Locally Grown Is PBS for the Streaming Age

This is what channel-surfing used to be, what it ought to be. Tune in and the first station is airing Pressure, Horace Ové’s tough-minded 1976 movie about London youth and racial disillusionment. It’s a somewhat obscure release, but also a pioneering one: Ové’s was the first feature by a black filmmaker made in the UK. Switch the channel and there’s an episode of the sci-fi anime Cowboy Bebop on; a few clicks past that, Janet Jackson’s 1998 Velvet Rope Tour performance at Madison Square Garden is playing. Keep flipping and it’s one rare and poignant find after another.
That is the essence of Locally Grown, a streaming website with the vintage gloss of public access programming. It was launched this month and currently features an assortment of channels that broadcast 24 hours a day; all of its content is hand-selected with the intent of curating choices that “to an algorithm seem disparate, but make perfect sense to the human experience.”

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The platform was conceived by Jamil Baldwin and Tyler Bernard. Both are Los Angeles natives who met through mutual friends almost a decade ago. Baldwin is a photographer and self-described polymath; Bernard, or Westside Ty as he’s known in music circles, is the tour DJ for rapper Vince Staples. The seed for Locally Grown came during a work trip to Amsterdam in 2016, where the two reminisced about classic TV shows they watched growing up in Southern California. In conversation, they kept circling back to one in particular: BET’s famous after-dark video countdown, Uncut.
“We missed those events that would happen, the way people are trying to make them happen,” Baldwin says, referencing Beyoncé’s first surprise visual album release in 2013, which, for anyone on the internet that December, felt like a primetime event. “That was in the vein of what we were missing, but there were very few things on TV creating that.” The duo, both in their early thirties, turned that opening into a creative pursuit. “A lot of the time, we’re on the same wave—you see it with viral videos, with Twitter, with all these things,” Baldwin adds. “So it became, how do we calm down the noise and put it all in one spot, so we can tap in together?”
Flipping through Locally Grown is like finding lost treasure, each channel its own trove of . You’ll stumble on episodes of the late-1990s UPN sitcom Between Brothers; a short documentary on Muxes, Mexico’s “third gender”; clips from the mostly forgotten late-night talk show Vibe; cinema classics Wattstax and Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti; music videos; old commercials; references to different Soul Train eras; even Arthur Jafa’s award-winning video collage “Love Is the Message, the Message Is Death.” One recent night, during the 11 pm hour on a channel titled Black Art, Black Cinema, Black Excellence, the French documentary Universal Techno looped; following in the midnight block was footage from 1998’s Freaknik, the legendary spring break festival held in Atlanta. Like a video archive that is available 24/7, Locally Grown is an anti-streaming streamer, the PBS of black cultural ephemera.

Locally Grown lets viewers tune in to one of 11 curated channels, 24/7. Courtesy of LGTV