other backgrounds.
For the opening event, which was transmitted live via YouTube, Batwoman stars Javicia Leslie and Meagan Tandy answered questions from a quartet of Club members. Subject matter ranged from how Leslie and Tandy use their portrayals to empower other women of color, to if and how they have faced racism or sexism off-camera.
"It was fantastic… incredible," said Roman Browne, The CW's director of events and special projects. "Boys & Girls Clubs is thrilled. Javicia and Meagan thought it was amazing. Meagan (who has her own non-profit foundation for girls) fell in love with the young women moderating the event. They were so impressive. They didn't just ask a question, receive the answer and move on to the next one. They were very thoughtful and created great dialogue around each question."
"All four of you should be on our staff,' Tandy remarked near the end of the event. "You guys are coming with me!"
The CW launched its relationship with Boys & Girls Clubs four years ago, through visits by cast members from Black Lightning in Atlanta, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and other cities. At each location, the actors were asked by Club members about the series or how they landed their show business careers. "That morphed into something much bigger and broader," explained Rick Haskins, The CW's president of streaming and chief branding officer. "We're doing this to reach a greater number of kids on an ongoing basis, working with them on specific programs."
Before connecting with the "Smart Girls" initiative, Superman & Lois cast members, Tyler Hoechlin and Elizabeth Tulloch, engaged Club members in a set of events as part of The CW's "Even Superheroes Wear Masks" campaign last fall to explain how everyone can be a superhero during the pandemic and beyond. Attendees were encouraged to wear masks and maintain social distancing in public, amid an increase in new coronavirus pandemic cases. More than 4,400 Club locations also used "Even Superheroes Wear Masks" posters during the campaign period.
It was an easy call for The CW to increase its Boys & Girls Club outreach through this new project, Browne noted. "This program has young black women who are looking for an opportunity to share their voice, and (learn) how they can reach out," he continued. "No topic was off limits to them."
Here are a few examples of the topics covered during the session, and how Leslie and Tandy responded.
Playing a black superhero: "I use my voice and my platform to stand up for what I believe is right. I make sure I'm fighting for us (black women and girls). It's an honor. Women like Eartha Kitt and Halle Berry who created the opportunity for me. My purpose is to move it forward." -- Leslie
Playing a law enforcement officer: "She does it honestly and respectfully … It's nice to represent black women in law enforcement on the program. She's about what it should be … Being in this role is an opportunity to represent law enforcement and represent it well." -- Tandy
The importance of diversity on TV: "Cicely Tyson worked every day of her life doing what she loved. It was a door for all of us to walk through. There is a market for black women on TV, and people are investing millions of dollars in us … We have success stories, entrepreneur stories. I can't wait to create content because I want to show all our wonderful stories." -- Leslie
Several CW affiliates have expressed interest in doing follow-up outreach with Clubs in their markets. Haskins and Browne are coordinating those efforts, in association with Club-organized events running over the next few weeks. Segments on local newscasts or public affairs series may result. Separately, two and three-minute segments from the April 10 presentation will be placed on The CW's social media platforms.
The ideal game plan, as Haskins and Browne detailed, is to do a few national virtual presentations this year, with a goal of returning to in-person events with other CW shows in the near future. From "Smart Girls" to mental health, Boys & Girls Clubs have many initiatives in need of support. "We can certainly open up all of these things," Haskins declares. "We'd like to reach as much of our audience as possible with a message that they can look at -- and maybe somehow empower their life."
Photo courtesy of The CW.
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