Reaching, Teaching Kids With Original Cable Content

The Smithsonian Channel is one of several cable networks looking to reach kids with Black History Month-themed programming and community-based initiatives throughout this month.

The network will partner with distributors Comcast and Cablevision Systems to launch its “Make Your Mark Contest” in several communities around the country. The contest — which coincides with the network’s Black History Month documentary special Breath of Freedom — encourages students to create a video showcasing the “mark” they want to leave on their local school or community, like upgrading a school computer lab or rebuilding a playground.

While one student will walk away with $2,500 to put their “mark” into action, Smithsonian said all of the student submissions are steps toward helping to foster a movement within their respective communities.

“Being a part of the Smithsonian, we are in a unique position to extend our reach beyond programing and into schools,” Janice Janik, Smithsonian Channel senior vice president of sales and affiliate marketing, said. “In celebration of Black History Month, we’re asking kids to learn a bit about history, take what they’ve learned, and spark a movement. It’s a great way for us to bring our brand to life locally and for our distributors to connect with their communities on a very personal level.”

Disney Channel and Nickelodeon are also creating kid-centric content to air this month celebrating the achievements of African-Americans. A series of spots on Disney will feature real kids discussing what Black History Month means to them and who has influenced their lives in a public way.

Nickelodeon will target its core demographic of kids 6 to 11 with interstitials spotlighting contemporary African-American trailblazers, including NASA astronaut Mae Carol Jemison, the first black woman to travel in space; and 10-year old Quvenzhané Wallis, star of Beasts of the Southern Wild and the first African-American child actor to be nominated for an Academy Award.

And those are just a few of the networks paying homage this month to the contributions of African-Americans. A partial list of the original Black History Month-themed shows set to premiere on cable networks follows below.

Feb. 7
Lenny Cooke
Comedy Special

Feb. 11
Nick News with Linda Ellerbee:
Black, White, and Brown v.
Board of Education
: A Return
to Segregated Schools?
News Special

Feb. 17
Smithsonian Channel
Breath of Freedom
Music Choice
The Diva Debate

Feb. 18
Laff Mobb’s We Got Next

Feb. 22
TV One
45th NAACP Image Awards

Feb. 24
Investigation Discovery
The Injustice Files

Feb. 26
TV One
Unsung Hollywood

Also in February:

WE tv will offer on-air and online vignett es featuring network personalities Toni Braxton and Mary Mary, as well as African-American political leaders discussing the historical figures who have inspired them. will offer a documentary series, “American Freedom Stories: Alabama Civil Rights,” featuring more than 25 original shortform videos set around key events, locations and biographies of the Civil Rights Movement in Alabama.

BET has teamed up with ICONN MANN to air “28 Men Of Change” vignettes featuring contemporary African-American men who have served as trailblazers in the fields of entertainment, business, art, law, finance, medicine, science, politics, education and professional sports.

Aspire will feature “Because of Them, We Can,” a series of vignettes showcasing images and quotes of various iconic African-American figures, both past and present. The network has also partnered with Colgate-Palmolive to produce eight short video documentaries celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Colgate Women’s Games.

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.