Drawing its inspiration from the environmental justice

movement and their efforts to advance a different analysis

from the “mainstream” environmental

movement, media justice proponents are developing race,

class, and gender conscious frameworks that advance new visions for

media content and structure.

There are even plans for a Media Justice Summit in

late spring 2004, the first gathering of its kind.

<p>Says co-convener

 and technology expert Art McGee, “We’re

 modeling the Media Justice Summit on the historic Environmental

 Justice Summit that occurred over a decade ago, in

which people of color and

 the poor came together and made explicit their environmental

issues and concerns, which had not been a part of

 the mainstream agendas of mostly

white groups like the Sierra Club or Greenpeace. We’re about to

 do something very similar.”</p>

 <p>Of course, media justice is not new.

 It is the logical outgrowth of the larger movement

for justice. It is the microphone that helps us touch

 others when we are

advocates, the

mirror that reflects

our dreams and fears when we are consumers, and the

 vehicle through which we actualize our stories when

 we are producers.


<p>For media scholar and long-time advocate

 Mark Lloyd, the movement that calls itself media justice

today is just getting back to these civil rights roots. “I think

what is considered the media justice movement is less rooted in the consumer

or public interest movement

 than it is properly rooted in a movement that began

 with the traditional issues and concerns of civil rights;

 a movement

that is concerned with

equality, with political representation, the impact

 of culture on institutions like media and schools.”</p>

 <p>Lloyd observes

 that this historical context is key to understanding

the need for groups to create a media

 justice “space” outside

 of the traditional media “consumer” or democracy movement. “We

have institutions like the <em>New York Times</em>, or <em>The

Nation</em>, or foundations that are dominated by people who

tend not to be people of color, and they do not see

 people of color as integral to this movement, but they

see this ‘public

interest stuff’ as

separate or important and maybe see this ‘civil rights stuff’ as


 <p>The failure to make these connections has dogged the “media

democracy movement” for years. With Thomas Jefferson among their

pantheon of heroes and the flag as the backdrop, it

 has been hard for many people

 of color to comfortably join their ranks. Add to that

 the movement’s

commitment to “content neutral” reforms and its focus on

important but distant technological issues like set

 top (the little digital box on your cable TV), and

you get an agenda that lacks what gets most

 of us riled about media in the first place: we care

 deeply about content. In fact, we care about ownership

and funding and access so that we can

 get the mic, the Mac, the airwaves, and in the final

analysis, own, create, consume, and even collectivize

 media that reflect our needs, our values,

 our image.


 <p>By ignoring content and retreating to the

safer ground of consumer rights, media democracy advocates

have been able to strike alliances among mostly white,

mainstream groups that span the pink haired

 and pierced to right wing broadcasters. And like most

 big tent affairs, race and content issues are seen

as divisive, unwieldy, and just not



<p>It’s ironic, as the modern day battle for fair media

 began in Jackson, Mississippi, where the African American

 community decided they’d

had it with racist coverage and no access. They filed

 complaints and took outlets to court in a campaign

that forged the policy framework

on which most beltway lawyers rely today. Then, racist

content and unfair treatment were more than mere distractions

 in the “real

battle” for

 media democracy and regulation. It was the heart and

soul of the movement.


<p>This history is certainly front

and center for media justice proponents of today. It

shapes where we’ve

been, who has been advantaged and disadvantaged, and

where we go from here. Without

a vision firmly rooted in this context, they say, we’ll have better,

high-speed resolution for the same old oppression.



McGee, understanding the history also helps us understand

 and draw inspiration from the historic leadership

 role that people of color have consistently played

in media work. “Black

 journalists, publishers, and activists have been fighting

 for media justice since before the birth of this country. For those who

 think that a people-of-color-led

fight for media justice is new, just check out the

history of both black people’s overall struggle to have some degree

 of control over their portrayal as human beings, and the tireless work

that countless black

journalists have done to try to democratize the media

 landscape in this country. As Samuel Cornish and John B. Russwurm said

in the premier issue

of <em>Freedom’s Journal</em> back in 1827: ‘We

 wish to plead our own cause. Too long have others spoken

for us.’” </p>

<p><em>For more information on Media Justice and the upcoming summit, visit <br /><a href="http://www.mediajustice.org">www.mediajustice.org</a>.</em></p>