The Media Mobilizing Project (MMP) was founded by a group of people in Philadelphia, PA who were sick of the mainstream media coverage of their community activities. MMP has been working to build a community media infrastructure for the growing movement to end poverty through producing and distributing the real stories of local communities. People are the foundation of this infrastructure, and MMP conducts regular video, radio, and web trainings for workers, immigrants, youth and community leaders. Many of these leaders get involved in MMP’s ongoing media programs, which include a television show, several radio shows, and a system of interconnected weblogs and public computer centers.
Recently Bryan Mercer, Digital Inclusion Manager at MMP, chatted with us about the organization, MAG-Net and what media justice means for communities.
Can you tell me about the mission and vision of Media Mobilizing Project, and who you serve (in your own words)?
MMP came together as a way to connect people with our struggles and issues for human rights, we saw that so many of our important fights (housing, healthcare, community businesses) were often divided and operated in isolation. Being able to tell our own stories was crucial to moving our collective issues. We worked with poor people across Philadelphia and Pennsylvania to build effective narratives, media production to be able to unite us across issues.
What is your role at MMP? What’s a day in the life of Bryan Mercer?
I help coordinate our digital inclusion work which, spans everything from policy work that advocates for a more equitable Internet and media, to hands on training and digital literacy, to helping people develop digital production skills. I get to work with folks across a lot of different issues and see firsthand how media can be a part of our strategies and how we can change. I’ve also helped to establish computer centers and digital literacy.
On an average day – a lot of emails and meetings! More importantly I get to go out and do some trainings in South Philly, and with Latino immigrant community development organizations, I get to work on curriculum to teach people digital literacy skills in the city of Philadelphia and nationally with folks on media policy issues.
What does media justice mean for Media Mobilizing Project? Why did you all decide to help anchor the Philly Chapter?
Media justice means for us having the central tools that can bring our movements together and can build the type of power or communications that bring lasting change in society. Media justice is at the intersection of so many struggles and is a struggle in its own way. With concrete wins around media justice, we’re able to forward wins around so many other fights.
As to why we’re an anchor – we saw how policy decisions made in DC effect the ability of our community to organize – Our City Our Voices was an early project. In working with people across race and languages we were doing it at a time when the city was promising to build a city-wide network but that network never become a reality. We saw in that moment that we have to fight for the infrastructure piece so that people are able to connect and work together. We began to work with MAG-Net in Philly, with organizations nationally and we began to take on an active role as a grassroots network.
For you personally, what sparked your interest in media justice work?
I got my first computer when I was 10 or 11 and promptly took it apart, my dad put it back together with new parts. For me, growing up it was always an interesting skill to be able to build and use these new tools as a way to connect to people. As I got older and saw more of the problems our society faces, I saw the interconnection between media justice and other social justice movements, human rights and media and communications. Media access and rights are necessary in order to create a sustainable movement in 21st century.
What most excites you about your role in MAG-Net?
I’m excited about all that we can learn from different anchors and members, about being able to soak up such great work from what all the other people are doing – the Campaign for Prison Phone Justice with Working Narratives, Reclaim the Airwaves with Prometheus. This has been most exciting.
What are some of the media policy issues that Media Mobilizing Project is working on?
Currently we’re concerned with making sure that people have universal access to broadband/Internet through building computer centers, sustaining community centers and sharing the model we’ve developed with folks around the country. We want a grassroots based and innovative public/nonprofit partnership to be a model for the country and shape policy decisions that impact connections in the community.
What’s your top news tip for the media justice movement?
People should hit us up, check out our website– we’re doing trainings all the time, we’re excited about the LPFM window that’s allowed more communities to have their own radio and we’re working with others on that. We want to show how we’re innovating in this space and building the type of media this country needs.