A Recap of the 2021-2022 MediaJustice Network Fellowship
On July 7th, MediaJustice celebrated the graduation of our first cohort of the revamped MediaJustice Network Fellowship. The party was poppin with DJ Ome giving infectious energy and “move-your-body” tunes. Our MCs were affirming and hilarious – the one and only fabulous MediaJustice Network Membership Organizer, Adrian Martinez, and Black girl storyteller, shapeshifter and visionary, Je Naé Taylor.
We celebrated 10 Fellows who, over the course of 8 months, engaged in rigorous political education covering three core issues: the digital divide, racialized disinformation, and high-tech policing/ surveillance. Guest facilitators included thought leaders, organizers and artists on the frontlines of our movements, including Tawana Petty, Jacinta Gonzalez, Antoine Haywood, and Diana Nucera.
As part of the fellowship, fellows worked on a project with the guidance and support of a mentor. The four brilliant mentors of this past cohort’s program were: movement researcher, Chijindu Obiofuma, multimedia artist and activist, Betty Yu, Program Director for the Equitable Internet Initiative (EII) at Detroit Technology Project, Janice Gates, and author and fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, Brandi Collins-Dexter.
The range of projects is as impressive as is what ties them together: community-based grassroots initiatives and interventions, informed by a power-building lens. Here are some examples of what our fellows created:
Jeantelle Laberinto: Nominated for the fellowship by Network member, [people.power.media], Jeantelle’s project is a tenant’s guide to landlord technology to make accessible the impact that harmful digital tools have on our communities in order to empower those being impacted, evicted, and displaced. Landlord technology platforms often operate under the radar– screening, selecting and surveilling tenants– threatening their ability to remain stably and affordably housed.
“I hope that it can be a useful resource to share as part of the larger discourse and fight against surveillance of our communities, from publicly-owned spaces and streets, to the hallways of our homes. Though the conditions and industries that have set landlord tech in motion are not new, the impacts and harms of landlord tech are still relatively unrecognized. I hope this adds to the collective knowledge within the entire network. The goal of my project is to educate tenants about the direct harms of landlord tech in order to inform and guide tenants to identify how landlord tech may impact their lives, with the ultimate goal of spurring them to act, organize, and push for policy change in San Francisco!”– Jeantelle Laberinto
Michaé De La Cuadra: Nominated for the fellowship by Network member, Dignity and Power Now, Michaé is creating a trans-led and trans-focused public education resource to take agency over the narratives surrounding trans and gender-nonconfirming communities.
“I’m creating an interactive site that will serve as a legislative tracker and narrative project, specifically focusing on resistance to anti-trans legislation and attacks. I’m connecting with trans community members in different states to bring attention to how these macro-level attacks are affecting the everyday lives of people locally and hopefully create more public visibility. The interactive site itself is a positive outcome, but the process of developing the website will hopefully build a web of collective support between community members across the country.”– Michaé De La Cuadra
Kyler Edsitty: Kyler was nominated for the fellowship by Network member, Native Public Media. Kyler’s project examines the lack of broadband infrastructure on the Navajo Reservation. Over half a million Native Americans live without access to the internet, putting educational, financial and health resources out of reach. Kyler aims to uplift personal stories of those directly impacted, while also shining light on the current policy landscape surrounding increased access to affordable broadband.
“My intention is to investigate why the Navajo reservation is falling behind when it comes to access to broadband and to alert others to the institutional barriers that are preventing this access.”– Kyler Edsitty
Joua Lee Grande: Joua was nominated for the fellowship by Network member, St. Paul Neighborhood Network (SPNN). Joua’s project is forming the Minnesota BIPOC Filmmakers Coalition Database, aimed at increasing the visibility for local Black, Indigenous, Asian and Latinx filmmakers.
“We anticipate that building a strong community and database of BIPOC filmmakers in Minnesota will result in a shift of who holds control over our narratives. It will also build a connection point for community members to find storytellers who will likely have a deeper understanding of their experiences. The long-term goal is to build a community in which barriers related to being underrepresented as media makers can be addressed, resources and knowledge can be shared, and larger movements towards breaking down institutional barriers can be planned.”– Joua Lee Grande
Other topics and issues fellows are working on include collecting and archiving intimate narratives surrounding gentrification in the 3rd Ward of Houston, Texas, cultivating spaces for healing from the harm of rampant COVID-19 misinformation and disinformation, and using creative visioning to reimagine what transparent public health and safety within our communities can look like and what our futures can look like when rooted in our full humanity.
We are excited to continue to support fellows in the projects that they have seeded. We also are looking forward to the next iteration of the fellowship in 2023. Look out for announcements on the focus, guidelines, and application this Fall!