To kick off 2011, I thought it would be useful to highlight a video for change project in process and to hear from its producers about the planning for, organization, and outreach of the project, in this case a contest, and what they hope to accomplish with it.

Our allies at Breakthrough use media to inspire equality, justice and respect in the US and beyond. Late last year they launched the I AM THIS LAND video contest which bore these simple rules and guidelines: make a video about diversity and include the phrase: “I am this land”; tell friends to vote for your video and; win prizes including $2500, games, and even a 1-Day internship at SPIN Magazine. The contest deadline has been extended to January 21st.

For a behind the scenes look at the contest I caught up with one of the producers of the contest and online media maven for Breakthrough, Ms. Crissy Spivey. The interview was conducted via email.

Breakthrough works on a diverse portfolio of social justice issues including ending violence against women and immigration and racial justice in the U.S.  How did you decide to focus this contest on diversity? Well, 2010 didn’t leave us feeling as hopeful as we would have liked.  Headline after headline showed instances of racial profiling, bullying, anger during the midterm elections, and that behavior is not positive or healthy for the good of this country.  Launching the contest as we left 2010 was the time to also leave those sentiments behind. It’s time for people to celebrate themselves, and each other instead of tearing one another down.

Prior to I AM THIS LAND had Breakthrough ever organized a contest or user-generated media campaign? We have never run a user-generated video contest before as we usually produce our own content: documentary videos, animations, video games and more to teach a number of issues.  But because the technology is so accessible and empowering for individuals it was something we have always we wanted to explore.

Why did you choose to host a contest for this campaign rather than create your own video? Why was it important to get user-generated voices on this topic specifically? In talking about looking around at your surroundings, and thinking about how diversity impacts you – no one can do that but the individual. We wanted people to take pause, think about their own life, and how letting in others impacts the country and the world for the better.

For those organizations who may be considering a contest for their own cause in 2011, what is great/ challenging about hosting a video contest? Putting on a video contest is no easy feat!  There is a level of saturation online – there are many campaigns asking people to participate and become engaged, so there are a lot of other opportunities out there for people to pick and choose from.  But with that said, we’ve found, with patience (and promotion!) people will find what interests them.  It’s worth it when that first submission comes in, and you see that people are really thinking about the issues.

How did you get some of the high profile people involved with the promotion and judging of the contest? Did Breakthrough know them already or did you forge new connections as a result of the contest? (Author’s note: Celebrity participants include actors such as Michael Urie of “Ugly Betty”, musicians Sharon Jones and DJ Spooky, journalists including Maria Hinojosa and Malcolm Campbell of SPIN Magazine and bloggers such as Julie Zeilinger of

We utilized all our resources!  As a small organization, that’s the best thing you can do.  I’ve found that sometimes you know more people than you think you do and all you have to do is ask!  We knew some of the people involved in the project before, for example, we interviewed Julie Zeilinger from FBomb for Breakthrough’s b-listed blog last year, and DJ Spooky is a great friend to the organization. Other artists came through friends of the organization who were immediately on board for the project.  In addition, any opportunity to meet individuals at conferences, or people we thought would have an interest proved beneficial.  And lastly,  we were able to secure a few relationships through Fuel, a company that helps to match artists with nonprofits that are working on causes they have an interest in.

I know that Breakthrough did a lot of outreach to ally organizations to ask for their support for the contest. Could you share a bit about how you went about asking for support and how it’s benefiting the contest?
We have a great pool of partners on board with diverse issue areas – we thought that approach fit the mission of the project. And each partner has a different audience.  We wanted to reach as broad of an audience as possible.  The partners have been great in promoting the contest on their list-serves, social networking sites and websites which has been crucial in us getting the word out. Also, we have been able to uplift the work several of our partners are doing on diversity by releasing I AM THIS LAND interviews during the run of the contest.

What are the long term goals for I AM THIS LAND and what role does video play in accomplishing those goals? We really wanted to start of 2011 with positive energy and I think that’s exactly what we’re doing.  And in the comments portion under the videos, it seems that viewers are watching, voting and thinking about what role diversity plays in their own life.  As far as the long term goal, we hope to re-frame the discussion in this country further, and as far as a part 2 to I AM THIS LAND, you never know!


If you have other questions for Breakthrough about the I AM THIS LAND campaign or comments, please share them below. I’ll do my best to facilitate answers and responses.

6 thoughts on “Breakthrough’s Video Contest About Diversity in the U.S.

  1. Here's a message from Breakthrough about the winning video announced March 1, 2011:

    The winner for the I AM THIS LAND contest on diversity is ‘Role Call,’ ( a fun and thought-provoking video made by a team of students and alumni at Flushing International High School (FIHS) in Queens, New York. The MTV-style video – of a student in class daydreaming about gender, cultural expression, and racial stereotypes – won the judges over.

    “The video was created in response to several incidents of violence in our school, and our desire to use media to promote respect and tolerance in our school and beyond,” said teacher Dillon Paul. "Our students come from approximately 40 different countries and speak 20 different languages. Like most high schools, however, cultural differences, sexual and gender identity can be sources of discomfort and fear, leading to bigotry, bullying and violence.” From Jean Franco Vergaray Franco (a student, and Lead Director and Editor on the film), “That we could portray one person being all these different personalities, all these different identities, was just a way to say, diversity is okay. People shouldn't be labeled.”

    The Breakthrough media team met with winners and we were really touched by their story and determination to push for tolerance. Watch the video interview at FIHS high school here :

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  3. We think having a video contest about diversity is a great idea, especially in this pluralist society that we live in. We also believe a certain level of skill and professionalism is required to enter and to have a chance to win. We would like to share with you that has created a website in which strives to reward amateur video contestants for their efforts. The prize may be smaller compared to other contests, but a diverse number of amateur contestants have more of a chance to win. In addition, this is an ongoing video contest, therefore, every participant that posts a video has an ongoing chance to win, as long as he or she decides to keep their video on the website. And as a Latino immigrant to this country, it is essential to me that the foundation of our website is the promotion of diversity and humor across cultures and languages. Our first contest winner, for example, submitted a family video in Spanish. You can check us out on

    Thank you for the opportunity to share this information with you.
    Carlos F. Martinez
    Lori Batten

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