Another World (Of Media Production) Is Possible:Peoples Media Center/Peoples Press Room at The US Social Forum in Atlanta

POOR correspondent - Posted on 22 June 2010

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

From Jail to Journalism

The morning I got out of jail, I walked through the ice-like streets of Oakland, California touching ivy and running my fingers along the sides of buildings, cars and the trunks of trees. It wasn't that I had forgotten how they felt. It was just to know that they, things, trees, buildings and cars, were still there, even when I wasn't, helped to ease the shudder, the ache and the tension that was now permanently lodged in my head

Due to some extremely innovative lawyering by a local civil rights attorney I was given a chance to write as a way of working off my several thousand dollars of fines and jail time for crimes of poverty. In me and my poor mixed race mama's case, this was for the sole act of being homeless in the US- a citable offense. My writing/media production assignment was completed, albeit slowly, while living through the devastating experience of being a youth in a homeless family who had to drop out of school in the sixth grade to support and care for my family

The resulting story, a first person narrative about my attempt to get our PG&E turned back on through county aid, was published. As a youth dealing with incarceration and grinding poverty, the sole act of being published, being heard, about me and my families' struggle to survive, was revolutionary and life-changing, in fact, it was so large, that it gave me the strength, the hope, to go on for another day. I began to consider myself a writer. My scholarship valued.

From that first radical intervention, and subsequent acts of media resistance, along with mentors that included Angela Davis, Velia Garcia, and Erica Huggins, me and my mama launched POOR Magazine, an intentionally glossy , nationally distributed literary magazine written by poor folks on issues of poverty, racism, disability, police brutality and more, which put forth actionable solutions to every problem we discussed.

The magazine led to the eventual founding of a grassroots, non-profit, arts organization of the same name (POOR Magazine) and several education, arts and culture based programs and media production projects such as PoorNewsNetwork(PNN) (an on-line news-service on poverty and racism), a Pacifica radio show, POOR Press, and The Race, Poverty and Media Justice Institute for youth, adults and elders, The Po Poets Project and the welfareQUEENs, and many more. The most important thing about all of these amazing projects is they are led by what we at POOR call race, poverty, youth, disability and elder scholars who are trying through media and art, to be heard, about their experiences, their solutions and their scholarship.

Poverty, Race, Disability and Youth Scholars become Media Scholars at the USSF

Poverty, Race, Youth and Disability scholarship will be leading all of the media production at The Peoples Media Center and Peoples Press Room at the US Social Forum in Atlanta. In a revolutionary collaboration between independent and corporate media producers, acts of media resistance will happen throughout the forum

For example, a workshop on immigrant rights will be reported on by what POOR/PNN would call immigrant scholars or poverty scholars, i.e., undocumented poor workers currently fighting racist, classist immigration laws and deportations. Similarly, a report on the current crisis of displacement in the aftermath of Katrina would be co-authored by a resident or former resident of New Orleans fighting displacement and/or a survivor of displacement in another city in Amerikkka. Both reports would be written and/or taped in English and Spanish and hopefully several more languages. The reports would be written, audio or video taped in the first person, debunking the myth of objectivity promoted by all corporate and even many independent media makers, and the reports would be led by the people experiencing, first-hand, what they are reporting on

The independent and corporate media producers at the conference would work in collaboration with the poverty scholars to facilitate a media report across several media platforms; radio, on-line, print and/or video and in perhaps the most radical act of all for the corporate, alternative, ethnic and independent media present, the finished piece will be co-authored and both parties will share the precious by-line, co-production real estate.

Whether it be radio, TV, on-line or print, it all often comes down to the by-line, shared or singular, which is always based on who does the actual writing, editing or scripting, rather than who is the subject of the story, who the actual story is about, whose story is being told, whose struggle or struggles are being reported on. It is this tension that informs the inherently voyeuristic industry of Journalism, and most media production. Contrary to this notion POOR/PNN believes that if you are reporting on any issue, struggle or action felt or experienced by poor folks, working folks, disabled folks, youth and on and on, it should be led by the folks who have experienced these issues personally.

Writing, reading, thinking imagining speculating. These are luxury activities, so I am reminded, permitted to a privileged few whose idle hours of the day can be viewed otherwise than as a bowl of rice or a loaf bread less to share with the family, excerpt from Women, Native, Other by Trinh T Minh-ha

Due to the many struggles inherent in a life lived in poverty, poverty scholars are often dealing with a deficit of resources, money, security, and time. literacy, formal education, a minute to spare away from the pursuit of a loaf of bread, whereas, most (not all) corporate and independent, ethnic and alternative media producers are coming from a place of some form of privilege, not necessarily just an over-simplified notion of race and or class privilege, but the far more subtle privilege of an organized life, a family that supported you, emotionally and/or financially through college, or perhaps the most precious of all, the privilege of time to think.

Because of multiple forms of crisis and lack of privilege our voices, the voices of poor folks, disabled folks, poor youth of color, poor workers, single parents, elders children and homeless folks, are rarely if ever heard within the media, we aren't leading the stories about ourselves and our communities our families. or our solutions.

Finally, to achieve the mighty and timely goal to make another world possible, the Peoples Media Center/Peoples Press Room will also be creating new inroads of access for unheard voices, unheard struggles, and urgently needed scholarship and community led solutions in a very exciting, non-hierarchical form of inclusionary, non-competitive media. We will be creating new national and international collaborations; media access channels, reporting opportunities, syndications, and co-authorship opportunities, which will live far beyond the one powerful week in Atlanta.

Together we will make another world, another world of media production.


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