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.”
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