I’m writing you today to share some big news from MediaJustice. After over two decades of leadership establishing the media justice sector and as our Executive Director, MediaJustice founder Malkia Devich Cyril will be officially moving on from their role on December 31st, 2019. We are all excited about the breadth this gives Malkia to continue the fight for a future where we are all connected, represented, and free in a new capacity, as the inaugural Senior Fellow at MediaJustice. This transition makes it possible for Malkia to focus their energy on further expanding the broader media justice movement, while setting up the next generation of organizational leadership for sustained success.
Starting January 1, 2020, longtime MediaJustice leader Steven Renderos will step into the role of Executive Director. Steven has been involved with MediaJustice in multiple roles over the past 9 years. A transition committee made up of Board and staff members has guided an extensive process over the last year leading up to this decision. We are thrilled Steven has agreed to lead MediaJustice into its next decade. I hope you will join us in supporting this seamless transition.
As a Black, genderqueer, radical movement leader, it’s impossible to capture all that Malkia has given to the organization and movement over the past two decades. Raised by a Black Panther in Brooklyn, Malkia has long understood the power of organizing and direct action, and was able to combine that instinct with deep racial justice education from the Applied Research Center, Center for Third World Organizing, and others in the lineage of Black liberation movements. Mentored by creative visionaries like Audre Lorde and others, Malkia became a fearless advocate for the media and technology rights of Black and Brown people at a time when few were linking communications policy and narrative change with racial justice. In 2002, at a gathering at the Highlander Center in Tennessee, Malkia helped coin the term “media justice”, and soon, as founder of the Youth Media Council — formed in Oakland as part of an organization called We Interrupt this Message in 2001 — Malkia put these ideas into action in new and transformative ways.
Malkia would go on to co-found the national MediaJustice Network (then called the Media Action Grassroots Network), the largest movement building network of its kind — now with over 100 social justice, media, and arts organizations collaborating for communication rights, access, and representation. In 2008, Malkia, with support from Jen Soriano and Amy Sonnie, reimagined Youth Media Council as the Center for Media Justice, dedicating the institution to organizing the most under-represented communities into a national movement for digital civil rights.
In their tenure as Executive Director of MediaJustice (newly renamed in 2019), Malkia helped usher in massive shifts in cultural narratives around media and technology. Here are just a few examples of their work and impact:
- Malkia has helped build the capacity of racial and economic justice sectors in the United States to win on media and technology rights — to secure the freedoms they deserve and need.
- Under Malkia’s leadership, MediaJustice has trained thousands of organizers of color, both in strategic communications and in organizing for media rights and access.
- Malkia and MediaJustice were integral in passing Net Neutrality in 2015 and framing the fight for an open Internet as a racial justice issue, bringing the voices of directly impacted people of color into the debate.
- From helping to reduce the cost of phone calls from prisons to leading MediaJustice’s lawsuit against the FBI’s digital surveillance of Black activists, Malkia has pushed forward a national conversation on the intersection of mass incarceration, racism, and modern high-tech policing.
- During their final two years as Executive Director, while Malkia operated as a full-time cancer caregiver for their wife Alana, they doubled the annual operating budget of MediaJustice to over $2 million. In the same period, Malkia built the organization from a small staff in Oakland to a team of 14 based in 8 locations across 6 states and Washington, DC, supporting the largest and only action network on media and technology issues in the country.
As the country prepares for another major turning point in 2020, thanks to the foundation Malkia has built, MediaJustice is more than prepared to bring vision, leadership, and rigor to the most important digital civil rights battles of the moment. And as a Senior Fellow, Malkia will continue to provide their own thought leadership in service of this work and the work happening in the field — building on their more than 20 years of experience in the media justice movement, while also making room for personal and organizational growth.
Together, we continue to fight for a future in which we are all connected, represented, and free; centering the leadership of Black and other grassroots leaders of color. We’re eternally grateful to Malkia for showing us the way.
Sage Crump, Board Chair, on behalf of Team MediaJustice
Learn more about Malkia’s impact and the history of MediaJustice in our new interactive timeline.