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June 25, 2010 Posted by | Action Alerts, Tobacco Policy, Uncategorized | , , | Enter your password to view comments.

Media War Against Venezuela: The Role and Ethics of Media in the 21st Century

The Media War Against Venezuela workshop at the US Social Forum interested me because of my work with Media Literacy Project.  I was curious to see where I could find similarities in how Venezuelans saw the way media messages shape their environment and the way we talk about hate speech in this country.  The conversation began with some recent historical context, which set the frame for better understanding the current situation in Venezuela.

Television and the Media in Venezuela are huge and have done more than enough to turn the working class people against themselves.  The ruling class in Venezuela has successfully bombarded the county with messages that the people of Venezuela are inferior because they are a mixture of the worst of everything; Spanish (the worst of Europe), Indigenous, and Black.  These messages were pumped through the news and even their daily classist and racist soap operas. This process stabilized the class structure in Venezuela and solidified viewers’ internalized oppression, which can only serve the interests of any ruling class.

During the time before the first coup, the media ran non-stop images of violence during the uprising, painting a picture that President Hugo Chavez as a murderer and couldn’t care less if people were dying in the streets.  These images were shown on 4 channels for days, making it extremely difficult for people to think anything else was going on or that Chavez was anything else than a villain.  This was not the case at all; the people were being lied to.  Chavez was forcibly removed from his post as President, the country was torn, but it was not the end for Venezuela.  (For more information on the coup d’état, please check out The Revolution Will Not Be Televised).  It was at this point filmmakers from the 60’s began to examine these images and deconstruct their meanings, to better understand what the impacts were.  Imagine a whole country coming into their consciousness and realizing they are being lied to. This is what the last 5 years have been about in Venezuela.

Imagine not wanting to support your government, not because they are oppressive, but because being associated with them means that you are fat, ugly, or “uneducated”.  What type of impact might this have on the decisions you make about your life and what is good for you? This is what the people of Venezuela combat everyday.  They are inundated with messages that convince them to fight for the rights of the ruling class, rights that will never apply to them.

Does this sound familiar?  Do you see this the US?

The media has a long and powerful reach and knows how to manipulate the public into being complacent.  One example of how this plays out in everyday life of the working class and working poor in Venezuela is in the fight for renters’ rights.  One woman shared with us how the battle for housing in Caracas has turned on those interested in fighting for people.  As I mentioned before, media messages tell Venezuelans that unless they are part of the opposition, they have no legitimate claim to rights.  Organizers were trying to make sure that people living in this apartment complex for more than 40 years, as renters, would not be forced to leave their home.  Building residents turned on a neighbor, one of the lead organizers, after this effort began.  I am not just talking about shunning her from the community by not talking to her; there was much more.  They threw stuff at her and threatened her safety.  She wasn’t just some stranger coming in from the outside to “help” residents; no, she was a fellow renter.

The media has the power to oppress already marginalized groups, and does so without batting an eye.  However, it also presents us with the opportunity to talk about the real life impacts of not being in charge of telling your own story, and actually step into that role.  WE have the POWER to take that back, when we step in as storyteller of our own legacies.  WE have the responsibility to talk with each other about the impacts of misinformation on our communities. WE have the right to shape our environments and make informed decisions about what happens to us on a daily basis.  In most cases, here and abroad, OUR LIVES DEPEND ON IT.

thanks for reading,

elisita.guadalupe.pintor

June 25, 2010 Posted by | USSF, USSF_mlp | Leave a comment

Gay American Indians Welcome Reception

The GAI organized a Welcome Reception for the Two Spirit Wellness Gathering and San Fran Pride.  It was great to be among other Native Americans that reside in the Bay Area.  The Host Committee offered a dinner, with the famous Commodity Cheese (common among Native Americans that reside on the reservation).  Randy Burns helped organized the event and the theme was 35th Anniversary 1975-2010 “Living Legacy.”  The GAI is one of the oldest Native GLBT Two Spirit  organizations.  The agenda included advocates from the Bay Area that work in the HIV field.  Another interesting speakers were:  a judge, a poet and some fun filled entertainment such as belly dancers and a Native American Drag Show.  It was good to mingle with attendees and make new friends, plus rekindle old friendships.  I was very impressed with the program, since some of the photos were taken from the 1070’s to current.  It is great to see how the Native American GLBT community has come, since the 1070’s.  There were some great Native American singing and dancing.  Everyone was geared up for the Two Spirit Wellness Gathering and individuals traveling for San Fran Pride were also happy to represent the Native American GLBT Community.  I was very impressed with how my experience was going so far.  I stepped out with colleagues from New Mexico and Los Angeles to walk the Castro District.  I was glad I brought my walking shoes, since it will put on some major miles.  Lovely weather compared to 109 degree heat.  Excited to share about Tobacco and some of the new laws that went into effect.  Stay tuned….

June 25, 2010 Posted by | two_spirit_wellness | Leave a comment

Culture and Arts = Organizing

For the past two years, the Media Literacy Project (MLP) has begun integrating cultural work into our programs. The inclusion of arts and culture in our work is a result of the collective strategic planning and organizational visioning work by our staff. Results include partnerships and alliances with local social justice and media arts organizations, and the development of our community organizing and outreach initiatives such as Digital Justice for Us and Girl Tech Collective.

As MLP continues to strengthen our work to meet our mission of creating a healthy world through media justice, we often seek inspiration and tools from local and national organizations. On Thursday, June 24, I attended a workshop at the US Social Forum titled, Cultural Organizing for a Just Society: Making Art and Culture Integral to Social Justice Organizing and Movement Building. Candelario Vazquez, MLP’s Media Justice Organizer, also attended the panel. Coordinated by the Arts and Democracy Project, panel speakers included artist Ricardo Levins Morales artist Carlton Turner, and cultural worker amalia deloney, among others.

Carlton Turner speaks on cultural organizing at the US Social Forum.

The panel was arranged so that each panelist would speak, followed by some sort of activity—paired discussion, response writing, or a moment of silent reflection. After the activity, there was time for questions and answers. The questions and answers often led to audience discussion. It was in one of the audience discussions on the topic of narrative where Nick Szuberla from Thousand Kites shared insight. The conversation had rendered the statement, “Narrative comes from listening, and from listening comes strategy.” Nick shared that we must amplify and repurpose content, particularly in relationship to policy. He reminded us that what often happens in media is a framing contest, and that public perception could be what shapes policy. Essentially, he was saying that if we (as rural, low-income, queer, people of color) do not control the framing of a story, our voices our not included in the creation of policy. Let’s remember that all policy has real day-to-day impacts on our lives (healthcare, immigration, media) and our lived experiences must be included in policy construction if it is to support all of us, and not just some of us.

Carlton Turner spoke as an artist and as the Executive Director of Alternate ROOTS. He shared his concern that community organizing is often separated from arts and culture. His observance that “[this] division takes the heart out of the movement” created ripples in the 60-member audience that was crowded into the room to participate in this particular session. He continued on with, “when we relegate art to something separate, we remove the process.” He reminded us that art has always been integral to our lives, including the fact that the English alphabet is taught through a song. He cited this teaching tool as an example of how we need art to learn information.

amalia deloney, cultural worker and Grassroots Policy Director for the Center for Media Justice also shared the importance of the artistic process, and how organizing and art are one and the same for CMJ’s Media Action Grassroots Network (MAG-Net). She told the story of a day in December 2010 when 18 staff from the 9 anchor organizations of the 160+ member network attended a Media Policy Day at the Federal Communication Commission (FCC). The members met with Commissioners and shared stories illustrating their various communities’ needs with regards to broadband access. Following the policy day, the members participated in a Media Justice Leadership Institute. On the final night there was a noche cultural (similar to a talent show), whereby two participants rewrote Lady Gaga’s Poker Face and created Broadband in Yo Face. amalia broke down the various steps involved in the creation of a song which was a viral hit in the Spring: someone wrote the song, three people sang it, two djs recorded it, it was sent to a hip hop artist to adjust volume levels and remix it. She emphasized the collaborative process in this artistic process and described MAG-Net as a place where “we give people a home to do cultural and political organizing—where you can bring your whole self.”

Media Literacy Project, as an Anchor Organization for MAG-Net, agrees. We continue to grow and expand as we develop our strategies for cultural organizing, and as we continue to learn and share in spaces like the one created in this workshop.

For further information and tools on arts and cultural organizing, please stay tuned to Arts and Democracy Project. They are currently developing a website as a resource tool to demonstrate how art is used to demystify and change policy.

Andrea Quijada, Executive Director, Media Literacy Project

June 25, 2010 Posted by | USSF, USSF_mlp | Leave a comment

Media As A Solidarity Tool

The Philly Student Union, Flash Mob for Nonviolence

The buzz of excitement continues here in Detroit today as I just finished, along with my crew from the Media Literacy Project, the third day of the 2010 U.S. Social Forum. It was another packed agenda in which I was able to participate in three amazing media justice workshops and panels. The day started with a 10:00 AM workshop called Movements begin with untold stories, by the Media Mobilizing Project (MMP) based out of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The MMP workshop allowed the participants to take a look into some powerful organizing that puts media into the hands of real people engaged in struggles that span and connect many different sectors in the Philly area.   They’re connecting media and social justice issues by recognizing that media has powerful affects on the community and can be used as a tool to speak back to the kinds of mainstream framing that tends to demonize or devalue the struggles of working class people and youth of color.

The Media Mobilizing Project finds inspiration from two histories rooted in what is now called America. They showed us archived recordings of two leaders, both Martin Luther King Jr., and Subcomandante Marcos of the Zapatista indigenous struggle in Chiapas, Mexico.  In an audio recording we heard MLK speak about the changes that need to come for people in poverty. He spoke about how the Civil Rights platform was not enough and that the United States would need to step it up, “It’s easier to integrate a bus, than to eradicate slums.” He spoke about a movement of people across race.  When we entered in a short conversation on Subcomandante Marcos, MMP quoted a foreign minister of Mexico who said that what the Zapatistas have is “A war of the word.”

MMP: Movements begin with the telling of untold stories

It became apparent why they went this route in explaining their work. MMP is a media hub for the city’s most silenced communities. With little resources MMP is still able to capture the kind of injustices that get ignored in the mainstream news, and therefore get little attention.  But once MMP was able to capture the stories of the local taxi workers in their fight for better wages and healthcare, the local Nurse’s fight for respect and fair wages, and the Philly Student Union, who work with youth across the city who are daily criminalized on television, they were able to capture what Eric, of the Student Union, quoted as “a common enemy.”

MMP gathered a panel of representatives from these groups to highlight the way they used all the media tools they could to win a battle for better wages, and to raise awareness of oppressive tactics being used to limit youth rights.  I was impressed with the solidarity across the color lines, because it seemed like they were all very much aware of the frames used by the mainstream media to talk about them. The kids spoke brilliantly to how they’re demonized because they walk around the streets in large groups or what the media calls “Flash Mobs”. They don’t tell the untold story about why they tend to be out there—the untold story of the city devaluing the afterschool programs and shutting many of them down.

Using media videos, via a Flip camera, they were able to show their version of a flashmob, by filming their own “Flash Mob” in the city and expressing a unified front that counters the negative image the local news may paint them as.  To the youth from the Philly Student Union, it’s about respect and uplifting each other—by uniting and making their stance just as the indigenous struggles across the Americas have done and keep doing in order to fight their way out of the shadows.  They do this by making their own media about who they are and making sure to speak back to misrepresentations.

Candelario Vazquez, Media Justice Organizer, Media Literacy Project

June 25, 2010 Posted by | USSF, USSF_mlp | Leave a comment

   

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