For the past five years, Brown Girls Doc Mafia (BGDM) has acted as a crucial community for women and nonbinary people of color in the documentary film world, while disrupting the racist gatekeeping that plagues the industry. Now, they’re fundraising to expand their reach.
Filmmaker Iyabo Boyd founded BGDM after being pleasantly surprised to meet a group of Black women at an industry event. She personally invited them to have a drink afterward, and they uploaded a photo on Facebook with the caption, “First Meeting —Black Girls Doc Mafia.” The post quickly inspired another Facebook group for South Asian filmmakers and, ultimately, coalitions that culminated in Brown Girls Doc Mafia, which any self-identified woman or nonbinary person of color can join.
BGDM now consists of 4,000+ members who are supported through advocacy for representation and access to film festivals, professional development and workshops that foster creativity. The group also allows for mentorship and healing in a field rife with tokenization. Its growing database of members—organized according to skillset, geography, identities, languages spoken, etc.—helps Black and Brown storytellers gain visibility while upending industry stakeholders’ lazy excuse that they don’t know POC who could work on their projects. That tendency is particularly insidious during the pandemic and the international Black Lives Matter movement because BIPOC filmmakers are not hired to document this historic time even though their communities are primarily impacted.
As COVID-19 limits grant opportunities for documentaries and nonfiction organizations engage in performative allyship through hollow calls for diversity without adequate support for Black artists, BGDM keeps doing their thing. The group is looking to raise $400,000 on GoFundMe until August 31st. Donations will be dedicated to further empowering BGDM’s members through grantmaking, sustained programming, and expanded organizational infrastructure.
“COVID-19, the murders of unarmed Black folks, and the reckoning around diversity in the film industry have all deeply impacted BGDM’s members in varied ways, but we’ve held each other even closer as a community,” Boyd tells us, “I’ve never been more grateful to have a sisterhood that keeps lifting each other up and urging each other forward.”