The Storyteller Studios Producer, Chris Costello, was awarded a 2020 Mid-America Emmy Award on Saturday during a virtual ceremony. Face To Face was recognized in the 51. Short Format Program category against five other entries.
Mr. Costello said the award win would not have been possible had it not been for Dr. Wesley Robinson-McNeese putting pen to paper and creating such a powerful piece of poetry. “It is an incredible honor to have our work recognized at this level, but it is more so to receive recognition for a project that has such historical significance not just here in Springfield but across the entire country.
"It is tragic to hear Dr. Wesley Robinson McNeese’s words spoken from inside the remains of black-owned homes that were burned in the 1908 Race Riots and come to the harsh realization that, even though decades span these two events, the pain and fear felt by those families in 1908 is still felt in similar ways by black Americans today.
“This isn’t my win or even my team’s win, but a win for Wes, and a win for all the black voices in Springfield and beyond that have gone unheard for too long.”
The video shows Dr. Wesley Robinson-McNeese performing his poem Face To Face on location at the archaeological site of a row of houses burned in the race riot that took place in Springfield, Illinois, August 14 to 16 in 1908.
“I am thankful to have been part of a project that unashamedly shed more light on the Springfield, IL Race Pogrom of 1908 and its aftermath, especially calling attention to the transgenerational racial trauma most African Americans grapple with every day,” said Dr. Robinson-McNeese.
It was produced through the University of Illinois and funded by the University of Illinois Presidential Initiative To Celebrate The Impact Of The Arts & Humanities and created as a part of The Humanities Innovating New Knowledge (T.H.I.N.K.) Project.
Devin Hunter in the Department of History at the University of Illinois Springfield approached The Storyteller Studios when the video company was documenting the archaeological work of Fever River Research and the City of Springfield at the Race Riot site about creating something unique and memorable with it. It was Devin who connected Storyteller with Dr. Wesley Robinson-McNeese and his powerful poem.
Mr. Hunter said, he hoped the film and the poem would help anyone that watches it focus on the victims of the 1908 Springfield Race Riot, and especially to its lasting impact on the community and the work that needs to be done towards racial justice and equality today. “All possible credit is due to Wes, and his remarkable poem. The entire project started with his powerful words, and I'm proud that this honor may bring more attention to this amazing work.
“The film would not have been possible without a grant from the University of Illinois Presidential Initiative to Celebrate the Impact of the Arts and Humanities, which funded the film's project home of "The Humanities Innovating New Knowledge" (THINK) initiative. I want to especially thank my initiative partners, Dr. Jennie Brier at the University of Illinois Chicago and Dr. Kathy Oberdeck at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Thanks are also due to Fever River Research and the City of Springfield for facilitating the shooting of the film.”
Josh Hester, Principal & Executive Producer, launched The Storyteller Studios in 2013 and services clients in Springfield, Illinois, and across the country. Chris joined the company in 2015.
Mr. Hester said it is an honor for The Storyteller Studios to receive a Mid-America Emmy Award.
“Dr. Robinson-McNeese’s poem is remarkable. Our mission at Storyteller is to connect people, to serve the stories of others with reverence. We’re grateful to Devin Hunter, the University of Illinois, our friends at Fever River Research, the City of Springfield, and, of course, Dr. Robinson-McNeese himself. It is their trust in us that made it possible. We’re humbled by our peers in the industry for affirming our mission in this way. It means a lot. And I’m personally very proud of Chris Costello who poured his heart into this project. His talent, humility, and commitment to serving this story is certainly worthy of this recognition.”
You can find out more about The Storyteller Studios at thestorytellerstudios.com.