The Network

for LGBT Tobacco Control

Tips for how to get health promotion messages into LGBT blogs

By Scout
Network for LGBT Health Equity
A project of The Fenway Institute, Boston, MA
Reporting from Netroots Nation LGBT Pre-Conference, Minneapolis, MN

It's a packed room of bloggers and LGBT orgs at the Netroots LGBT Pre-Conf

We all have to build new skills

Remember just last year when many state dept of health folk were blocked from Facebook, Twitter and other social media? Well, perhaps because the feds have set a standard of using social media for their routine promotion work, we all now realize that Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter… all these are tools we will need to understand and use in order to ace health promotion work in this new era.

Well, despite the fact that you are reading this on a blog, don’t think we’re not as overwhelmed with all these new media as everyone else. We’re trying our hardest to learn how to use these new tools effectively. But boy it’s a lot.

Many of you know, lots of our LGBT print media has already gone out of business, some have switched to an all online format, some have just folded. This struggle is one of the reasons why the print media is really susceptible when folks like RJR Reynolds start pumping SNUS ads. Like happened in Minnesota, it’s often a real challenge to get the magazine or newspaper to refuse these ads in todays world. Face it, this is one of the main reasons why we have to struggle to raise awareness that we have health disparities like our crazy high smoking rate. It’s long past time for us to take some tips from major corporations and start being more savvy about how to get healthy messages integrated into LGBT media. But how do we do it with a fraction of their funding?

So, you know we’re at this Netroots LGBT Pre-Conf today… I’m listening avidly to all the many LGBT bloggers in the room. Let me share a bit of what I’ve learned about smart strategies for getting those healthy messages into LGBT online media.

First, what are the bigger LGBT blogs?

It’s a little hard to figure out exact readership, and some focus more on social versus serious messaging, but at least each of these LGBT blogs should be on our radar screens.

Tips for getting coverage in LGBT blogs

  1. Buy ads in them! Yes, the blogs are absolutely independent, but this is one way to start building a relationship which helps get your news noticed.
  2. Offer to write for a blog. One of the big ones, is actively seeking new contributors now, go on, sign up, one way to get health covered is to write the posts ourselves.
  3. Repost their stories on Twitter/FB, comment on the stories online, just start engaging with them.
  4. Make a short list of the editors of each of those blogs and send them press releases whenever you think somethink is news. Don’t worry if it’s not national, local is ok too. Pics help too.
  5. Give bloggers scoops or first rights to breaking news, this is one fast way to build a relationship.
  6. Write op-eds about health issues and submit them to blogs (customize them for each submission). See some of the op-eds we put up on the IOM report to see a sample of style.
  7. Did I mention buy ads on them? This seems to be a seriously underutilized strategy. Yet some of the blogs above get 40k views/day… that’s a lot of eyeballs we’d like to have reading our health messages, right?

Many of these strategies will work just as well for your local LGBT media as well. And many of them can be real smart strategies for health departments or hospitals to use as a way to demonstrate that your services are LGBT-friendly.

OK, now off I go to try to put some of these strategies into action!

June 15, 2011 Posted by | Action Alerts, APHA, Blogs en español, Break Free Alliance, CPPW, Creating Change, Creating Change 2010, Creating Change 2011, Minnesota, National Coalition for LGBT Health, NatNet, Presentations, Puerto Rico, Resources, Scholarship Opportunity, social media, Steering Committee, Tobacco Policy, two_spirit_wellness, Uncategorized, USSF, USSF_mlp, webinar | , , , | Leave a comment

US Social Forum: Final Thoughts

Andrea Quijada, Executive Director, Media Literacy Project

As Media Literacy Project staff members begin to integrate our experiences and knowledge gained from the US Social Forum into our programs, we wanted to share with all of you some of the thoughts that will inform our work this coming year:

  • LGBTQI communities need access to media tools. However, media policies are being written as you read this blog, media policies that have huge implications for our daily lives. One example of such media policies has to do with the need for Net Neutrality—the need for a free Internet. Without Net Neutrality, queer health websites (like this one) could be blocked by Internet providers! We encourage all of you to join the Media Action Grassroots Network. Join us in telling the FCC that we need a free and open Internet.
  • Queer communities must address multiple oppressions in order to strengthen our movement. LGBTQI leadership, from the local to national level, must represent—both in presence and in analysis—the breadth of our communities. Our movement needs LGBTQI working-class, people of color, people with disabilities, and non-English speakers in leadership roles.
  • An increase of responsible speech in our media systems would have positive impacts on the queer community. We hope that all LGBTQI organizations join the National Hispanic Media Coalition in urging the FCC to conduct a report on the impact of hate speech on various oppressed communities. MLP strongly believes that journalists and news reporters must be responsible with their messages and with their framing of stories in order to increase understanding and accuracy in articles and programs.
  • The quality of our health impacts our abilities to tell our stories, and our stories must be heard.  Our stories are our histories, our culture, our identities, and our influence. In addition, healthy communities are a fundamental outcome of media justice.
  • Media must be defined broadly because media are rooted in culture. A dance, a song, a poem—each is a form of media. We must elevate forms of media that best speak to and reflect the communities we come from, are part of, and work in.

July 8, 2010 Posted by | USSF, USSF_mlp | Leave a comment

Interculturalism for Self-Determination

The 2010 United States Social Forum is officially over.  The Forum ended with the National People’s Movement Assembly (NMPA)—a chance for many of the groups that organized around specific movements throughout the week to move forward with the resolutions they came up with around their important issues.  I was struck by the resolution given by one group that touched on issues of U.S. territories and the U.S. relations with Latin America. I am interested and engaged in many issues that have to do with Latin America, not just because I am a 1st generation Chicano of immigrant parents, but because I realize the United States has a presence all over the world, in many ways through media.

National People's Movement Assembly

Toward the end of the NPMA I encountered the Beehive Collective, an organization that created a media area at the back of the venue.  Rooted in Eastern Maine, the Beehive calls themselves a decentralized swarm, their mission in a nutshell: To cross-pollinate the grassroots, by creating collaborative, anti-copyright images that can be used as educational and organizing tools. They create and teach visual narratives on posters and cloth that have to do with many issues in our hemisphere, including Latin America.  When I read the narrative graphic poster along with their pamphlets I felt like I was reading a graphic novel—I immediately found the things I often hear about in the media: drug wars, civil struggles, guerrillas.  Then, when I looked closer I saw many of the things I rarely see in the mainstream media—a multiplicity of diverse groups collectively struggling to dismantle the corruption of power violently affecting their way of life, their health, and their self-determination.

Beehive Collective Graphic Narrative: Plan Colombia

While there, fishing through graphics and reading up new projects they’ll be unveiling soon, I got to meet David Hernández Palmar, a filmmaker, and award-winning photographer from the Wayuu region, an indigenous community from the Venezuela/Colombia border area along the Carribean.  After telling him about my work on communication rights in New Mexico, I asked him to give me his experience with media in Latin America, specifically Venezuela where he lives and works.  He spoke to issues of inclusivity in media, the framing of stories through a western lens, but as well as the importance of asserting a community’s right to be included in issues of media policy.

On issues of inclusivity of the Wayuu culture in media, he spoke to me about the importance of making media for our own communities in the face of media that tends to criminalize and stereotype Latinos of African descent, and indigenous people.  In making media for our own communities, oppressed communities can fall into a trap of using a Western lens, of telling a story for an observer, and as an observer. David spoke about the need to make media as insiders, as participants—by us and for us. He explained that we need media for our benefit and acknowledged that some communities cannot share certain stories and traditions with the outside world.  He says there are different ways we interpret media, and that cannot always be looked at through a Western lens. He mentioned a story about how he was once told by an outsider that a film piece on the way of life of the Wayuu seemed to focus on something that “was good, but took too long”, he responded, “Well that’s the way it is, we’re a contemplative people.”

He discussed how interculturalidad (interculturalism) plays a role in making media inclusive. It made me reflect on how often privileged groups of people expect certain things to get done certain ways, and do not create space for the many ways and realities of the rest of us.  Really as a first-generation Chicano, I have to use certain methods of media to make a stand on certain issues affecting my community, and I also recognize that there are many different ways to use media and an array of media forms that stem from my own culture that need to be recognized and elevated.  I believe what my experience at the U.S. Social Forum has provided me is that I can participate as a media maker, and I have a story to tell. The Social Forum reminded me about the healing power of media, and my plan is to bring that inspiration back home to New Mexico.

Candelario Vazquez, Media Justice Organizer, Media Literacy Project

June 26, 2010 Posted by | USSF, USSF_mlp | Leave a comment

National People’s Movement Assembly

Karlos Gauna Schmieder with the Center for Media Justice reports back for the Media Action Grassroots Network's Media Justice PMA

More than 1,000 people attended the final People’s Movement Assembly, the National PMA, and reported back from the over 50 PMA’s held between Wednesday and Friday. Today, representatives from each assembly reported back the synthesized demands, commitments, and collective visions for moving forward. As each declaration was made, forum participants cheered for the visions they helped create. The demands made reflected the overall feeling towards the current status of social justice across the United States. These politically charged statements are the foundation for moving our collective visions forward using multiple strategies to ensure the greatest amount of successes.

The message that resonated most with me throughout this assembly was the overwhelming desire for folks to be in charge of the decisions that most impact and affect their ability to self-determine the quality and direction of their lives. Organizers across the country from broad and diverse backgrounds are asking for our struggles to be interwoven as a strategy to make each of our movements stronger. There were cries for divestment from the oppressive state of Israel, support for the people in Arizona resisting the racist laws that target people of color, and the urgency to reduce the havoc our precious earth must endure at the hand of capitalism.

The power to communicate belongs to all of us, equally. We must deepen our collaborative efforts to protect this right for each of us. This is the only way we will defeat the disaster that capitalism insists on leaving in its wake. Another world is beginning. Another world has begun.

thanks for reading,


June 26, 2010 Posted by | USSF, USSF_mlp | Leave a comment

People’s Forum on Language Theft, Language Occupation, Language Domination, Resistance & Reclamation

Friday was, sadly, the last full day of the US Social Forum.  I attended an amazing workshop put on by Poor Magazine: People’s Forum on Language Theft, Language Occupation, Language Domination, Resistance & Reclamation.  The workshop opened with a poem performed by seven women, who call themselves the welfareQUEENS.  Each shared how they have had to interact with different kinds of language privilege.  Some of the powerful statements I heard these women share were, “I am a digital resister”, “I am a Super Baby Mama”, “Zapoteco no más por pendejos”, “Hablo con fuerza y también con amor”, and “Using the master’s language means you have a place in the master’s world.“  The facilitators asked us to participate in a couple of exercises where we would share our own stories of language domination.  Several questions came up for me, such as— What does it mean to not have access to language, to not feel authentic, and feel like you won’t be able to prove your authenticity to others?  What does linguistic domination of our own stories mean?  What does it mean for how people remember us?  What does it mean for our health and chance of survival in a society that doesn’t let us tell our own stories?

The facilitators asked us to write about a time when we have encountered linguistic domination.  One woman from Russia talked about how certain books, specifically books on Gender Studies, are not being translated into Russian.  She shared how hard it was for her to apply to graduate school in the US with an English language barrier.  Another woman talked about her family attempting to protect her from discrimination by teaching her the imposed language along with the violent colonial ways.  This story made me think about how internalized oppression materializes in our lives and how pervasive it must be when we have very little opportunity to use any other set of words to communicate with each other.  I began thinking about this impacts our daily lives.  Some questions I had were: How are we supposed to feel intelligent when every time we turn around we are being told that we are not using language appropriately?  When do we get to experience the privilege of safety and not have to beg for crumbs?  Are we supposed to really never feel valued in our own experiences? Is English really a privilege?

Next, we got into groups and collectively wrote a poem to reflect some solutions we thought would help us confront this language domination.  In my group, each member shared a few words to make a poem.  My contribution was about resisting shame, the shame that comes from not feeling authentic because I grew up so far from Mexico, not just geographically, but also generationally.  I am a fifth generation Mexicana born and raised on the Southside of Chicago.  Really, it’s a miracle I can speak the language at all.  But that’s my privilege.  I have parents who are bilingual and understood how valuable it would be for my sister and me to also know both Spanish and English.  I have been speaking Spanish my whole life, but I have no family in Mexico that I can visit.  For me, it’s something I feel some in my community could potentially see as a deficit, something that pushes me further away from being part of the community.

This leaves me thinking about privilege and responsibility, in terms of media messages.  Who shapes the public image of those of us in the margins?  Who suffers the consequences of irresponsible speech?  How does dominant culture benefit from silencing us and telling their version of our stories?  What do we need to do to take back out voices?  Media Literacy Project is currently running a responsible speech campaign to examine what are the impacts community faces when the messages in media allows the dominant culture speak for everyone.  We demand healthy digital ecology for low-income, working class, and immigrant communities.  Digital ecology is defined as interactive, multi-disciplinary inquiry of life in an increasingly digitized and technologically mediated environment.  It explores how people interact with, are shaped by, and shape the mechanisms through which we produce, share, receive, archive, and access information, stories, and cultural knowledge.  Digital ecology is rooted in the belief that healthy digital ecosystem is community-based, people-centered, and supportive of political, economic, cultural, and technological justice.

With privilege comes responsibility.  With access comes responsibility.   We each have a voice and it is our duty to make it be heard, no matter how many people or systems have tried to take it away.  We are the ones who need to tell our stories; we are the only ones who can do them justice.  We have been, and continue to be, conditioned to remain passive and silent. We need to move that behavior to our past.  The negative impacts irresponsible speech has on our communities has the potential to not only erase our experiences and realities from history, but also push us further into the margins and away from the agency we have to tell our own stories.  Our future must be filled with our voices and the telling our stories—in any language we want to use.

thanks for reading,


June 26, 2010 Posted by | USSF, USSF_mlp | Leave a comment

Reclaiming Stories at the USSF 2010

The full moon shined down on Detroit last night as the fourth day of workshops, panels, assemblies, and cultural events at the U.S. Social Forum wrapped up for a close. The days seem to have gone by fast, filled with an avalanche of information and inspiration to serve my work in New Mexico as a media justice organizer. I’m excited to take back the knowledge and continue to advance creative ways to advance the causes of media justice.

I was happy to engage in another media justice workshop on Friday because it related to rural folks and their stories. New Mexico is a predominantly rural state, with 2 million people spread across the 5th geographically largest state in the country. The workshop was called Place Stories and was hosted by Edyael Casaperalta from the Center for Rural Strategies, and Steven Renderos from Main Street Project based out of Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The workshop first had us introduce ourselves to each other by asking us to explain what we think describes our town versus what the media and societal stereotypes describe rural areas. All individuals in the room beautifully described a rich culture and very real issues they are facing in terms of access to basic infrastructure like that of communication and mobility.  It became apparent in our conversations that rural communities need to reclaim their stories in order to counter the negative stereotypes that trivialize the experiences people have, including but not limited to historical and present racism and poverty.  What Place Stories gave me was a chance to learn about an online tool,, which allows for all our rural communities to connect across the US, and the world, with free software. It is a website made for communities with limited resources so that they can provide an audio or video 2-4 minute account of stories of their hometown or highlight issues relevant to the needs

Edyael Casaperalta and Steven Renderos

of their community.

Very much related to this issue of needing to reclaim stories to enhance a cause surrounded by stereotypes was my experience later that day with the Reproductive Justice 101 workshop facilitated by Andrea Quijada of Media Literacy Project and the Third Wave Foundation.  In this workshop we learned about the many issues that intersect on women’s and trans people’s bodies, including the culture of violence that threatens and forcibly tries to control women, especially women of color.  These intersections stem from systemic racism in the prison industrial complex, the broken immigration system, the environment, homophobia/heteronormative system, and class and economic injustices, just to name a few. I want to say that even though the attacks on women’s bodies throughout U.S. history is very pervasive and bleak—starting with attacks on Native and Indigenous women’s bodies, followed by attacks on Black women’s bodies from the beginning of slavery in the U.S., to the current terror that immigrant women are facing now as mothers are being forcibly relocated and incarcerated.

Even though this may be a very stark history and reality, these spaces I participated in today showed me the power of digital storytelling in changing the system. In a way, digital stories are a type of medicine—our own resource to advance and find ideas and to find solidarity across many different borders in our lives.  It feels awesome to be amongst communities that recognize that even a small Flip camera and a computer with editing software, can be used to advance and bring about policies that can benefit us, recognizing that media can shape society to bring in a more inclusive world that benefits all peoples’ lived struggles.

Candelario Vazquez, Media Justice Organizer,

June 26, 2010 Posted by | USSF, USSF_mlp | Leave a comment

Reproductive Justice and Intersections With Queer and Trans Health

A year ago the Media Literacy Project (MLP) created a set of guiding principles to steer our mission and our vision for media justice. These principles clarified which steps to prioritize in our strategic plan, and named the communities we would prioritize in our outreach and organizing programs. One result was the development of our Girl Tech Collective, an initiative to train young women of color (ages 15-24) in media justice, media production, media messaging, and reproductive justice. All the women in GTC are members of various organizations from Women Building Community (WBC), a cohort supported by the New Mexico Community Foundation’s WBC Fund.

MLP’s commitment to taking on reproductive justice led to an invitation to join the Third Wave Reproductive Justice Network—a network of Third Wave Foundation grantee organizations from across the country. Their work spans the various intersections that overlap with reproductive justice (RJ). RJ is defined as the complete physical, mental, spiritual, political, economic, and social well-being of women and girls, and will be achieved when women and girls have the economic, social and political power and resources to make healthy decisions about our bodies, sexuality and reproduction for ourselves, our families, and our communities in all areas of our lives. All of the network organizations do various reproductive justice work through complementary strategies including birthing rights, sexual violence prevention, queer youth organizing, fighting for comprehensive sexuality education, and support programs for youth in alternative economies, specifically youth of color and trans youth.

The RJ Network provides a space for organizations to share, learn, and build with one another as we develop collective goals to support the reproductive justice needs of our respective communities. We saw the US Social Forum as an opportunity to collaborate and were excited to have a workshop at the US Social Forum on June 25 in Detroit. Reproductive Justice 101: Creative Vision, Innovative Strategies, and Powerful Networks was facilitated by staff and volunteers from SPARK Reproductive Justice NOW!, New Voices Pittsburgh, Media Literacy Project, SAFER, and Third Wave. Over 30 people attended the four-hour workshop where we created an RJ timeline, diagrammed issues and key players in our movement, shared our visions for a world with RJ, and created digital stories.

Mariela Alburgues shares what Reproductive Justice means to her community. click photo to see video

In the RJ timeline activity, participants discussed various events such as the 2006 Free the NJ4 campaign, the forced sterilization of women of color and women with disabilities, the use of Depo Provera on Native women in Phoenix and Oklahoma City in the 1980’s, and the current incarceration of transgender and gender variant people who are systematically put in prisons which refuse to place them in facilities based on their gender identity.  What emerged from the conversations following the activity and throughout the workshop was that reproductive justice, as a framework, centers the lived realities of low-income youth, women, and trans people of color, and that we need support, networks, and policies which create a world where we can each live our lives without limits, barriers, and borders.

The Media Literacy Project is currently creating digital stories from the interviews we conducted with some of the workshop participants. These stories will be shared on our website and will be included in our Girl Tech Collective community event this Fall. Please visit our website for an example of how we deconstruct media within an RJ framework, or sign-up to receive updates on all of our media justice campaigns.

Andrea Quijada, Executive Director, Media Literacy Project

June 26, 2010 Posted by | USSF, USSF_mlp | Leave a comment

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,


June 25, 2010 Posted by | USSF, USSF_mlp | 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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