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Produced by Nomadic Pictures, the 90-minute LEGACY documentary is the inspired work of filmmaker Tod Lending. LEGACY’s compelling story about self-determination, transformation, faith and hope was filmed in an atmosphere of collaboration and mutual discovery between the Collins family and Lending. Over a five-year period, the film captures a family passing through dramatic and unexpected transitions following the shooting death of 14-year-old Terrell Collins, a straight-A student and neighborhood leader.

For four generations, the Collins family was trapped in urban poverty, depending upon welfare and living in one of the oldest and most dangerous public housing projects in America – Chicago’s Henry Horner Homes. Yet, unlike tens of thousands in their situation, they found the community support structures – and internal spirit – to strengthen their family and transcend the economic and social conditions of their lives. Family members succeeded in education and job training, secured employment, moved to a safe neighborhood and gained self-respect.

Nickcole Collins Pierre, the 21-year-old narrator of the film (and Terrell’s cousin) describes his legacy:  “Terrell left us with something good, something very powerful. He’s shown us how precious life is. He’s left us with a spirit to not just accept what we have, but to struggle for more. He has motivated us to believe in ourselves and make something of our lives.”

Broadcast: The premiere broadcast for LEGACY occurred on July 25, 2001 on HBO’s Cinemax, with additional broadcasts on August 3 and August 13. PBS secured the rights to broadcast the documentary and aired it on November 29, 2002.

Extending the impact of the documentary, the National LEGACY Outreach Campaign expands public awareness and dialogue as well as works in partnership with local initiatives to strengthen youth, families and communities. The message of LEGACY is profound, with the power to motivate communities to care about those who are struggling with poverty. The eventual triumph of the Collins family powerfully illustrates the possibility that more families, drawing on community support structures, can reach stability and safety.

Designed and managed by Outreach Extensions, the campaign’s methodology derives from community development strategies and asset-building models. It is intended to educate, challenge and mobilize individuals, coalitions, and organizations to make communities a better place to live – and work toward sustainable change through effective use of media tools and resources. The campaign is generously funded by The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, The Annie E. Casey Foundation and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (Phase 1 only).

From the beginning of the campaign, Outreach Extensions advanced a dual outreach strategy to utilize the strengths of both HBO/Cinemax (audience reach and media power) and PBS (targeted audiences, community outreach expertise and on-the-ground activities, role of stations as neutral conveners, and PBS Online) to reach and serve communities.

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Campaign Issues: The LEGACY outreach media campaign is layered and complex because of the multiple issues related to urban poverty presented in the documentary, including: welfare to work, self determination, breaking the cycle of poverty; substance abuse to recovery; public housing to private ownership; youth violence and violence prevention; stay in school and youth supports, including mentoring; economic empowerment and economic literacy for women and girls; and intergenerational relationships.

Community Partners: Outreach Extensions built a network of seven partnering organizations, which assisted the campaign in developing tools and resources that they, and others, are now using with specialized outreach audiences to serve local needs. Partnering organizations include: Generations United, Interdenominational Theological Center, Los Angeles Women’s Foundation, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Center for Community Change, United Way and the Association of Black Psychologists. Phase Two partners include Strive, YouthBuild and the National Black Catholic Congress. The Phase 3 campaign added the Association of Halfway House Alcoholism Programs of North America as a national partner. Once the television campaign is completed, the project’s community partners and other participating organizations will be empowered to institutionalize elements of the campaign for sustained utilization.

Specialized Outreach Audiences who benefit from campaign activities include grandparents rearing their grandchildren, African-American faith-based congregations, community leaders, social service practitioners, policy makers and youth and families at risk in communities across America. Campaign materials allow these audiences to deal concretely with the issues and solutions presented.

Outreach Extensions: Outreach Extensions specializes in developing social issue campaigns that extend the boundaries of cable, network and public television programming and expand public participation. Moving beyond examining problems, its media campaigns motivate actions that foster solutions. Outreach Extensions seeks alliances with groups, coalitions and organizations that can use media tools to initiate community dialogue and action. Technical assistance is provided to link participants to campaign resources and offer needed support to complete their agreed-upon responsibilities.


In 2002 Applied Research and Consulting LLC concluded its evaluation of the LEGACY National Outreach Campaign. The evaluation reported that, by February 2002, the campaign had reached more than 562,000 individuals through outreach activities, publications, and broadcasts of local productions; had 33,600 Web site visitors; and distributed more than 5,300 Legacy of Faith videos, 4,800 Legacy of Community Action videos, almost 2,500 copies of the Legacy Community Action Toolbox, and about 11,250 separate Toolbox sections. The national campaign had facilitated over 1,000 community and faith events and screenings and organized 103 appearances of Collins family members at events and screenings. ARC concluded its report by stating that the National LEGACY Outreach Campaign was highly successful in achieving all of its four major goals:

  • Utilizing media in innovative ways to stimulate community action;
  • Engaging and supporting organizations that work with new and special audiences (e.g., families living in poverty, individuals in substance-abuse prevention and recovery, grandparents who are primary caretakers for their grandchildren, high-risk youth);
  • Raising awareness and understanding of pressing and complex social issues; and
  • Encouraging coalition-building among community organizations and helping them develop sustainable resources and strategies to improve the lives of families.
  • LEGACY Community Action Toolbox looks at public policies, human service reforms and community supports that can effectively meet the needs of youth and families – and help them to help themselves. It provides practical interventions and model projects, delineating webs of relationships to connect people to economic opportunity, social networks, services and supports. Strategic mailings of the Toolbox, including individual sections, support implementation efforts.
  • To involve congregations in community building, the faith-based component included distribution of a Faith-Based Brochure, a follow-up package with the free 35-minute Legacy of Faith videotape and Faith-Based Community section in the Toolbox. Project implementation continues.
  • Community action work has featured briefings for policymakers, youth leadership orientations, an economic literacy conference for girls and targeted family strengthening/neighborhood transformation projects. A free 35-minute Legacy of Community Action videotape is available.
  • Public television stations, community and faith-based organizations receive minigrants to support local activities that use LEGACY’s media tools and resources to address campaign priorities. Outreach Extensions provides technical assistance to insure the attainment of project objectives.
  • Screenings, conference presentations and events occur through the community partners, funder initiatives, national organizations and film festivals. Complimentary copies of the 90-minute documentary and 35-minute videotapes are available for screenings, as well as a Spanish language subtitled version of LEGACY. The outreach campaign supports the participation of the Collins family for designated outreach events. Their individual stories can tie into various issues presented as part of community screenings and events.
  • Launched in February 2000, the LEGACY Web Site highlights the documentary as well as the outreach campaign, and includes all of the Toolbox materials – providing access for the general public as well as specialized audiences. Since the site was funded by MacArthur, Casey and Kellogg, it can be moved to PBS.org. New materials / templates can be customized to support PBS priorities, especially to address local/national strategies.

The campaign’s production of the two short videos, Legacy of Community Action and Legacy of Faith, repurposing footage from the documentary, created a springboard for local discussion and action. The Legacy of Faith video opened the door for congregations to begin to use media effectively in convening audiences and generating sustainable action.

Phase 1 of the National LEGACY Outreach Campaign began in September 1999 through support from The Annie E. Casey Foundation, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Activities focused on developing and distributing campaign materials and working with the national partners to implement activities with key target audiences. The groundbreaking process to use LEGACY to achieve new federal housing legislation to benefit grandparents raising grandchildren was launched during this phase.

Phase 2: Based on the campaign’s success in creating significant partnerships and strategic interventions, which resulted in innovative outreach prototypes, Phase 2 (calendar year 2001) focused on refining and replicating five models to address solvable problems in neighborhoods. Since LEGACY is an HBO/Cinemax property, Outreach Extensions always envisioned a model development process as essential to exploring new ways to conduct outreach for cable (and other non-PBS) properties. In accordance with the original priorities for the campaign, the five prototype initiatives for Phase 2 were: a Public Television Outreach for Cable Broadcast Initiative, Education / Public Policy Initiative, Faith-Based Initiative, Workforce Initiative, and Youth & Family Strengthening Initiative. Outreach Extensions guided KPBS/San Diego, CA in developing the public television outreach prototype. Phase 2 was funded by The Annie E. Casey Foundation and The John D. and Catherine T. Mac Arthur Foundation.

Public Television Strategy: Working with KPBS /San Diego, Outreach Extensions pioneered a public television strategy for LEGACY, which was initially produced for HBO, with a possible later broadcast on PBS stations. What made it work for KPBS was linking LEGACY to a new local production/series, Welfare’s Missing Dads /FULL FOCUS, as well as to ongoing station activities. Outreach Extensions is now working with KETC/St. Louis and Iowa Public Television to develop and implement LEGACY campaigns.

Phase 3 of the National LEGACY Outreach Campaign, funded by The Annie E. Casey Foundation, began in January 1, 2002 with a focus on expanded activities in three areas: (1) to reach communities through the targeted efforts of public television stations; (2) to assist men and women in recovery through a new national partnership; and (3) to take advantage of events that may engage the Collins family. Campaign priorities focused on increasing awareness about urban poverty issues and engaging in a range of community development solutions. The Phase 3 campaign added the Association of Halfway House Alcoholism Programs of North America as a national partner. Generations United administered 12 LEGACY minigrants to raise awareness about grandparenting issues.

Phase 4 supported the PBS broadcast of LEGACY on Friday, November 29, 2002. Outreach Extensions invited public television stations to engage their communities in the issues presented in the documentary. Funded by The Annie E. Casey Foundation, the following stations received outreach grants: Detroit Public Television, MI; Maryland Public Television; Milwaukee Public Television, WI; WYES/New Orleans, LA; KLRN/San Antonio, TX; KQED/San Francisco-Oakland, CA; WFYI/Indianapolis, IN; Houston Public Television, TX; WXEL/West Palm Beach, FL; WCNY/Syracuse, NY; KWBU, Waco, TX; and WTVI, Charlotte, NC. Community efforts continued through this phase, including activities with the Metro Denver Black Church Initiative; Kids First! Film, Video, and DVD Festival; and the National Black Catholic Congress. Outreach Extensions worked with PBS Online to facilitate the transfer of LEGACY’s original Web site to PBS.org in support of the PBS broadcast. An important part of updating the content was Tod Lending’s 11-minute production of Legacy: Three Years Later, which presented new information on all members of the Collins family. The video was available to stations and community organizations for local events.

Public Policy Initiative: The campaign successfully used a documentary film as a platform for social action, including efforts to achieve federal housing legislation on behalf of grandparents rearing their grandchildren. The Transportation, Treasury, and Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill signed into law on November 30, 2005 included $4 million for LEGACY Housing Demonstrations. Along with Outreach Extensions, Generations United, one of the national outreach partners, was instrumental in this unprecedented outcome.

Congressman Michael Capuano (D-MA) and Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), both of whom serve on the House Subcommittee on Housing and Community Opportunity, introduced major housing legislation. In December 2003, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed legislation to provide safe and affordable housing to grandparents and other relatives rearing children. Included in the American Dream Downpayment Bill, intergenerational housing provisions, known as the LEGACY Act of 2003, will help provide housing to the more than six million children living with grandparents or other relatives across the U.S. Congressional sponsors cited the film as an inspiration and an effective tool in garnering support for passage.

The U.S. Senate unanimously passed the American Dream Downpayment Bill in November 2003. Three provisions from the LEGACY act passed the Senate as part of the American Dream Downpayment Bill: to create national demonstration projects that provide opportunities within HUD's Section 202 programs to develop housing specifically for grandparents and other relatives raising children; to provide training for HUD personnel regarding grandparent- and other relative-headed families; and to call for a national study of the housing needs of grandparent- and other relative-headed families.