A Rousing Discussion at Black Media Roundtable

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Black Media: Basir Mchawi, Moderator and host of Education at the Crossroads on WBAI-FM, Nayaba Arinde, Editor, The Amsterdam News; Wuyi Jacobs of Afrobeat Radio, a public affairs and music show on WBAIFM; David Greaves, co-founder and publisher of Our Time Press and native Brooklyn filmmaker Attika J. Torrence

The Black news media – its importance and survival – was the subject at hand during Monday’s roundtable at For My Sweet in Brooklyn. “Real Black Media or Fake News?” brought community members out to share perspectives and strategies for supporting, accessing and centralizing Black media sources. On the panel were: editor of the long-running Amsterdam News Nayaba Arinde; Wuyi Jacobs of Afrobeat Radio, a public affairs and music show on WBAI-FM; native Brooklyn filmmaker Attika J. Torrence, and our own David Greaves, founder and publisher of Our Time Press.

The event, presented by the Jitu Weusi Institute for Development, Education and Activism, was organized by Marlon Rice and hosted by Basir Mchawi, whose show, “Education at the Crossroads,” airs on WBAI-FM radio. The gathering proved to be fertile soil for the germination of ideas, which were shared without reticence. We present here only a few snippets of what was an honest, thorough and uplifting conversation:

     Wuyi Jacobs promoted the idea of Black publications in the U.S. partnering with African Continental news media. But he warned that the press does not exist in a vacuum and that a stable economy within the Black community is necessary in order for it to meet its full potential to thrive.

“The press cannot survive without an economy,” said Jacobs. “If you don’t have jobs, if your children don’t have jobs, they’re not going to be buying newspapers or visiting your website. They don’t come to my website. You know why? Because there are others that employ them, that have the resources to innovate, resources to get them into their own market. If we don’t pay our own children, somebody else is going to pay them. They’re not going to be working for you if you don’t pay them.

“So, there are some things that we really need to do beyond talking about creating content. That’s very important. We’re talking about owning our own narratives. That’s very important. But we need to move to the next step. What does it mean to own? How do you create ownership structures? How do we create sharing structures? How do we create partnership structures? And how do we make sure that it’s available to the 4.6 billion people on this planet if they want it at the tip of their fingers? And it’s possible. It’s not like we don’t have the market. Every nation on the African Continent has a television station. Some have big media companies now.

“I went to Nigeria for the first time in 2013 and every single television I came across was tuned to FOX News and American stations. That’s distressing, but it’s also an opportunity. Let’s focus on the money, how we’re going to get the money, retain the money. Turn the tables. Turn the tables!”

David Greaves saluted veteran radio host Bernard White, who was in the audience, and the late Samori Marksman as well, for the high-level of teaching they did over the air while at WBAI-FM. His thoughts on the evening’s topic were about optimizing the Web.

“We can come together on the Internet, in terms of sharing files and videos, sharing links – African media, African-American media and Caribbean media. People should have a place on the Internet where they can see the list of various publications and Black radio stations. That way, we can throw in our appeal and send out our message. The Internet radio station that Bernard has is an example of something we can link to on our own websites.

[CPR Metro at communitypublicradio.org]

“In terms of linking together, I think the Web is the easiest way to do it, although I think, as my wife says, that the Black media should come together around some particular subjects – have a theme each month or week to multiply our efforts so that people will hear the message through whichever medium. So that’s something we can think about.”     Filmmaker Attika Torrence stressed the power of collaboration and the need to recognize that we already have it.

“I live my life by the Nguzo Saba, the Seven Principles [of Kwanzaa],” said Torrence. “That whole concept of ‘Black people don’t collaborate” – it doesn’t exist in my world. I work in a 100 percent collaborative industry. I’m a filmmaker. I work with my fam, extended and immediate.

“I grew up in The EAST [a ‘70s Black Cultural Nationalist organization]. I grew up in my own Wakanda. From there, I moved to Liberia, West Africa and that was another Wakanda. We took Blackness with us everywhere we went. And there are people to this day who are from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone that became my extended EAST family of sorts who didn’t understand what Kwanzaa was, who didn’t understand the Black American culture and we brought it with us. I grew up in a world where all my opportunities were available to me.” _Torrence, a publicist, asked a critically important question from the audience.

“What marketing efforts can we do as consumers– and I as a publicist – to assist you? ‘Cause I know I‘m always faced with that question, too. The numbers are the same; they’re not growing. And there have been efforts to mobilize the Black press collectively so that it can be more of a bargaining tool. What can we do over social media and otherwise to support you, to tell the world just how valuable you are in our community?

“We talk a lot about reaching out, but what I want to know is – in regard to the new ways that people get news – social media, blogs, Black Twitter… What are some of the steps that we can take – not just you news media people – but what are the steps we all can take when we leave here to dilute the amount of fake news that our children get and increase the amount of Black news that our children get?“

Nayaba Arinde responded:

“I mean, it’s really sharing the knowledge, you know? Getting it out there. Like David was saying, the Internet is probably our greatest tool right now. And we all have to use that more successfully. For example, the Amsterdam News had a cover story featuring Ja Rule, who was speaking at City Hall. We had it on the front page, but he shared FOX’s interview on his social media, and not the Amsterdam News. Why would you share that and not all of them – or at least not ours – as well?

“So it’s how we view ourselves and what value we put on our mediums. And we (the Black media) know it; we share amongst ourselves. But we’ve got to get the community to know that. Don’t see our media as lesser than. Share the links. Understand that we’re working together and that when we help you, you help us. Radio, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram – all of those we have to use better so that we can reach them [readers] where they live.”