Netflix premiered the Will Smith-hosted Amend: The Fight for America this past February. The six-part docuseries sheds light on the importance of the 14th Amendment, which guaranteed all citizens “equal protection of the laws.” The series explores how the amendment impacted the Black community, while also telling the stories of influential historical figures. Complex Climate, along with NYC’s Movers & Shakers, brought Amend to life with the launch of their new app, Kinfolk. Since 2017, Movers & Shakers has been advocating for the removal of controversial statues of racists and oppressors from public spaces—like the Christopher Columbus monument at Columbus Circle in NYC. After the city refused to take down those statues and replace them with more diverse figures, the idea for the app was born.
The company’s founders, Glenn Cantave and Idris Brewster, came up with a concept that uses augmented reality (AR) to create AR monuments inspired by people of color, women, and members of the LGBTIA+ community who significantly impacted history. They launched the app alongside Netflix during a town hall hosted by Trevor Noah earlier this year, and Complex chatted with Cantave and Brewster about the partnership, the inspiration behind the app, and their hopes to educate the younger generation. “This was an opportunity that we were completely ecstatic to be brought into. Working with Complex Climate and Netflix was a dream, honestly,” Brewster told Complex. “A lot of times when creatives get into partnership with large organizations, these institutions are overbearing and are controlling in terms of how content is created and the messaging behind it. We really felt as though we had a lot of trust both from the Complex Climate team and Netflix. They gave us the space to do our work, trusting that we would produce great content.”
“We would have never thought in a million years when we were starting that we would have partnered with Netflix, Complex, and Will Smith. It is an absolute dream come true. We appreciate the agency that we had in being able to pursue our vision and not have it change in a way that compromised the integrity of what we were looking to do,” Cantave said. “The autonomy that we felt and the space that we had to breathe as creatives and just the respect and integrity was huge. While we’re excited for this version of this app, we’re looking to take it to new heights and expand our offering in a way that may not be possible without the platform of Netflix and Complex.”
The app comes preloaded with stories from six Black icons, including Toussaint L’Ouverture, Shirley Chisholm, Ida B. Wells, Bayard Rustin, Frederick Douglass, and Pauli Murray. Users can choose a figure from the menu to bring an augmented reality statue to life right in front of them, read their bios, explore their playlists, browse additional resources like books, photos, podcasts, and more. “We saw an opportunity to uplift new narratives with augmented reality, so we decided to build out this app where we could write Black and brown history into public spaces,” Cantave said. The app encourages users to do their own research and learn more about people who look like them while exposing them to new technology like AR. Brewster says one of their aims is for students to “see themselves written into the future” while also seeing themselves represented in the past and the present.
“The representation problem in our country is just the tip of the iceberg,” he said. “The root of that problem is the education around Black and brown histories. It’s pretty clear that Black and brown narratives are being systematically erased, not only from our public spaces but from our classrooms as well.” Kinfolk uses technology that’s attractive to students and teachers and puts the power of learning into their own hands. “We are trying to give them access to that history, but we have to do that in a way that is speaking to them. When we look at the kids and where their engagement and attention is at this moment in time, it’s in games like Fortnite, Among Us, TikTok, and in memes. The youth is speaking a different language and a new digital language. We can take the stuff that traditionally students use to slack off and procrastinate, like video games, and match that energy with historical context that we want them to learn,” Brewster, who used to be a teacher, said. “We believe that it’s possible to match the education with the entertainment, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Cantave explained that their goal is for the digital monuments on the app to be an entry point to a more extensive archive, like Wikipedia, but for Black and brown stories that we don’t hear about enough. “The power of narrative, the power of stories is something that is considered valuable. A free mind can change the world. Now that we’re no longer in physical chains, sure we’re allowed to read, but the powers that be are still restricting the information that’s out there,” Cantave said. “It’s our job to expose the next generation to a range of stories they wouldn’t have ordinarily heard.” Cantave and Brewster believe that white supremacy has infiltrated the education system, omitting significant Black and brown stories from history books. “Our country is run by white supremacy at the moment. They’re making the decisions that entail whose stories are being told. Since our education system is built from a white lens, it’s clear that these systems are not being built for people of color. It’s not being built for students of color to feel comfortable in their educational learning environment. It’s designed for students of color to have a hard time and not see themselves represented,” Brewster said. “We’re trying to bring in a way that students can be able to learn about these histories as agents of their own change and their own learning.”
“We don’t want students to feel alone. As long as they know that someone has paved this path before them, they will feel more comfortable taking risks, they’ll feel more comfortable getting out of their comfort zone, exploring new areas,” he added. “We’re just trying to make a nook, make a dent, to where we can provide a platform where these stories are proliferated, and the reach is way farther. It’s important for students to have multiple ways to interact with their own histories. It would be really helpful for kids to be able to relate to the content that they are learning about.”
Information sharing is imperative for the advancement of communities of color. A series like Amend and an app like Kinfolk are tools for people to educate themselves outside of the classroom. The Movers & Shakers team also hopes to inspire other people of color to go into the tech and education spaces and use their creative talents for good. “We’re trying to pave a path for other creatives to see this education space as something worth the investment and time and creative skills so that we can create more high-level and interactive experiences,” Brewster said. “If we can get more people, and more institutions like Complex Climate and Netflix to invest time, money and energy into Black creatives who are doing important work, and at the same time use their networks to promote this beyond the reach that small Black creatives usually have. I think that would allow for more change in the creative space to happen and more creatives to see this social content and educational content as a viable way for them to create their art.”
“Complex and Netflix could have taken this idea and gone to a platform like Snapchat or Instagram or Facebook and easily have a path that’s already open and cleared and very heavily used to have interactive AR content be funneled through,” he continued. “It was a very forward-thinking decision on their part to invest in an up-and-coming company creating in the AR space as a Black company. I couldn’t be more grateful for that decision and look forward to potentially working together in the future again.”
The Kinfolk app is available for download on the Apple app store, and Amend: The Fight for America is available for streaming on Netflix.