Meet Robert Jackson, the founder of B-Roll Media & Arts, a Maryland-based 501(c)(3) non-profit organization founded in 2012. Via his foundation, Jackson, a 30-year veteran in radio, television, and film production, works with city and county organizations to provide free-of-cost media and arts training and education to underserved students aged 13 through 21, as well as to young people with learning disabilities or Individualized Educational Plans (IEPs).
When Lion Darby, a 16-year old junior at Westlake High School in Waldorf, MD, comes from a family that respects and supports the arts and creativity. His parents, Asmaret and Kenji, were delighted when Lion, the oldest of their four children, exhibited a strong artistic streak at an early age.
“He was drawing pictures of squirrels at age 2,” says his mother. As he grew older, she noted, his interest in expressing himself through all the creative forms — drawing, writing, music, and acting continued to grow.
So, when Ms. Darby saw a flyer at her library for free extracurricular classes in the media arts offered by B-Roll Media & Arts, Inc. she immediately applied on behalf of her then 13-year-old budding actor, musician, and writer.
In nearly 10 years, B-Roll has provided more than 250 youth with qualified, comprehensive and applied experience in film, television, audio engineering, art and music from in-house and at-large staff members.
“We believe that exposing youth to all the opportunities both upfront and behind the scenes in media and the arts can lead to a stable and economically secure future for them,” Jackson said. “They will be exercising their creativity doing work that they enjoy.”
That’s exactly what Kenji Darby, who works in cybersecurity, wants for his two daughters and two sons, aged 9 to 16. “I want them all to love the work they do no matter what it is,” he says. “It just makes your life better.”
He and his wife have made a point of assuring that their children have all the tools and experiences they need to enjoy the arts to the fullest and to grow artistically to their full potential.
This has been particularly rewarding for Lion, who has his eyes on a career in acting, music, and filmmaking. “It started out as a hobby for me,” he says, “But at B-Roll I learned so much. Now, I’m working toward making media arts a career.”
The potential is certainly there. During his first stint in film-making at B -Roll, Lion was part of a team that won a “Promising Film-Maker” award from the Prince George’s County Annual Heritage Film Festival for a six-minute production called “One Tough Time.”
“We want to express our gratitude to Mr. Jackson,” says Ms. Darby. “He has guided Lion to polish his skills and to visualize a future in the creative world he loves.”
For Jackson, young people like Lion are his reward. As a youth, he struggled through school with an undiagnosed learning disability — Dyslexia. He found solace and direction in media arts which gave him confidence, built his self-esteem, and put him on the path to a highly successful career in media & broadcasting.
He has worked with notable companies such as BET, NPR, CNN News, National Geographic, and NBC’s Today Show, Meet the Press, Nightly News, and The Chris Matthews Show, among others.
Retired from his full-time career, Jackson now works to share the skills of a lifetime with young people through B-Roll.
B-Roll, which offered online virtual training during 2020, returned to in-person training in July. Slots will be available for courses this fall that include photography and film-making, among others. Those interested in enrolling are invited to visit the website at B-RollMedia.org for updates.