The Spotlight: Melissa C. Potter

So excited to bring back The Spotlight and share this interview with Bronxite Melissa C. Potter, a social justice activist and the Head of Social Impact and Communications leading strategy and campaign management for Odyssey Impact/Transform Films. Keep reading for more!

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Which Bronx neighborhood are you from?

I call Riverdale my adopted home as I resided there for 12 years following my graduation from Northeastern University in Boston. I love the community feel of Riverdale as all that I needed was in walking distance but there were also wonderful opportunities to fellowship with neighbors at La Caja Crossfit, Tin Marin, or in Starbucks.

Where do you currently reside?

I’ve recently moved to the High Bridge section of The Bronx. I am getting to know my neighborhood but appreciate the close proximity to Manhattan for work, and restaurants such as Giovanni’s, Feeding Tree, and Crown Diner.

What are your favorite places in the Bronx?

I am a member of the Bronx Botanical Gardens and make it a point to visit during the annual Orchid and Train Shows. I also really love an evening walk at Van Cortlandt Park. A fun and surprising fact is that you can actually fish in the park. It provides an oasis just blocks away from bustling Broadway. I recommend that anyone visiting The Bronx stops by City Island for an amazing meal at Sammy’s! I am a huge fan of the fried seafood platter and totally indulge in the complimentary bread, cheese and pickled vegetable tray.

How did you get started in social justice advocacy?

I first began my career in the music industry working with some of today’s biggest hip hop artists. I realized that many of these acts felt passionately about issues of social justice and the communities in which they were born and raised. Often, it is difficult to know where to best channel your efforts as it relates to championing causes that are near and dear to the heart. This became my mission, to expose talent to opportunities to give back and to elevate causes that related to our communities such as criminal justice, racial justice and voting rights.

Why do you think film is such a powerful tool in promoting change and creating awareness?

At Odyssey Impact we use film to build a more just and compassionate society and make faith relevant by bringing it into the conversation on social issues. We take the emotions that our films generate and channel them into secular and faith collaborations that inspire changemakers to action – locally and nationally. We give a voice to individuals that often go unheard. We utilize storytelling to spark social change around complex issues. Our audiences gain awareness, have a change of attitude and are driven to action based on their viewing experience – thus going beyond the simple act of being entertained.

Do you have any advice for people who want to get involved in making changes in their communities?

Start small but think big. Work with Odyssey Impact to host a screening, partner with us to educate and take action by finding us on on Twitter @OdysseyImpactNY or by visiting our website.
Look within your day-to-day activities and find small spaces where you may make a difference. It could be utilizing your social media channels to fundraise or raise awareness around an issue, working with a group of friends to clean up a local park or becoming aware of your local lawmakers and starting a petition to take to their office about an issue that you hold dear.
Any upcoming projects you’re working on that we should look out for? 

We are excited for our upcoming impact campaign for an extraordinary film, “The Rape of Recy Taylor”.  Recy Taylor, a 24-year-old black mother and sharecropper, was gang raped by six young white men in 1944 Alabama. Common in Jim Crow South, few women spoke up in fear for their lives. Not Recy Taylor, who bravely identified her rapists. The NAACP sent its chief rape investigator Rosa Parks, who rallied support and triggered an unprecedented outcry for justice. You can check your local listings to catch The Rape of Recy Taylor airing on July 2nd on Starz.

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The Spotlight: Emily Angell

This month’s spotlight is on singer and songwriter Emily Angell, of Bronx Battle of the Boroughs Winners Emily Angell and the MK47s. 

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What part of the Bronx are you from? What do you like about the neighborhood? 
My drummer and I live in Woodlawn, I work in Riverdale and my bass player Cristina grew up in Morris Park.  I love the community feel of it while still being part of NYC and having access to all the amazing things that go on in the city.
 
Has the Bronx played a role in your development as a musician? If so, how?
Yes, absolutely.  I sing in and around Woodlawn and I love the live music scene in our neighborhood.  But the crowds are tough, so you really have to be on your A-game (and know how to handle those less sober than you)! I’ve had to step outside of my comfort zone and really get into playing for hours on end.  Its such a fun experience to bring an eclectic mix of music to a new crowd… they never know how to handle me at first, and then we all end up being best friends at the end of the evening.
 
What was it like competing in the Battle of the Boroughs? 
Battling for the Bronx supercharged my love for playing with my band.  The MK47s were downright giddy waiting to go onstage, and that was one of the most fun parts… the rush of walking out to the crowd together.  Having our friends, family, and about 300 people in the Greene Space in addition to the thousands watching online was awesome.  It was a joy to bring our music to all of those people and to feel the love and support.
 
What are your top three favorite places in the Bronx?
I enjoy kicking it at the Rambling House in Woodlawn, biking through Van Cortlandt Park, & brunching (that’s word… right? 😉 at the Tin Marin in Riverdale
 
What’s next for the band? Are there any new projects or shows we should look out for?
There is a LOT in store for both for me as a solo artist as well as with the MK47s.  We’ve been writing new material that’s completely taken on a life of its own, so stay tuned for the latest EP dropping in the fall.  I will say it’s got a little bit of a pop/bluegrass thing going on.  I’m constantly recording new material as a singer/songwriter, and am in the midst of a website rebuild.  Our fans can stay up to date on the latest by visiting emilyangellmusic.com as well as liking us on facebook (facebook.com/emilyangellmusic) as well as following me on twitter @emangellmusic.  Rock on Bronxites! :*