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.)

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