What is UNCODE? A Gorgeous and Global Look at the Beauty of Black Creativity
Redefining what it means to be black...
S. Ali and Myisa Graham wanted to counter what they saw as limited portrayals of Black life globally. Both experienced and established creatives, the Grahams pooled their talents and their resources to create a project that highlighted the inventive spirit, thriving sense of community and boundless creativity of Black people all over the world. So they created UNCODE, a digital documentary series highlighting the presence, global influence, and varied interests of the African diaspora.
“UNCODE was created to highlight the presence, global influence, and varied interests of the African diaspora," explains Ali. "We recognized the need for more positive content made for minorities, specifically people of color. There are so many different types of positive, brilliant, beautiful, and passionate people of African descent, but we’re inundated with negative, monolithic images of black folks in the media. It has to be taking a toll on our mental well-being. In an effort to provide a healthy counterbalance, we wanted to find and share collections of stories that offer comprehensive views of our incredibly diverse communities."
After extensive research, the Grahams recognized trends regarding how Black people consume digital content and interact on digital platforms--more often via cellphones than more "traditional" means of accessing the Web.
"We quickly realized that we’d best serve our audience by providing short-form video meant to be viewed on a phone or tablet and easily shared online," says Ali, who used his connections from time working at Amazon, Beats By Dre and Apple to build a network of friends and advisors who could help shape Myisa's concept into what would become UNCODE.
“In a nutshell, we saw an opportunity to tell real stories about normal people, doing what they do, says Myisa. "If the phrase 'you can’t be what you can’t see' holds true, we want to hold up a mirror in effort to remind one another of how deeply beautiful, resilient and healthy our community is."
Award-winning filmmaker Crystle Roberson joined the UNCODE team as executive producer. "I’ve been a full-time filmmaker for over 10 years and every film & TV project I’ve ever served has been scripted," she shares. "But I can’t ignore the power of the documentary. Of the real true to life stories happening all around me. The true stories that inspire the screenwriter’s tale. We are starting an UNCODE collective that will allow us to work with filmmakers, editors, camera men, photographers, graphic artists and storytellers. We are excited to bring more creatives on board with a passion for these stories, who can help gather a variety of content all over the country and the world."
"Luckily, because of my background in photography we had the basics we needed to get started with filming almost right away," says Myisa. "It’s a pretty run-and-gun setup; we find people to feature, discuss potential story angles on said subject, schedule shoot times and shoot it. It’s a simple process, but it's definitely tough. Working as a two-man team handling every step of production is no easy feat but I think we’re finding a rhythm."
"It’s necessary to hold a mirror to every limb of the black body and there are countless stories to be told," adds Roberson. "Africans, upon arrival in America, were robbed of identity; and have been recreating it ever since. Knowing oneself is one of the most important quests of one’s life. That’s why this project is so necessary. Right here. Right now. We can record and archive our stories, our complexities, our beauty and our flaws. Our humanity as black people."
"This is my protest, this is my rebellion, I feel good about that, I feel proud about that. This project challenges to completely suspend judgement of other people. It’s made me more curious more open, more vulnerable, more emotional, (lol) overall I think it has made me more aware of my time on earth and with people, and the importance of the impact we leave behind once we’re gone.”