on the national conference on media reform

june 11, 2008

dear readers,

gatherings of national scale are important. they whip up energy like four winds colliding, roiling, toiling to birth a new day. the sun makes it look so easy, right? like olympic gymnasts, or savion glover with his lightening feet. gatherings of national scale are important whether they are liberal led, radical red, or conservative cred, they are important. even when they aren’t perfect, they are important.

why was the national conference on media reform (june 6-8, minneapolis) important?


all the faces/all the moments/all the panels/

were media/

media of the mouth/media of the moment/

fresher than anything on tv/

moment as media/

it was/in its moments/monumental

moment 1:

when hip hop journalist davey d asked grouchy greg, founder of allhiphop.com (“we get more traffic than vh1 and bet combined”), about the imminence of corporate sell-out. greg sat there, next to arianna huffington, in front of a long stretch of seats filled by older, whiter people than himself who twittered uncomfortably at his every comment and had the balls to say he and his partner weren’t going to sell their site to the corporate buyers hovering like flies above their sticky sweet site because “our readers won’t let us.” how’s that for a new model of accountability? we’re watching grouchy greg, we heard what
you said to davey d, and yes, we’ll hold you to it. but yo, greg, wassup with dogging newspapers man, saying newspapers are a “waste” and are going to be “obsolete in 3 years”, yo, you gotta pick your eyes up off the stunning visage of america and look worldwide, motherfuckers of all walks are reading papers on the daily in so many countries, globally the newspaper ain’t dying any time soon, i promise you that.

moment 2:

when malkia cyril of the center for media justice blew everyone out the water with gems like “we can’t win the fight for media justice without fighting for a more just economy,” and “we need to build a movement that moves from the city to the beltway and not from the beltway to the city,” and, my personal go-get-em-tiger favorite, paraphrased: we simply can’t expect the first amendment to hold back the tide of media injustice because the first amendment wasn’t created in a just era. malkia laid it down wedged into the discussion as the only grass roots based person of color between democracy now’s amy goodman and free press’s bob mcchesney. moreover, malkia bullhorned with no bullhorn this startlingly honest message in front of a packed house of liberal, older, whiter folks. what does that mean, “liberal, older, whiter”? well, imagine like its still slavery time and these are northern white folks, not southern white folks, and some of them, a small smattering few, are hardcore john brown abolitionists with a license to ill. this past sunday, the new york times featured a week in review article on obama and the idea of “being too black”. as in, obama can’t win if white people don’t like him, white folks don’t want a candidate who’s too black because it makes them feel like they have something to atone for, and its better for obama to stay “post-race” and not be “too black.” well mac, let’s just say you can’t be too black, you can’t be too butch, you can’t be too intellectual, and you cannot be too you. big ups for creating a national media network of good folks doing grassroots work from the rural to the urban and keeping doing you, better, and as much as you humanly and humanely can.

moment 3:

the star studded panel on un-embedding media and war. the football sized room was packed to the hilt. sizzling energy. the session starts with a short film, war made easy, put out by the media education foundation. i was moved by that shit. language poetic, message strong. war made easy spoke to the way “war machinery is fully linked to major media outlets,” it spoke to the way every news program on every channel every day leading up to the war sounded “a drumbeat of war,” an “echo” of war mongering that sought not to balance coverage but to tip the scale of blood to pour in iraq and forgotten afghanistan. afghanistan, 50% bigger than iraq, 4 million more people than iraq, all to say this is an important country to not forget. remember and not forget. afghanistan, the country that had never known the suicide bombing phenomenon until the u.s. invasion, and clocked 140 such bombings just in the last year. this according to afghani panelist sonali kholhatkar. the film ended with a grainy slow motion shot of reporters walking alongside (was it) lyndon b. johnson, old school thick rimmed glasses, skinny ties, and they moved, heads down, blindly, stepping in time to the administrations soundbites like so many sheep. an arresting visual.

moment 4:

same panel. 1st speaker. the hip hop reverend yearwood speaks on it. said he was a veteran and a proud member of iraq veterans against the war. the crowd roars. tells the crowd to yell harder for the cameras, so the war resisters in canada watching on the tv could hear our support for their on-the-run lives. the crowd amplifies. reverend yearwood moves into his speech, sinking his message into our local context, mentions the bridge collapse in minnesota last year, we got money for war and can’t keep our bridges up, our levees strong. the reverend said we need to impeach bush. another gigantic roar from the crowd. his most powerful message was “we should not continue talking to only ourselves,” that we should not “be afraid of losing our hardcore status by appealing to and through mass media,” and, he urged, “let’s get our movement past our media.” reverend yearwood represented lovely for the hip hop generation, and appealed to the white elders in the room by making links, “your vietnam is our iraq, your birmingham our new orleans, and your emmitt till our sean bell.” murmurs of acknowledgment from all around. when he said we need different voices to speak to all the different groups, i felt seen. and, he end, when he let loose his thunder most preacher throated energy with “reclaim democracy and impeach our president,” the crowd was on its feet. guess they felt seen too. who knew impeachment was on the minds of so many? i must not know because its not in the drumbeat of media machinery as it was for clinton.

moment 5:

dinner family style at bubba gump’s in the mall of america with center for media justice fam.

moment 6:

outside the kitty kat club, where underground cats and the dope trip hop band “black blondie” inspired the stage alight, me gettin nice in a freestyle cypher with four minnesota hip hop heads, necks bobbing, beat box dropping, a mouth made in heaven, i felt like, when i walked down the block to the reggeaton club on the corner and the tigres just hissed to let me know they was watchin, ssssss, i walked around them, under the fat green leaves that lined the nighttime sidewalk i walked and felt like a mouth made in heaven.

mmmmm, moments.



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One thought on “on the national conference on media reform

  1. mandal.k.singh says:

    Thanks for your nice coverage of the conference on media reform. As an average man on the street I have not seen the main steam media (USA) to admit that they need a reform: they may have slipped but they were never wrong. My own last political experience was a call I had this evening from an Obama supporter for a campaign contribution. I explained her that I need no convincing as I am a supporter like her. Keep up the good work.

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