Youth Media and Media Literacy

Youth Media, participatory media, media literacy, media access etc. are topics that I am very interested in and enjoy reading more about. I am always looking to more theory to help inform my practice. I really appreciate the Goodman reading for how it analyzed “critical literacy” and its importance in education.

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Postcard from Grief

Our recent look at the AIDS crisis, especially the essays and lecture of Gregg Bordowitz, triggered a really powerful piece that a close family friend of mine once shared with me. Throughout high school I participated in the New York City AIDS Walk, an event coordinated by the GMHC organization. When I was a Junior, I had the ability to coordinate my school’s team, and with my older age and more experience working with the organization, my dear family friend Jerry decided to share his closeness to the GMHC with me on a more intimate level.

Living in New York City as a homosexual man during the AIDS crisis, Jerry lost many of his close friends and contemporaries at tragic ages, including two especially dear friends: Tim Melester and Charlie Whiteside. Each year I participated in the AIDS walk, Jerry sponsored me, and would make donations to the GMHC in their honor. My Junior year, Jerry sent me a heartfelt email, which included a link to a memoir that his close friend Craig Lucas, a talented and celebrated playwright, wrote about his boyfriend Tim – whose life was mercifully taken from him at the young age of 40, due to the AIDS epidemic.

An excerpt of Jerry’s email to me is posted below, as well as a link to Craig’s “Postcard from Grief” a tribute to Tim Melester. Please see the link below to a “Postcard from Grief”. It’s an incredibly powerful and touching work of art.

Tim was a surgeon at St. Luke’s and the boyfriend of our friend Craig Lucas, the playwright. Tim was a wonderful guy and wonderful doctor. Craig wrote a piece about Tim several months after he died. Here it is. It isn’t pretty, but it’s powerful and it’s worthy of sharing with anyone you care about who’s walking with you. Since you’re in high school, I think you could read it aloud for fellow walkers, or if you think they’d laugh at words like “f—” or “sex” then maybe not. It’s not titled “A Postcard from Grief” for nothin’. For me, I’d ask you to print it, fold it up and put it in your pocket when you walk. I loved Tim. He was wry, shy, charming, quiet (ish) loved books and my cooking at Fire Island. I’m happy…and suddenly choked with sadness…that I have this opportunity to tell you about him, about my friend, who was mercilessly cut down by AIDS in his thirties. He died at 40.

Parallel in Fear of AIDS/HIV and Ebola

As we study Marlon Riggs and discuss the reactions to HIV/AIDS, we can compare today’s fear of Ebola among people to the early days of the HIV/AIDS outbreak. The media portrayed HiV/AIDS in the early 1980s on television and newspapers with headlines creating fear among the general population covering “bans on gays” at dentists and doctors. Now, we have travel bans and people from poor countries being stereotyped and left behind.

ebola banearly-media-reports-of-AIDS

Although the two viruses are different in many ways, the fearful reactions are similar. HIV/AIDS was, at first, ignored as it affected mainly marginalized communities, such as the gay men community among African-Americans who were HIV-positive. In fact, Marlon Riggs worked to get attention to these members of our population as they were battling several stigmas around their identities as gay, Black, and “infected”.

Stereotypes were generated as the fear of the virus spread among the people. Similarly, today, Ebola was ignored for a while until it affected more than just the poorest countries in the world. The United States only took real action once we were affected and “under attack” by this virus. Again, the media has contributed to a public outcry surrounding an outbreak.

Tongues United

The screening last night of Tongues United by Marlon Riggs made me think a lot about my personal actions and voice. An inspirational documentary that successfully intertwined individual poems and stories within one continuing story (Marlon Riggs), all tying together through the use of music and sounds. Since coming to Pitzer I have become more than ever exposed and familiarised with a diverse range of people who identify with a wide range of social and cultural identities. This has continuously forced me to question and reconsider my opinions and voice when address different groups.

I had never in the slightest considered myself a racist or homophobic (even saying those words upset me because there are still many people who are), however I found myself easily on the weekend slip into a joking conversation that resulted in offending one of my friends. Even though I consider myself socially aware of people around me in a serious contextual conversation why had I thought it was okay (intentional or not) to not be so considerate when joking. Tongues United made me realise how hard it is already for people in minority groups and if these people are standing up for themselves it is our responsibility to stand beside them to ensure that no more jokes (serious or not) are made at their expense.

I’m taking responsibility of myself and my actions!

Reflection After First Assignment

After Apryl and I presented on the four media initiatives we researched relating to the movement to legalize marijuana, some important realizations are starting to occur. First, the movement to legalize marijuana is a fairly unique issue because while it is very intertwined with the push to end drug prohibition altogether, various aspects of marijuana set it apart from other drugs. I think some of these aspects include the prevalence with which it is used among people of all social classes in America, and also the relatively tame effects and benign damages to health with its use. The uniqueness of marijuana I think is accelerating the process of it becoming legalized, but once that happens it will only take a piece out of the pie that is a massive problem of hyper-policing citizens (disproportionately young males of color) for drug crimes. The four initiatives that Apryl and I researched varied in how they presented the message for marijuana legalization, but they all held on to key points such as the fact that marijuana use is extremely prevalent even while it is illegal, and legalizing it will only prevent unfair punishment of the unlucky individuals who happen to get caught as a result of not having a safe place to use the drug. These are all good points, but as we move forward towards the second assignment, I hope to take a step back and tackle the larger issues that the marijuana legalization movement is unearthing.

Tongues Untied

I found the Tongues Re-Tied reading really powerful, especially after watching the film tonight.

One quote that stood out to me is as follows: “Defining imagery and language as either “acceptable” or “impermissible” then becomes a critical social tool of cultural domination: the charge of “obscenity” or of being “grossly offensive” offers the perfect pretext for silencing a minority’s attempt at ending its subjugation and challenging the majority’s social control. Tongues untied are retied. The suppression of the culturally (and politically) disenfranchised thus continues without compunction. How convenient.” (187)

Riggs is very aware of the hegemonic and ideological structures in place in our society that allow those in power to oppress people on the margins. Challenging the dominant narrative is difficult to do in the mainstream and I think Marlon was very aware of this when setting out to make Tongues Untied.

“But there is another alternative, and this for many is the real outrage of Tongues Untied, and for many, many more, its principle virtue: its refusal to present a historically disparaged community begging on bended knee for tidbits of mainstream tolerance. What Tongues instead affirms and demands is a frank, uncensored, uncompromising articulation of an autonomously defined self and social identity. (SNAP!)” (188)

I definitely got this feeling while watching the film. It was so blatantly a “Fuck You! This is who I am” message being sent in the film. I loved the last line that said something along the lines of Black men loving Black men is a revolutionary act. And I totally agree and I think that Marlon Riggs’ film really is revolutionary the way he uses images, sounds, poetry, and the self.

Also, I watched Color Adjustment for History of American Broadcasting class and it is really interesting to see the difference in style and intention between the two films. It is almost hard to imagine that they were made by the same person because of the vast difference in approach. But I think that it made me respect Riggs more as a filmmaker because he is so aware of intent and audience.

New Media

I am writing this post reacting to this article

The article is about one of the most exciting moments of my life. It was a buzzer-beating three pointer by Damian Lillard to make my hometown Portland Trail Blazers advance to the second round of the playoffs for the first time since I was 7. I started screaming, ran out of the dorms I was watching the game in, over to Harvey Mudd still jumping and screaming, and then back to Pitzer. I read this article mostly to just be reminded of the happy memory, but then thought more about what the author, Casey Parks, is writing about.

Social media like (instagram and vine, mentioned in this article) is one of the newest forms of new media. My realization from this article is that some of the stars in this new kind of media are people who are much different than traditional contributors to media. In this case, Thomas Peterson, a 14-year-old from Missouri was the individual with the savy to make the video of this glorious moment go viral. He searched for media on his particular interest: the Portland Trail Blazers and their catch phrase “Rip City” and found an instagram post by a wealthy boy from Oregon who was sitting courtside and videotaped the shot on his smartphone. He posted the clip as a loop on Vine, and it got millions of views. I think this occurrence is a really cool and popular example of alternative media. In my last post I discussed Greg Bordowitz’ distinction between commercial media which seeks a demographic niche organized to sell products to and alternative media which seeks a constituency of people who share common interests. Because the original videographer used the tag that helped him reach out to the constituency of people with common interests, another kid with the same interest was able to make his video clip reach millions of viewers. I think this is awesome, and I am glad that, as Casey Parks writes, “It’s called “sharing” on social media for a reason. Nobody owns a moment like that.”

“Unscientific Ebola policies cause the same kind of fear, stigma and indifference as the early response to the Aids crisis”

Today in class, Professor Lamb connected the treatment of HIV people in the 80s with how we treat ebola patients today. I stumbled upon this article a few hours after class which continues to flesh out this pattern and connects it to broader public health issues and the crumbling infrastructure. Additionally, this example is clear in illustrating how medical institutions can be used to oppress different marginalized groups. It not only aids in committing medical genocide as these communities are dying off because of lack of medical care, but also helps in socio-cultural bias against these communities. The connotation that people who are HIV+ or have ebola are sick and should be quarantined work to create a bias that these people are less than and are to be stayed away from. Medical structures have institutionalized lots of discrimination into their practices and are used by political structures to implement this oppression. It is essential we fight against this.

Best form of sesnsorship

Over the last two weeks we have been discussing the past and still very present perceptions that surround both the HIV & gay community. Today in class we were talking about this week’s readings from Marlon Riggs. Many different areas of discussion arose, both about gay rights and representation as well as censorship. I found a comment about the size of your pay check the real censorship in broadcast really fascinating, something that I had never thought of before. Riggs talks about in his early journalist studies years wanting to be a news anchor, but knew that to be trusted he would have to change his “gay” voice to fit the mould the world expected.

This got me thinking that although today we promote the idea of living in a freedom of expression society, how many people today are still changing and masking elements of themselves? We continue to promote same sex equality but within some communities people may never be expected for who they are. When thinking about this I remembered a promotion I watched a while back now and how effective it was in reaches the masses (via Facebook of cause). It’s probably something you have all seen, but if not I’ve attached the video.

Media is in the massage

The medium is the massage is a very interesting book because it is very image oriented. When i bought this book i was confused because i thought i had already read it because I had read the thesis by the same author “the media is the message.” this book is basically an artistic representation of this thesis which was interesting because I already knew what it was about but got to see a visual aspect not present in the thesis. I really enjoyed seeing the visuals that the author thought went with his message.