We Are Brown Girls Doc Mafia
Brown Girls Doc Mafia (BGDM)’s mission is to nurture, amplify, and invest in the creative capacity and professional success of BIPOC* women and nonbinary people working in the documentary industry.
An intersectional documentary industry where people of color chart new paths, tell our own stories, and thrive in power and abundance.
While attending Good Pitch New York in October 2015, Iyabo Boyd was shocked: though the majority of attendees at most documentary events (at the time) were predominantly white, she noticed dozens of other Black women present that were unfamiliar. The multitude of new faces sent a rush of excitement through her. During the event, Iyabo approached each woman, introducing herself and wrangled them to join her for a drink at a nearby bar afterwards.
As they got to know each other that night, they saw how united they were in their shared experiences in the industry: they had each spent their careers feeling isolated, tokenized, and undervalued. The meeting helped them realize that they weren’t alone, and they rejoiced in the connection, memorializing it with a photo.
That night, Iyabo posted the photo on Facebook with the tagline “First meeting - Black Girls Doc Mafia”. The post blew up with likes and excited comments from the doc community. It also inspired South Asian filmmakers Farihah Zaman and Senain Keshgi to form an impromptu Facebook group dubbed “Desi Girls Doc Mafia” that grew to over 25 South Asian filmmakers (plus Iyabo) in less than 24 hours! Iyabo quickly realized that they'd be more powerful together and suggested they combine forces and change their name to “Brown Girls Doc Mafia,” opening up the potential for all women and non-binary people of color to build community together.
Brown Girls Doc Mafia operated underground for three years and grew exponentially through back channels and word of mouth. In 2018, the group unveiled itself at that year’s Sundance Film Festival with 60 members in attendance. There we held a private strategic planning session where members discussed the future of BGDM. Out of this session, through feedback surveys from the group, and a BGDM board retreat, we identified our community’s challenges and barriers, and defined our overarching purpose and programming opportunities.
Now an official 501c3 non-profit, and with 5,000+ members all over the world, the “Mafia” has grown into a movement.
We express our mission and march toward our vision through a set of active principles that collectively guide us and our membership.
Build A Home
Our community members experience multiple identities (race, gender, and class, among others) and live at the intersection of many systems of oppression (i.e. anti-Black racism, homophobia, ableism, etc).
BGDM builds a "home" for replenishment, knowledge sharing, growth, and opportunity in order to bolster our collective strength and to provide a sense of safety and belonging.
BIPOC women and non-binary artists and professionals often share experiences of being ignored, overlooked, underutilized, minimized or dismissed.
BGDM provides a platform for artists and industry stakeholders impacted by race and gender-based discrimination, and we leverage our resources to help them shine. We want our members and their work to be recognized, celebrated, tracked, and invested in by the greater documentary community.
Access All Spaces
Despite our numbers, talent, skillset, and experience, BIPOC women and nonbinary people still face barriers to enter and to succeed in many industry workplaces, production sets, creative spaces, networking environments, and funding institutions.
BGDM works behind the scenes to break down traditional barriers and facilitate access to crucial spaces where relationships form, ideas develop, and talents shine. We also aim to ensure that members have the opportunity to be part of important conversations in which we are seen and our voices are heard.
BIPOC women and nonbinary people entering the documentary industry, — many through self-funded and independent films, often have few spaces to expand our abilities and creative pursuits to build robust careers.
BGDM prioritizes knowledge-sharing, resource exchange, skill-building, and professional development to prepare our members for longitudinal, sustainable careers.
Centering creativity gives credence to the brilliant ideas, visionary images, and transcendent stories produced by our communities.
BGDM strives to cultivate and challenge our members’ creativity by presenting opportunities that enrich their craft and value their creative potential without tokenism so they can bring to life authentic and groundbreaking stories.
Unleash Power + Claim Impact
In an industry and society that continues to lag behind in its recognition and support for BIPOC women and non-binary artists and professionals, measuring impact is critically necessary to create change.
BGDM commits to holding the mirror up to our successes, as individuals and as collective, through the rigorous tracking, analyzing, and reporting on our progress toward our vision of a world of boundless creativity, equitably experienced. By unapologetically sharing our impact, we prove the limitless capabilities of our members as well as the extensive need for change in the documentary film industry.
Our industry is in a very transitional, exciting time. We’re past due for some major shifts in terms of where the 'powers that be' place value—let’s keep rewriting that narrative.
- Iyabo Boyd
*BIPOC is an acronym standing for “Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.” The term has become more popular as a way to highlight the divergent or shared needs and concerns of these distinct communities.