Each year millions observe National Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 to October 15 by celebrating the histories, cultures and contributions of Latinos to the United States. As Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico and Chile—and the indigenous people of the Americas– celebrate their independence; Latinos for Internet Freedom used the Facing Race conference as a platform to educate people about the need for ‘online independence.’
As one of the fastest growing communities in the US, Latinos number 47 million. Of these, nearly 28 million are online and ready to flex their power to prevent what they see as a corporate take-over of the Internet, and to urge the FCC to re-establish its authority over broadband and keep strong network neutrality rules in play. Latinos for Internet Freedom, a campaign led by the Center for Media Justice,Presente.Org, Free Pressand the National Hispanic Media Coalition seeks to leverage the voice of this powerful constituency to ensure that equal access and nondiscrimination remain the Internet’s rule of thumb.
Facing Race is a conference of the Applied Research Center. This year the conference was held in Chicago, from Sept. 23-25. Over the course of three days it brought together over 800 individuals who responded to the call to “define justice, and make change.” Capitalizing on Facing Race’s position as the largest multi-racial gathering of leaders, educators, journalists, advocates and activists on racial justice in the country, the Center for Media Justice organized a series of events to draw attention to the role of broadband adoption and an open Internet as a social and racial justice issue.
On Friday afternoon, CMJ organized and moderated a panel called “Media Policy for the People: Changing Rules to Transform Structural Racism,”featuring LIF organizer Joe Torres from Free Press. Other panelists included Traci Morris of Homahota Consulting, Chance Williams of the Media and Democracy Coalition and Betty Yu of the Center for Media Justice.
“None of this, not the advocacy efforts, not countless small business success stories, not even the election of President Barack Obama — would have happened without a free and open Internet. For communities of color, the Internet provides us with a unique opportunity to speak for ourselves without first seeking the approval of gatekeepers or having to secure major funds to do so. But the big telecommunications companies like AT&T, Verizon and Comcast want to create an effectively segregated online community where they will act as our gatekeepers.
On Friday evening, CMJ together with their LIF campaign partners, hosted a LIF Media Justice Mixer at the conference hotel. Over 40 people showed up from organizations like Vocalo 89.5, Radio Arte, Radios Populares and La Voz de los de Abajo, to hear about the campaign and to get an LIF T-shirt. And finally, om the last day, our conference activities reached their pinnacle at the Saturday morning conference plenary. Here, (rockin’ an LIF T-shirt) CMJ’s Malkia Cyril introduced FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn to a packed room. If the #FR10 twitterstream is any indication, the audience loved Commissioner Clyburn as much as we already do. As always, she delivered another speech that demonstrated why she is our ‘digital inclusion champion.’
The three days went fast, and we packed a lot into the Facing Race conference–and while its hard to believe–it’s not even close to all that LIF has been up to. Our campaign has been busy since its launch at the public hearing on the Future of the Internet in Minneapolis this August.
Since our launch we have:
- Increased our membershipto over 50 local and regional organizations
- Secured 7 national supporting organizations
- Received coverage in the online version of Time Magazine
- Conducted interviews with Public News Service and Vocalo.org
- Placed an Op-Ed in El Diario
- Conducted a visit with Rep. Joe Baca’s office, Caucus Whip for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and Rep. Raul Grijilva, co-chair of the House Progressive Caucus