“The power of mass culture rests on the trust of the public. This legitimacy is a paper tiger.”
-Paper Tiger Television Manifesto
By Betty Yu
February 15th marked the “Support Independent Media for the 99%” day across the country. Through the Occupy Wall Street movement, we have witnessed how powerful independent media making, citizens journalism, and cultural organizing can be when it’s put into the hands of the 99% of people directly affected by social injustice and inequality. Through viral videos and social media, Occupy the Hood and Occupy Our Homes were able to help make tangible changes, mobilizing hundreds to help families stop wrongful evictions and foreclosures.
This past weekend in New York City, activists and organizers came together to celebrate thirty years of Paper Tiger Television (PPTV). They were one of the nation’s first radical and independent media collectives started back in 1981. Founded on the fundamental principles of media activism and social justice, Paper Tiger Television’s guerilla making style and groundbreaking videos inspired generations of independent media makers. Their cutting edge videos deconstructed corporate media messages and told the stories of the 99% that were blacked out by these media giants.
My first encounter with Paper Tiger Television was back in 1995, when I was doing labor organizing with a workers center in Chinatown. Documentary filmmakers, George Stoney and Judith Helfand collaborated with PPTV to bring their film “Uprisings of ‘34” about textile workers organizing in the south during the 1930’s to various communities. At that time, in Chinatown we were engaged in a local campaign to end slave labor conditions at a restaurant that was paying it’s workers 75 cents an hour. PPTV recognized the importance of bringing this film and other activist videos to communities like Chinatown, to share the story of a collective struggle.
On February 10th, Paper Tiger Television’s held it’s 30th Anniversary conference “30 Years of Media Art, Activism and Analysis” February 10th, 2012 at the New School in New York City, which was also co-sponsored by Media Action Grassroots Network (MAG-Net). Malkia Cyril, my fellow comrade and the executive director of Center for Media Justice gave a moving keynote speech expressing the need for independent media to stay intimately connected to grassroots organizing and those in the frontlines fighting for change. She shared her own story about her first encounter with PPTV, when she was interviewed for “Fenced Out” over ten years ago, a video about saving the Christopher Street Piers in New York City, one of the only safe spaces for LGBTQ youth.
We wrapped up this inspiring weekend of Independent Media with a Mixer, co-hosted by MAG-Net members People’s Production House and Global Action Project. MAG-Net members, like Families for Freedom, Paper Tiger Television, Deep Dish TV attended and shared information about local project and campaigns. Families for Freedom, an immigrant-led group fighting deportations and detentions is working another MAG-Net member, Thousand Kites to broadcast their first radio show out of a detention center. This weekend, celebrating radical and independent media was uplifting and reminds me why I know we are winning the fight against the Paper Tiger that is Corporate Media.