Jean Black was raised in the East Bay cities of Oakland and San Leandro. From an early age she was aware of the imbalance of power between instructors and students. She realized the power educators had in supporting or derailing a student’s confidence and recalls encounters with teachers in the third grade leaving her with the thought: “I can do this better.” Today she uses that insight to relate to youth, encouraging them to meet challenges with determination and a plan of action.
Believing in a relationship with the Most High who supports her and keeps her vision sharp through challenges, Jean says nothing can stop her if that relationship remains strong and vibrant. She uses faith and prayer to stay balanced and to direct her steps. Through all doubts and fears she trusts that her faith will bring her through.
Jean views her public, private and Christian-Catholic education as “mostly” positive, and credits the integration of family, meaningful religious experiences, and education as influential in her solid moral foundation. Moving with her family to Southern California after junior high, Jean graduated from high school there and enrolled at Santa Monica College studying film and psychology. She had clear goals and expectations, including her determination for making a difference in society.
Addressing conflict management and mental health through solution-based media was the direction Jean’s career would take. How we treat one another and how to build supportive communities is important to her. Centering the focus of her work around these concepts Jean set out on a journey to create films that show healthy and viable perspectives for working through personal problems and conflicts with others. Her dream was of being instrumental in keeping “Black Wall Street” concepts alive and thriving within the community. This dream keeps her motivated and gives her the courage to boldly state her intentions.
After two years in college Jean made the decision to move to New York where she lived for three years pursuing a career in film and video. A quick-study, Jean found work easily shooting films, working as a production assistant on film sets and as photographer for a nightclub. She continued to learn and gain experience and eventually became the videographer for “Strait Ice”, an up-and-coming hip hop group.
Returning to the Bay Area with potent life experiences to share, Jean began working with youth. Currently, she is the Outreach Coordinator in the Transitional Age Youth program (TAY) at the Health and Human Resource Education Center (HHREC). Jean provides research, networks with event coordinators, and assists young people struggling with mental health issues in making breakthroughs that inspire other youth to do the same. Jean’s positive impact is clear to see, youth gravitate to her creative methods of relating. Her encouragement is heartfelt when challenging youth to be courageous and take personal responsibility for their self care.
Jean is a natural collaborator and has also worked with HHREC’s Sister2Sister program. For the past two years her research has provided the group with invaluable resources for networking with like-minded organizations. She has worked with the Health Through Art program at HHREC, supporting new modalities for supporting self-exploration through art therapy workshops for youth. Youth are encouraged to step out of their comfort zones and stretch creatively in a safe place.
There were many pivotal moments in life that helped develop and reinforce Jean’s work ethic. At United Roots Impact Hub in Oakland her knowledge increased from mentorships with filmmakers from Los Angeles and New York. She credits these opportunities for learning and growth as instrumental in elevating her to an entirely new level of professionalism.
Jean says her first film “I LIKE YOU” cemented her “calling” as a filmmaker. The public comments and feedback she received validated her purpose and put her doubts about her talents to rest. Although the completion of that film was an important accomplishment in her life, Jean counts everyday successes just as important. Her ongoing success is reflected in her ability to create opportunities for youth to imagine different ways of being through platforms that include film production.
From her first job as a babysitter at 12-years-old to her current position, Jean has made many favorable lasting impressions. Today, Jean’s talents and collaborative efforts are channeled into creating meaningful and relevant activities that build confidence, skills, and self-worth. She has honed her skills to reach youth and make a difference in social justice through her work on culturally competent and responsible films.
With a keen eye out for new things to learn, Jean is ready for any challenge that adds knowledge, skills, and abilities to her already impressive toolbox. According to Jean: “Opportunities to grow present themselves daily. You just have to be open to receiving the goodness of life. The hundreds of little steps that bring us closer to our goals is where the applause belongs. Being able to share that goodness with our communities is the perfect celebration.”