Amplifying Our Voices for Racial Justice

Gabriella Anaïs Deal-Márquez

Gabriella Anaïs Deal-Márquez

For weeks leading up to my fourth birthday I listened to Radio Cultural Campesina with anticipation. My mom had promised me a shout out, and no present could get me more amped than that. Mexican community radio in the 90s was about power to the people. It was resistance wrapped up in laughter, corridos, and political debate.   I go back to these scattered memories of community storytelling through radio waves often, as I think about what it means to have independent platforms to lift the power and stories of our communities.

In my work at Voices with youth, we always acknowledge the lies mainstream media tells us about who we are. We ramplifyflyer JUST BACKGROUNDecognize mainstream culture is invested in replicating narratives that hold the logic of racism—and that the biggest trick that systems, media, and people can play on us is to convince us we don’t have the power to define our own stories.

AMPLIFY: Organizing for Media Change and Racial Justice will be held May 20th and 21st. It’s a convening developed by our team at voices with local organizers, cultural workers, and artists in partnership with the Media Action Grassroots Network. The goal is to share tools, resources and workshops that will be useful as we build powerful narratives in our work and provide an opportunity to connect with different local communities creating and organizing for media change and racial justice.

If you’re wondering why it matters to talk media change when we talk racial justice,the simple answer is that it’s too urgent not to. That the threat to open internet is a threat to economic justice. That we can’t talk about structural inequality in low-wealth communities of color, without talking about the fact that these communities pay the highest rates for internet, and that families are being left to have to choose between an internet bill and a water bill. That we can’t talk about prison justice without talking about access to phone lines and the exorbitant rates families of incarcerated loved ones have to pay to talk to them. That high-tech surveillance is taking the violence of racial profiling to a whole new level. That the fight for independent media platforms is one against corporate control and if we really want to shift the narratives of our art, our work, and who we are, we need to build our own platforms.

Join us next week as we share, vision, learn about new opportunities to build bridges across our art, media and organizing.



Dismantle Digital Redlining With Net Neutrality

Gabriella Anaïs Deal-Márquez

Gabriella Anaïs Deal-Márquez

As organizers committed to unlocking power in communities of color and co-creating our own solutions, net neutrality is indispensable. Voices for Racial Justice is an anchor organization of the Media Action Grassroots Network along with 174 organizations nation-wide. We recognize that systemic barriers in economic and racial equity gaps must also be addressed by organizing around media justice.

At its core, our fight for racial justice is about generating opportunities as people of color to tell the stories of our communities and sit at decision making tables. This includes the power to create independent platforms that can contribute to the larger political dialogues that directly impact our daily lives and those of our families. FCC Chairman Wheeler penned an article ( articulating net neutrality rules that would reclassify the Internet as a Title II service under the Communications Act, which he says will ensure a “fast, fair, and open” internet. In addition, it will provide protections for users regardless of if they access the internet on their tablet, phone, or computer.

So why does this matter?

Every day we see the impact institutional and structural racism has on our communities. Internet access has also proven to fall along these same lines. What has become known as digital redlining is where low-wealth communities of color are excluded from high-speed access. Rural communities, which in Minnesota are becoming increasingly more diverse, need internet to be reclassified as Title II Service to even be able to access high speed internet. Strategic conversations around net neutrality must take place at the core of our organizing. Chairman Wheeler’s support of reclassifying the internet demonstrates how much people across the nation have organized and mobilized around this issue. However as always, there are powerful corporate interests working to ensure this shift does not occur.

The Black Congressional members of Team Cable aren’t very happy.

After taking millions of dollars from the cable industry, members of Congress like Bobby Rush (IL), G.K. Butterfield (NC), Gregory Meeks (NY), and Lacy Clay (MO) are desperately launching one last effort to undermine the democratic process to attack the FCC. That’s why we’re teaming up with the Media Action Grassroots Network and Color of Change to stop them!

For the next day help us call these representatives and demand that they let the FCC do its job to pass strong net neutrality rules. Thanks to Color of Change, this online tool will help make the calls for you and provide a script you can read.

Opposing media consolidation is about taking a stand for workers, families and communities over corporations. Will you join us?



Prison Phone Justice: Making the Connection for Families

cppjbannerjpeg_624_170We were a small group, but our mood was electric and connected to the mood of groups across the country witnessing the Federal Communications Commission’s vote to limit interstate prison phone rates. The vote was a long time coming, after a ten-plus year campaign to bring fairness to a structure that worked against the intentions of the criminal justice system and the well-being of families and children across the country.

We were at Main Street Project, gathered together to watch the live stream of the FCC meeting on Friday. Organizing Apprenticeship Project is a partner of the Media Action Grassroots Network (MAG-Net, a project of the Center for Media Justice), which along with Working Narratives and Prison Legal News, has been organizing theCampaign for Prison Phone Justice. Also with us was Line Break Media, advocates for media justice, and University of St. Thomas Law School Professor Artika Tyner, whose Community Justice Project Legal Clinic has given students a chance to be part of the campaign.

The glue for our small group was Steven Renderos, National Organizer for the Center for Media Justice. I first met Steven when I joined OAP two years ago and he gave me a crash course in media justice. As an OAP board member he helped our organization wade through the technical side of media, but also opened our eyes to the social justice issues resulting from who does and does not have access to media and communication. Now based in New York, we see him less, but his calls and emails keep us in the loop. His call last week was to come together around the anticipated FCC vote — and he would be in town to join us.

The prison phone rates issue has not made many front page headlines, but it is one worthy of our attention. In the U.S., 2.7 million children have at least one parent in prison. The majority  are children of color. According to The Sentencing Project, “[c]hildren of incarcerated parents are more likely to drop out of school, engage in delinquency, and subsequently be incarcerated themselves.” Keeping in touch with a parent is crucial for a child’s well-being and future. Maintaining family connections also helps support more positive re-entry and reduces recidivism.