Monday, June 16, 2008

NCMR2008: Organizing Locally at the Grassroots

(Audio of the presentation available here)

If the Faith Based Organizing panel was up my alley, this panel was in the big broad street that led right to my door. Panel participant Nancy Doyle Brown, representing the Twin Cities Media Alliance was someone I’d worked with on several events, panel facilitator Steve Macek who was working with the Chicago Media Action and I knew each other from left-wing third party politics days, and I’d met Tracy Rosenberg of the Media Alliance several years before. New to me was the work of the Media Mobilization Project, which was represented not by Todd Wolfson but by Nijmie Dzurinko and I’d long been a fan of the kill-your-TV Reclaim the Media, represented by Karen Toering.

Since I only went to two panels, I’m not sure how this was replicated across the convention, but while the faith based panel had three men and one woman, this panel had one guy (the facilitator) and four women – and at least two of them were women of color. So if this represented the people who are in the trenches doing real organizing, the movement is clearly not another white liberal male phenomenon. (Although many of the people in my faith-based community organizing group – the volunteer leaders – are women and it’s my perception that by and large the bulk of work in social justice work gets done by women. No great secret. Another post.)

The Media Mobilization Project is doing groundbreaking work in Philadelphia. They were described as the descendants of Martin Luther King’s Poor People’s March and Philly Indymedia; their central tenets are that “1) issues of media democracy, justice and reform cannot be detached from larger socio-economic questions, and 2) new participatory media tools offer the possibility of fusing otherwise fragmented struggles for justice.” The representative, Nijmie Dzurinko, is the director of the Philadelphia Student Union, which is organizing in West Philadelphia high schools. The campaigns bring new media into standard grassroots organizing; their YouTube channel has clips like this of taxi drivers organizing with each other around the central taxi authority.

Tracy’s Media Alliance has been doing good grassroots work for a good long time – thirty years. They’re from the West Coast, out of the Bay Area. They are the fiscal agent for groups like the SF Bay Area Indymedia, the anarchist-run A-Infos Radio Project, what looks like radio pirates San Francisco Liberation Radio. They’re somewhere in the traditional non-profit realm (as far as I can tell) but don’t seem to have problems working with the more grassroots/radical elements.

Reclaim the Media out of Seattle is going strong doing their work on the barricades side of grassroots activism. They have no paid staff, and have worked on media policy, supporting community media, and media literacy.

The Twin Cities Media Alliance
, like several organizations in the Twin Cities, was assisted by the takeover and subsequent shelling of the Star Tribune. Several of the principles there came out of the paper as it was shedding employees. They have succeeded in putting together the great community media portal, the Twin Cities Daily Planet, which brings local ethnic, neighborhood, and activist press together in one site (as well as doing some original reporting.)

Chicago Media Action has done a number of things including challenging FCC licenses of our unresponsive corporate media outlets, working on cable contracts for public access channels, net neutrality, etc.

This panel was a 10 of 10, in my mind, even with the technological issues with Steve’s recalcitrant laptop. This is how new media makes a difference; these were the stories of how local people were holding their local corporate media accountable.

(Crossposted at Bitch PhD.)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

NCMR2008: Faith Based Community Organizing and Media Reform

A little reporting from the National Conference on Media Reform

I got to the first of the panels I attended, Faith-Based Community Organizing and Media Reform, a little late, so missed out on why some of the listed folks weren’t there. Attending were Rev. Ben Guess from the United Church of Christ (a cute gay preacher in jeans, a white shirt, and a top-of-the-ear piercing), Rev. Romal Tune in suit with kerchief (the muted/flashy black minister outfit), local organizer Vic Rosenthal (imagine a Jewish Garrison Keillor) and Kathy Partridge, an energetic and competent Unitarian head of a feisty faith foundation.

The program promised to:

(highlight) the successes of the faith community in social justice organizing, while looking ahead to how media justice organizers and faith organizers can reinforce each other's message. The media is often a barrier to social justice organizing, but working together, the two sectors can further strengthen their communities.

Media reformers and faith based organizers are in the early stages of getting to know each other. They United Church of Christ has been involved in communication as a justice issue for a while; they got a royal corporate media smackdown when NBC and CBS refused to run some of their commercials in 2004. Saying the commercials were ‘too controversial’, they were denied access to our privatized airwaves. (The real controversy – the UCC were calling out the biased churches of the cultural Right for being closed to whole sectors of society)

The UCCs rock pretty hard. They give grants for churches that are part of their radio ministry, so long as they

  • Communicate God’s radical acceptance and extravagant welcome;
  • Reach out to the alienated, the excluded, the spiritually homeless, the questioning;
  • Make a home for all in the life of their congregations.

A lot of the panel was the explanation of what faith-based community organizing WAS, and less how the two are getting together. Romal Tune and Vic Rosenthal gave their perspectives – Romal from that of black churches, and Vic told the story about the immigration raid on the big kosher meat plant in Iowa. They spoke more about how the media is not your friend, if you care about workers, or black folk, or immigrants.

A big part of the narrative of this convention – which was also the case at the first convention in Madison, which I also attended – was about whether the ‘reform movement’ was broad enough for everyone, if it focused too much on legislative solutions and electoral politics and not enough on poor people, black people, and those who need a bigger dose of media justice. This panel seemed to be laying the table for a discussion around just those issues in the context of faith based organizing. Here’s what it is, media movement. Where are we going to be able to move together? What can we do?

My media plus organizer dream would be the creation by the faith communities of the left of a communications infrastructure like the right-wing churches have, particularly radio and cable. With a possible political sea change in the wind, maybe the low power FM licenses will be available again, and we can see gay pastors from welcoming churches rubbing radio elbows with black preachers and anti-poverty advocates on new neighborhood stations.

(Crossposted at Bitch PhD)

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Forever and a day

Since I've posted. But I notice that the hits are coming up which is likely because my comments on The Field and other places list my webpage.

This is, sadly, a non-updated blog. It's got some great rants on it, and thanks for reading it, and thanks for clicking through here.

I have a dream, that someday I'll start blogging again. My World of Warcraft guild will probably be missing me.