Starbucks commissioned award-winning PBS filmmaker Stanley Nelson to make a film to show as part of their bias training this week.
Nelson is the founder of Firelight Media and the director of several documentaries about the African-American experience, including “Freedom Riders,” "The Black Panthers" and “Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Black Colleges and Universities.”
In an interview with Indiewire, Nelson said that Starbucks came to him on the recommendation of NAACP director Sherrilyn Ifill and that he was motivated to contribute to the bias training workshops. “I felt that there was a need to understand how minority people can feel in these situations,” he said. “There wasn’t an acknowledgement of the different ways we felt. It’s one of many things in our country we don’t talk about.”
The result is an 8-minute short film entitled “Story of Access." (watch above) Along with several other short films in which the rapper Common talks about what it feels like to belong and recognizing your own bias, Nelson's short film features African-Americans of all ages sharing their experiences of public discrimination and the ways in which implicit bias makes them feel at school, at work, and in public spaces.
Nelson says he spent four days interviewing more than 40 people. In the process, he said that he was surprised by an unexpected observation from a handful of white subjects who admitted they didn't really understand racial discrimination because they'd never experienced it themselves. He included one such subject in his film.
"It’s important that people understand that in some ways, the civil rights movement was a fight for access to public spaces,” Nelson told Indiewire. “Although we do have access to public spaces — nobody says, ‘You can’t come in here’ — there’s still sense that African-Americans are not welcome.”
Watch the film, read more of the interview with Nelson at Indiewire, and share your thoughts in the comments below.