With the foothills of the Smoky Mountains in the distance and surrounded by the spirits of our movement ancestors, Team #MediaJustice and MediaJustice Network members across the South came together this week to build at the Highlander Research and Education Center, a legendary civil rights leadership and organizing hub in Tennessee. Hosted in partnership with Highlander, an Anchor member of our Network, member representatives from Appalshop, Racial Justice Action Center, Working Narratives, Alternate ROOTS, Southerners On New Ground and allies from Free Press and Black Lives Matter Memphis also attended this Southern Regional Membership Assembly.
Throughout our time together Highlander’s Workshop Center transformed into a space that:
- Fostered deeper relationships across the Southern region amongst Network members.
- Helped identify possible areas for cross-organization collaboration deeply rooted in regional priorities.
- Demonstrated the role our organization can play in supporting our Network members’ participation in broader media justice campaigns.
What media justice issues are plaguing the South? How is the story of the South being shaped? What’s at stake? Our members grappled with and strategized around these questions and more. As our conversations were grounded in identifying and tackling the most prevalent media justice issues in the region today — such as economic injustice, surveillance, police and prisons, data privacy, and media bias and unequal ownership — we often reflected back on the history of the media justice movement to inform our proposed strategies. In 2002, Highlander hosted the first “media gathering” where our movement was born launched by our co-founder Malkia Cyril, members of Youth Media Council and Media Alliance, Makani Themba, Nan Rubin and others, who recognized the importance of a media and technology environment that fuels real justice.
Following a day of building relationships across the region, mapping out issues and fights in the struggle for justice in the South, walking through how Network members can plug into current MediaJustice campaigns, such as #ProtectBlackDissent, discussing narrative shift strategies and figuring out what’s next, our members continued harkening back to the South as the birthplace of movement and its historic and continuous leadership in the struggle for racial, economic, and gender justice. This emphasized that as we continue winning fights and getting closer to a world where we are all connected, represented, and free, we must look to the South and its leaders to guide this and all our movements.
In the coming days we’ll be sharing more learnings from our time at Highlander but below hear from Ashleigh Shackleford, artist-in-residence at Racial Justice Action Center, about the importance of centering the South in our movements: