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>





















<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



















passe.”</p>





















 <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>























 <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



















 strategic.







































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































</p>























<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>





















<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.





































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































 </p>























 <p>For























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>