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    Black Lives / Black Lungs

    by Lincoln Mondy 1461200334000

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      Quick summary of the idea

      Black Lives / Black Lungs is dedicated to investigating the successful tactics the tobacco industry utilized to target the black community with menthol tobacco products. The project launched online in March and the conversation will be cultivated online until the release of a short film in the summer of 2016. 

      I am submitting on behalf of:

      A project of my own personal design and execution

      Affiliated organization name, if any:

      Truth Initiative (fellowship project)

      Is the organization you are representing a 501c3 nonprofit?


      Tax ID (EIN for US nonprofits)


      Are you an employee or a board member of this nonprofit?


      This is the specific issue my idea addresses:

      Smoking-related illnesses are the number one cause of death in the African-American community. Overall, more than 88 percent of African-American smokers (ages 12+) smoke menthol cigarettes, compared to 26 percent of white smokers. 

      I have a personal connection to this idea because:

      I had the unique experience of growing up biracial and seeing different tobacco use from my white family than my black family. All of my black family smoked menthol cigarettes if they were smokers, while my white family dipped or smoked non-menthol cigarettes. Sometimes I wondered why this was the case, but never put too much thought into it. As a kid, I could most likely identify the green and white branding of a pack of Newports without pause. It wasn't until interning with Truth Initiative that I learned my experience was not unique. I learned that menthol cigarettes were strategically targeted to the black community, and that my personal connection was the effect of a successful infiltration into the black community by the tobacco industry. 

      The scale of the issue, and my solution, is:


      Here is my solution (how I propose to address the issue above):

      I believe in the power of storytelling. While everything that my film will cover is public record, there's a disconnect between the existing evidence and the publics knowledge of the issue. When creating my project I was disturbed to learn that a large portion of my peers had no idea about the disproportionate menthol usage rates, the tobacco industry's history of predatory advertising, or the impact menthol cigarettes have had on our community. My project aims to educate and mobilize. 

      *Draft* Storyboard for the film 

      • History of advertising practices 
      • Strategic philanthropy by Tobacco Companies (donating to HBCUS, NAACP,  Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, etc.) 
      • Tobacco Industry's power in politics (CBCF, Campaign Donations, etc) 
      • Exclusion of menthol in 2009 Tobacco Control Act 
      • What are we doing? 
        • Highlighting all of the important work on the issue by public health orgs, social justice activists, and young people. What's next? 
      My solution is:

      Being implemented and refined (already launched)

      My solution will have the following impacts on my local or global community:

      The biggest impact will be knowledge. If more people knew about the predatory and disturbing practices the tobacco industry took to target their community, I believe they will be motivated to seek cessation services. This knowledge will hopefully reignite the conversation regarding the banning of menthol products in the United States. My goal is to create a film that builds a movement. 

      My solution has had the following traction to date:

      The project's launch video was featured by The Huffington Post, NowThisNews, international radio shows, and other media outlets. 

      I have read hundreds of *positive* comments online about the launch video that can be grouped by the following themes: 

      • "I had no idea"
      • "This angers me"
      • "I'm trying to quit"
      • "We need to talk about this" 


      • The NowThisNews video covering my project has 99,360 views. 
      • The launch video has over 3,700 views.
      • The HuffPost feature on my project has over 6,900 social shares. 

      If my idea wins, I would use the $25,000 prize to support my solution in the following way (please be as specific as possible, using exact cost breakdowns when appropriate):

      $5,000: Hire a professional video editor to improve color, sound, and quality of film after completing the film.

      • While I’m capable of editing the video, there are technical aspects of a film that would be greatly improved if a professional editor were to come in at the films completion. I believe that to be successful, the film has to be eye catching and professional. 

      $2,000: Hire graphic designer to create film poster, logo, and website.

      $8,000: Host 5-10 film screenings and events across the country.

      • Preferably at least 5 on college campuses
      • Host roundtable discussions
      • Get people involved in the discussion/widen audience

      $6,000: Budget for travel for film

      • I’m currently only interviewing people around the DMV area. While there are valuable stakeholders and government officials here, I would like to expand the project. There are stakeholders, researchers, and activists I would love to interview for the film. This money would be used to fly to their location in the U.S. and interview them for the film.

      $2,000: Branded materials

      • Stickers, cards, pens, etc. that could be handed out and mailed to people across the country to get the project and the necessary conversation out to more people.

      $2,000: Film Festival Application Submissions 

      • Application fees that will occur when submitting to film festivals. If accepted, the film being screened at festivals will expand the audience and could ignite a movement. 
      These are the biggest obstacles and potential risks facing the implementation of my solution:


      • Getting the film in front of people. 
      • The entire audio/video editing process. 
      • Keeping people engaged with the issue. 


      • One risk is that non people of color will not be motivated to watch the film or engage with the project. While my aim is to focus on the black community, I know that I will need to connect with allies to expand the projects reach. 
      If I had the following expertise, my project would be more successful:

      Film production/editing, Research, PR

      I would like to receive mentoring to fill the expertise gaps listed above:


      social justice, film,video,tobacco,menthol,tobacco regulation ,digital ,storytelling

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