CHICAGO’S OPEN TV TELLS INTERSECTIONAL NARRATIVES
September 6, 2019
Open Television is a platform for intersectional pilots, series and narratives. Founder and Head of Research & Development Aymar Jean Christian, and Executive Director Elijah McKinnon gave us a preview to their vision of unapologetic and brave programming, which is supported by the City of Chicago. Open TV sounds like the future — tune-in.
What was your intention in starting Open TV and why did you see a need to fill this space?
Aymar Jean Christian: I started OTV with a question. How does intersectional television develop? It’s kind of a wonky question, but the idea is that we have never had a television channel that actively developed artists and communities that are marginalized. Intersectionality is a theory developed by Black women [namely Kimberlé Crenshaw]. It’s kind of the core of Black feminist theory.
That theory was meant to describe their specific experiences as both Black and women. The idea being that those aren’t inextricably linked. So I took that and said, let’s look at Black Queer, disabled women. Let’s look at Trans people of color. Let’s look at undocumented Black people and see what we might learn about culture and also what kind of value can we create in television serving these communities. It started as a research project and now it’s blossomed into a thriving development arm for the City of Chicago.
TV is something where the viewer is looking at storytelling and seeing in this instance themselves. Talk about the power of seeing ourselves in new and kind of undocumented ways — and why that was important.
Why is that important to move culture and to move these kind of narratives forward?
Aymar: Yeah. It’s something that we hear from pretty much every from every single artist who creates a program for us, that they created this show that they had never seen before. I think about when I’m watching Pose and I am blown away simply because I really have never, seen queer family on TV before.
It’s a really powerful experience for me. I’m quite surprised, right, because I study TV, I feel like I’m super jaded. You know, it’s a tremendously powerful thing to see your people on screen. Your stories told, and, well, told artistically. It makes me feel like you belong in the country you live in.
Elijah McKinnon: Would you mind just like rephrasing the question?
I’m asking why is it important to show stories that haven’t been seen or told before and how that empowers marginalized communities to move culture and politics forward.
Elijah: Just extending upon what Aymar said, it also creates an opportunity for people to explore. I think I workshop various different kind of alternative lifestyles or relationships specifically in front of the camera and behind the camera. I think specifically when we think about our artists in Chicago, a lot of them are not only intersectional but multidisciplinary. And, um, I think, you know, a platform such as OTV is creating opportunities for some of these artists to step into different roles that they wouldn’t have necessarily been interested in or have the opportunity to.
Our leadership team is completely comprised of Black and queer and non-binary and trans, which I think is incredibly revolutionary, which it shouldn’t be, but it is. One thing that I am incredibly passionate about my leadership is making sure that OTV remains a platform that centers around our artists.