Holding media accountable to blackness and the radical needs of now // a panel feat. Prof Jenn Jackson, Amber Butts, & Hari Ziyad
In recent years, Black people have cultivated our own data and turned to our own media outlets to spread the word about what's really happening in our communities (e.g. Ferguson). This reflects what our people have always done: used word of mouth, storytelling, song, etc. to warn, educate, and be in communication with one another without the messages being lost in the interference of outsiders.
Now, "mainstream" publications are adding Black, queer, and radical writers to their mastheads in response to the ongoing failure of these same institutions to be accountable to communities who support their growth. Many of these institutions have consistently published and prioritized white voices over Black women's/folks'. Is diversifying their mastheads enough, and, if not, what would it take for media companies to truly be accountable to Black communities?
Some questions we will seek to address:
When we ask for or talk about media accountability, what does that really mean? What requests, demands or expectations are there? How do we check in with each other to make sure we are on the same page with our requests? When Blackness and Black bodies are situated as commodities, public property, and trends, but never as full beings, is "representation" truly impactful in the way we want it to be? What happens when movement leaders get commercialized? How might Black writers be complicit in a dynamic where media companies exploit Black communities in this way, and how do we fight against it, create an alternative, or call it out? How do we hold these nuances?
Jenn M. Jackson is a queer, androgynous Black woman, lover of all Black people, organizer, and Assistant Professor at Syracuse University in the Department of Political Science.
Amber Butts is a storyteller, cultural strategist, and grief worker who believes that Black folks are already whole.
Hari Ziyad is a cultural critic, a screenwriter, the editor-in-chief of RaceBaitr, and the author of Black Boy Out of Time.