Civil Rights & Media Justice

cory - Posted on 27 March 2010

(spanish version)

After leaving Dothan, AL we drove north, visiting many places that have played important roles in the Civil Rights Movement.  At the Civil Rights Memorial Center in Montgomery, Alabama we learned about the famous Bus boycotts which were sparked by Rosa Parks' refusal to give up her seat to a white passenger and about Rev. George Lee , who was killed by White Southerners on May 7, 1955 for using his pulpit and printing press to urge African Americans to vote. We also visited Dexter Avenue Baptist Church,where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. preached and organized. In Selma, AL- we crossed the Edmund Pettis Bridge, the site of Bloody Sunday and interviewed a woman who was arrested at the march. Click here to see the interview.

Jackson, Mississippi  may be well know for its civil rights struggles but it is also considered by many to be the birthplace of the Media Justice movement.  In Jackson in the 1950's and 1960's, the TV station WLBT  refused to broadcast any news about the civil rights movement. They would pretend to have technical difficulties any time there was news that referenced racial justice and also refused to broadcast shows that featured African American actors prominently.  The United Church of Christ  with Everett Parker petitioned the FCC to revoke the stations license because of their racist bias and after a long court battle The FCC took their license away.


This media justice battle was the result of a conversation between Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and comrades of Everett Parker, in which Dr. King, spoke about his concerns about Southern Media's portrayal of the civil rights movement.

I like to think that here on this tour we are doing similar work and having similar conversations that and Everett Parker had. We are meeting with groups on the ground doing work around racial justice, education reform, community development, policing and prison issues, poverty and more and helping them explore what role participatory radio and potentially Low Power FM radio stations can play in these struggles.

Today, the Young People‚Äôs Project (YPP)  work with youth leaders to create digital stories, documentaries, audio and video productions, as well as teaching Math Literacy and addressing the inaccess to healthy food through their agricultrual program: Growing Power.  We facilitated a workshop in which we explored what messages- beyond the surface- each of their programs are communicating.   Their responses revealed that their Math Literacy program communicates solidarity (getting eachother's back); their agricultural program transmits self-determination; and their neighborhood circles communicate that they must be self-organized and have active participation in their communities beyond political representation.

In Greenville, in the lush Mississippi Delta where many people do not have any kind of broadband or internet access, two African American led community groups The Delta Foundation and SPEAR were recently awarded licenses by the FCC to start 2 Full Power Community Radio Stations.  Southeastern Prison Education Advocacy and Reformation Project (SPEAR) is starting a station that will involve formerly incarcerated people to produce programming that will help people expunge their records, regain their right to vote, advocate for prison reform policies and access essential services.  The Delta Foundation hopes to start a station that will  provide an outlet for youth in the area as well as preserve the culture of the Mississippi Delta, the birthplace of the Blues.  We facilitated a workshop with them exploring how radio could be a tool for the work they do and how they can make the stations truly participatory and serving the broader interests for the community.