Brandi's blog

Lyell Davis: Grassroots Perspectives on Media Justice Organizing

Below is an excerpt from a journal article written by Lyell Davis, from the Radical History Review.

Building a National Media Justice Movement: An Interview with Betty Yu, Membership Organizer, Media Action Grassroots Network, the Center for Media Justice

WATCH NOW: Big Data and Communities of Color

On March 14th the Open Technology Initiative and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights hosted a discussion about the impact of Big Data on communities of color. Panelists presented a set of civil and human rights principles of which Center for Media Justice, representing MAG-Net as part of the Civil Rights Table was involved in crafting. Below you'll find additional information about the event as well as participants.


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How will new, innovative technologies benefit all individuals and help alleviate social and economic inequalities? As the urge to collect and categorize vast quantities of data about our digital behavior becomes more widespread, big data presents new opportunities and profound challenges for individuals' civil liberties and civil rights, and especially for communities of color, women, and other historically disadvantaged groups.

Civil Rights Principles for the Era of Big Data/Principios de los Derechos Civiles para la Era de la Gran Información

Technological progress should bring greater safety, economic opportunity, and convenience to everyone. And the collection of new types of data is essential for documenting persistent inequality and discrimination. At the same time, as new technologies allow companies and government to gain greater insight into our lives, it is vitally important that these technologies be designed and used in ways that respect the values of equal opportunity and equal justice. We aim to:

Q & A: People's Press Project

1) Briefly introduce the work of the Peoples Press Project and describe the region you're located in, Fargo-Moorhead.

The People’s Press Project (also known as PPP) was created as a new organization in April 2010 to address the lack of media access and equity in rural ND and MN. The PPP is located in Moorhead on the Border of Minnesota and North Dakota in the region known as the Fargo-Moorhead (F-M) community. Although this area is considered to be the largest metropolitan community between Minneapolis, MN and Spokane WA, we are still considered a rural community (F-M) metro area, which is uniquely positioned to have great impact to activate and engage community in media access and justice issues in this region. PPP received its nonprofit status from the IRS in May of 2012.  

The PPP is Fargo-Moorhead’s only non-profit dedicated to empowering the community to become savvy media creators and consumers, rather than merely being consumers. We stand for the development and proliferation of Independent Media and the creation of new community based journalists to inform the community of the real news by the people and for the people. We do this through training, access to equipment and strategic opportunities to develop media through independent news sources, social networks and through the web. The PPP trains people in media skills which increase access to media for the public and teaches people about their communication rights and empowers them to exercise them.

2) What is the state of the media and communications infrastructure in Fargo-Moorhead? Who owns and controls the local media? Are there community and independent media outlets?

Quick Look at Local Media Consolidation in the F-M Area Media. 1 daily newspaper, 6 weekly newspapers, 4 Network TV stations and 27 FM Radio Stations. The Majority of this Media is owned by 4 Major Corporations and only one is local company.

Of the 6 weekly newspapers, two are independent and cater mostly to business and the arts. Cable Access Television has very limited government programming however lacks any real access for the community to produce media because there are not any studios designed for the community to have access to. 

There are several LPFM stations that focus on college student constituencies as well as Christian based programming but really have no outreach to help train people to create and broadcast their own content. The local PBS affiliate has a North Dakota statewide radio station, however does not broadcast in the Fargo-Moorhead region. Given the limited access to the few forms of independent and locally created media, there are also few opportunities for the community to be involved in producing their own media in the Fargo-Moorhead region.

3) PPP applied for a Low Power FM Radio License and got it! Congrats!  Why did you all decide to apply?

We knew there was a problem with media access in our region for a long time. We actually started the PPP after trainings and workshops with  Consumer’s Union where we were first connected to Malkia Cyril from Center for Media Justice and Joel Kelsey (formerly with CU and later with Free Press), who pointed us toward exciting new developments in community radio and the Prometheus Radio Project. We were excited to tackle the issue of media justice and access in our Fargo-Moorhead region so as soon as we got back home we organized and started the PPP. 

We began by doing research of the local media landscape and campaigns and collaborations to increase access to equipment, training on media use, and outreach to inform the community of where access issues are a problem. Then, when Prometheus announced that the application process was finally in place, we continued our work in media access outreach by providing trainings on how to apply for a low power FM station license in the community and online in webinars. Finally, as we prepared and filed our own application for a license, we held community planning meetings to get people involved in in its development.

4a) What is your vision for this radio station and who will it benefit? (b) Are there plans to take on other programs in addition to radio production?

(a) The low power radio station (KPPP-LP 88.1 FM) will be located in Fargo and has an anticipated reach of 2-5 miles. This coverage gives our radio station the potential to reach over 156,000 people in the FM community every single day. The station’s focus, as the slogan says is to “Add local color to your airwaves”. And that is exactly what KPPP-LP will do. This means that you will finally be able to hear community radio that takes into account all audiences in the FM, including immigrant communities, communities of color, low income people, nonprofits, community groups, faith groups, organizations and students.  All community involvement will involve free training in broadcasting, radio show programming, computer skills and internet training. Business management will also be an area where station constituents will learn marketing, fundraising and proponents of business management and the radio broadcast and media industry.

The educational program and individual skill development by PPP will be utilized through the radio station to create equity in communication/media/information for all members of the community to equally share in the community’s development.  PPP’s training programs will be enhanced and furthered through the operation of the radio station.   

The development and use of radio production and programming will result in the immediate impact of an engaged community and the benefits of communication rights and multi-media access/skills to traditionally disenfranchised communities (immigrants, new Americans, communities of color, LGBTQ, people with disabilities, youth, blue collar and working poor, rural communities, single parent households, homeless, elderly, etc.), as well as students, nonprofits, small businesses, churches and faith groups, artists, and new journalists.  Having a radio station combined with the training program will have a great beneficial impact on the community by putting community members in the driver’s seat of their own media production.

Tracy Rosenberg: Mergers Lock in the Status Quo

The San Francisco Bay Area is often seen across the country as a “blue” outpost and a place where liberal ideas predominate. This image is especially widespread in media reports which emphasize cultural and political innovations. But the local media system which indulges in the self-congratulatory blather is itself a retrograde example of corporate consolidation and dominance. More like Texas than Vermont, if you like.

Ren is the DJ Podcast: Twin Cities Community Radio

Ren is the DJ hosted by CMJ's own DJ Ren (aka Steven Renderos) kicks off it's debut podcast with a two-part discussion with Minneapolis-based DJ/producer BK-One. In Part 1, BK-One aka Brendan Kelly talks about his involvement with Twin Cities Community Radio, how he came to be Brother Ali's DJ and the role of the Internet for independent artists.

Steven Renderos: Here's What You Need to Know About the New Prison & Detention Phone Rates

For over ten years a coalition of organizations and individuals has been asking the Federal Communications Commission (the FCC) to lower the cost of calling prison, jail or detention centers.  Our network, the Media Action Grassroots Network was at the forefront of the fight through our work in the Campaign for Prison Phone Justice.  Together along with our allies last August we finally won!  The FCC set new lower rates which take effect February 2014.

MAG-Net Calls on the FCC to Protect the Open Internet, and Our Communities Now!

On Tuesday, a federal court struck down the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Open Internet Order. The ruling means that companies like AT&T and Verizon can censor, block and interfere with Internet traffic and content.

Celebrating the Reproductive Justice Win in Albuquerque: Beyond the Prolife vs. Prochoice Frame

Interview with Tannia Esparza, Executive Director of Young Women United

Q: Can you tell me a little about who you are, your organization's purpose, and what called you to leadership?

A: Young Women United is a reproductive justice organizing and policy project by and for young women of color in New Mexico. We work with those most impacted by injustice to ensure all people have the access to the education and resources they need to make real decisions about their bodies and lives with dignity.

As a Queer, Xicana, and daughter of immigrant parents I know the lived experiences of our communities are at the core of building meaningful change. It is this belief that makes me proud to be a part of YWU’s leadership in advancing an intersectional vision of reproductive justice that includes: improving the access young people have to quality reproductive health care, de-stigmatizing young parenting while building educational equity for expectant and parenting teens, decriminalizing substance using families while improving access to prenatal care and treatment for substance-using pregnant women, ensuring that women of color have access to all birthing options, and defending reproductive rights while building reproductive justice.

Q: In the current media and political environment- why is changing the public story about families so important?

A: Mainstream media’s depictions of family are incredibly limiting and isolating to the realities of most families. While most of our families do not fit the standardized white, upper class, heterosexual nuclear family structure both mainstream media and political energies insist on representing this very unrealistic version of family.

For Young Women United, we understand most of our families celebrate that many of us were raised by siblings, grandparents, and chosen family or that many of us are Queer & Trans* parents. This is why changing the way we think about family is so important. Culture shift plays a big role in all of our work. In our most recent collaborative efforts to defeat a harmful anti-abortion ballot measure in Albuquerque, Young Women United was very intentional about changing the frame of the discussion to include all of our communities.

Q: What was the referendum in Albuquerque- how did it come about, what did you win last Tuesday, and and what conditions led to that victory?

A: This summer, out-of-state activists gathered signatures to place a measure on the Albuquerque ballot that would ban abortion after twenty weeks, the first of its kind to be introduced in a municipal-level election. Alongside other organizations, Young Women United led the Respect ABQ Women campaign, reflecting the experiences of New Mexican communities of color, people of faith and young people. For years Young Women United has been keeping careful watch over conservative tactics against reproductive rights and has strategized to maintain access women and families have to full range of reproductive health options in our state. Together with women, families, and allied organizations, Young Women United was proud to be one of the leaders of the Respect Albuquerque Women campaign centered on the right of every person to make decisions about abortion for themselves.

Instead of making the ballot measure a debate about prolife vs. prochoice, YWU worked diligently to have real and honest conversations with our communities about the complexities around decisions about abortion. Our families make difficult decisions about their lives every day and decisions about abortion, like many others, belong in their hands.

We know that despite huge misconceptions about people of color opposing abortion, our communities understand what it means to have our bodies regulated. We also know that communities of color have been historically left out of conversations about reproductive rights

We are proud that our win was a reflection of the work many groups in New Mexico have been doing for a long time- ensuring that our communities have a say about what happens to our bodies. Together, Albuquerque communities demonstrated very clearly that personal and complex decisions about abortion belong in the hands of people.

Q: What is the media environment like in Albuquerque in terms of media access, rights, and representation- and how did those conditions pose a threat or an opportunity to this fight?

A: Like much of mainstream media all over the country, local television news stations do not always cover social justice stories. We faced challenges in framing the issue with local media because anti-abortion groups were allowed to craft the ballot language. The “Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,” made false assertions and contained misleading language. Despite this challenge, many local stations covered our efforts very well. Spanish language television in particular, was the best at presenting the ballot measure as an election about whether or not decisions about abortion should remain in the hands of women and families. National media however, was quite different, as many outlets sought to feature national organizations when the work on the ground for decades has been led by local groups and communities.

Because we knew young people and many people of color often don't get their news from traditional media sources, it was very important for us to meet people where they were at. Young Women United lead social media efforts for the Respect ABQ Women campaign, broadening the scope of people engaged in the conversation.

Q: What communications strategies helped you win? What barriers in public debate did you face, and how did you overcome them?

A: Young Women United centered the importance of art in shifting culture to build momentum to win in this election and build reproductive justice beyond. We worked with New Mexican photographers and designers to create a photo campaign centered on the strength of Albuquerque families and neighborhoods standing against the measure. Because we know the importance of radio in many of our communities, Young Women United also developed English and Spanish language radio ads with Dolores Huerta, who is a proud New Mexican and fierce labor justice leader.

Q: What's next on this fight, what should leaders across the country know, or do- to help change the story on families in the U.S.?

Sarah Orange: Incarceration & Children: How a Little Phone Call Can Make a Big Difference

 By Sarah Orange, Certified Student Attorney, Community Justice Project at the University of St. Thomas School of Law. The work of the Community Justice Project civil rights clinic focuses on training law students to serve as social engineers who create new inroads to justice and freedom.

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