Brad Barber was approached by producers at New Jersey’s PBS station after the premiere of his national project States of America to collaborate on a similar concept for New Jersey.
Serving as producer, Barber helped create the new series 21– also bringing on board Media Arts alumni to edit the 8-10 minute episodes. The series airs on NJ PBS and WNET, also streaming on pbs.org.
21 features one person in each of the 21 counties of the Garden State, highlighting people that are making a difference in their community. It explores the question “Does where you live affect how you live?,” covering county-specific issues that impact the whole state.
The series has been quietly releasing new episodes every few weeks since March 2022, with the latest release of “21: Morris County” on Friday, February 10.
Episodes of 21 will be featured in the PBS Indie Lens PopUp Series in conjunction with the Teaneck International Film Festival. The Indie Lens PopUp Series will air three episodes of 21 in conjunction with three PBS Independent Lens documentaries, as well as a talkback segment following each one.
The first documentary pair aired on February 8–featuring Love in the Time of Fentanyl paired with “21: Mercer County.” Love in the Time of Fentanyl follows the story of the Overdose Prevention Society in Vancouver, Canada. The society employs current or former drug users, “saving lives and giving hope to a marginalized community and looking beyond the stigma of injection drug users.” It paired with “21: Mercer County,” which features the story of Stacey Ross. Following a lifelong battle with addiction, Stacey became sober at age 44 and commits to helping others to do the same–providing mentorship and resources for other recovering addicts. The episode was edited by Media Arts alumnus Cameron Babcock.
The second documentary pair airs on March 15 at 7:30pm ET–featuring Storming Caesars Palace paired with “21: Bergen County.” Storming Caesars Palace presents the story of Ruby Duncan– a woman who, after losing her job as a hotel worker in Las Vegas, co-founded a welfare rights group of ordinary mothers who defied notions of the “welfare queen.” In 1969, Ruby participated in a massive protest that shut down Caesars palace in a fight for universal basic income. The documentary pairs with “21: Bergen County,” which follows the story of Rhona Vega. Rhona moved to Bergen County as a single mom with high hopes for her kids’ futures. Facing the reality that opportunities were not equal, she founded “Parent Matterz,” an organization that nurtures students’ dreams and ambitions while helping parents prepare for college with mentors, enrichment programs, and more. This episode of 21 was edited by Media Arts alumnus David Sant.
The third documentary pair airs on April 19 at 7:30pm ET–featuring Free Chol Soo Lee paired with “21: Cumberland County.” Free Chol Soo Lee highlights the story of Korean immigrant Chol Soo Lee and his fight for justice after being sentenced to death for murder in 1973. “21: Cumberland County” highlights Edgar Aquino-Huerta, the son of undocumented migrant workers and a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals beneficiary. He uses his protected status and voice to help educate the local undocumented community and advocate for immigration reform. This episode was also edited by Cameron Babcock.
Click on this link for free registration for the festival and be sure to catch the documentaries on March 15 and April 19.