YouTube's Creators For Change initiative -- which amplifies young YouTubers that are using their channels to front social change -- debuted three new videos at this year's inaugural Tribeca TV Festival. The premiere event, hosted by YouTube, was moderated by YouTube star and former American Idol contestant Todrick Hall, and showcased the work of three creators from its first class of 27 fellows. Each creator challenged conceptions of race, discrimination, and xenophobia inspired by their own position in society and hopes to fuel solidarity. Upon launch, YouTube backed the initiative with one million dollars to support their 27 creators with production grants and equipment - each received a $25,000 grant.
"In a time when the internet is criticized for fueling division and creating distrust," said Alexandria Walden, Google's counsel on free expression and human rights, told VICE Impact, "we are amping up the voices of the role models who are discussing important social issues." The goal is to show how its platform can be used to elevate relatable, yet powerful voices tackling social justice issues.
One video debuted at the FestivalThe number one video on the platform comes out of Australia from hip-hop artist L-Fresh the Lion featuring his song "Raci$t/Our World."
"Systemic racism and the legacy of colonization at the exclusion of indigenous people is not talked about in Australia and I wanted to explore what that means for today," L-Fresh said during the panel after the screening.
"These videos for me are a form of therapy. When others can connect and get something out of them it feels motivating."
The video is shot in his hometown of South West Sydney, Australia and celebrates the everyday joy communities share by believing in the strength of their diversity. But first, the viewer is confronted by an opening scene of menacing vocals. "I'm a racist," blares repeatedly from an ominous, masked man. Refreshingly, L-Fresh steps in to diffuse this symbol of universal racism with lyrics which embrace the joy of learning from all humanity:
There's so much in this world I'll never know
So I take a look around, soak it in, and double down
There's so much complexity
Why do we dumb it down?
"I try to be a small lamp in the darkness," said L-Fresh, "to inspire others to turn their lamp on. The conversation can even start in your own family. Challenge negative stereotypes. Start there."
His video was followed by Tasneem 'Tazzy' Phe's visual essay, "I Want Nothing To Do With This Country." She describes her sometimes marginalized and distressful upbringing where she endeavored to form a Muslim identity as a child between the two nations of The United States and Pakistan. She is mostly known to the YouTube community as a comedian, but this grant allowed her to branch out. She uses the poignant, yet hopeful visual essay to invites us into her notions on both home and being an outsider.
"I want better representation of Muslims in the media," said Phe. "Putting my work out there can feel daunting especially on days when there are bombings." She says she's often verbally attacked on the streets and sometime harassers call her "raghead."
"These videos for me are a form of therapy," said Phe. "When others can connect and get something out of them it feels motivating."
The final video, a nine-minute short film shot over nine months, was made by London-based film student Sam Saffold.
In "A Welcoming Place," we follow a young man with obscured intent on his murky mission to reconnect to the home of his recently deceased father. Unexpected to him, a couple lives in the home, and as they move about each other, we feel compelled to peek in the young man's unfurling rabbit hole of paranoia towards the inhabitants. By the end, we question why we ever did. Were his suspicious unfounded? Did we have a choice other than to share his bias? It successfully exploits the viewer's own bias to feel scared when confronted with difference.
Saffold whisks us along in his dark fantasy to explore xenophobia and grief.
"There is something out there, and it's different, and it's dangerous," said Saffold of the premises of many genres of film. Growing up watching suspense films, he said he thought, "Wait, I'm different, am I dangerous?"
Saffold comes from a mixed-race background and has had to navigate his identity in the racially charged climate of England. On the challenge to produce for YouTube's new platform, he expressed excitement and the feeling of intimidation. "It's important to have a good support system and hang on to the people who say, "Hey, you changed my mind about this, thanks."
"There is something out there, and it's different, and it's dangerous."
Creators for Change's playlist currently features thirteen videos from creators across the globe. The Creators For Change team also hope more viewers will feel compelled to post videos topical to social justice and provides a guide to what makes a story stick.
YouTube has partnered with VICE Impact to promote the Creators for Change program. This article was written independently by the VICE Impact editorial staff and was not paid for by YouTube.