Remembering Wally BowenSubmitted by Cheryl Wed Nov 18 2015 13:14:26 GMT-0500 (EST)
We were saddened to learn of the passing of this year's McGannon Award recipient, Wally Bowen, last night after his long battle with ALS. We at UCC OC Inc. are gratified that we got a chance to demonstrate to him how important his work was nationally as well as in his home community of rural western North Carolina.
His friend Monroe Gilmour was able to attend the ceremony in Washington DC in October to receive the award on his behalf, and then present it to him at home in North Carolina, as captured in this picture. Upon learning of his death, Cheryl Leanza, OC Inc.'s policy advisor said, "Wally's lifelong dedication to the cause of media justice was inspirational to me for as long as I knew him. Wally took policy opportunities created in Washington and made them into real opportunities for his neighbors in western North Carolina. All the victories in Washington will be for naught without people like Wally to translate them into action on the ground."
Wally Bowen was recognized for his leadership in building the Mountain Area Information Network in western North Carolina, and then working to bring a low-power FM station, local cable access channels and broadband access to his community.
Bowen's acceptance remarks highlighted his dedication to his home community, and noted that his work had been inspired and supported by his own faith community, Jubilee!, in Asheville, NC. He quoted the words of theologian Frederick Buechner: “Your true vocation is found in that place where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep hunger.” He continued, "It has been my good fortune to have found that place of true vocation in my work through the Mountain Area Information Network these past 20 years. On behalf of the rural citizens for whom we advocated, thank you again for this award affirming this work."
Thank you, Wally, for doing the work.
Parker Lecture a Strong Success!Submitted by Cheryl Wed Nov 04 2015 14:54:48 GMT-0500 (EST)
The 33rd Annual Everett C. Parker Ethics in Telecommunications Lecture and Awards Breakfast was successfully held on October 20, 2015. 2015. Read about honorees and sponsors, read the press release. Photos from the event are available on our Flickr stream. Please feel free to download any photo you want using the Flickr download button (the down arrow icon on the bottom right hand side of the photo). Video highlights of the event are also available on the UCC Media Justice YouTube Page.
We were thrilled to have so many guests join us to celebrate our honorees, Wally Bowen, co-founder and executive director of the Mountain Area Information Network, and Joseph Torres, senior external affairs director for Free Press, as well as hear from danah boyd, founder of Data & Society Research Institute. Although he could not attend in person, after the event, Wally received the award in North Carolina.
Prison Phone Rate VictorySubmitted by Cheryl Wed Oct 21 2015 15:52:54 GMT-0400 (EDT)
In anticipation of the Federal Communications Commission vote tomorrow on inmate calling, the United Church of Christ's media justice ministry issued its strong support of the Federal Communications Commission vote tomorrow capping local prison phone rates.
"The vote tomorrow is a victory, no questions asked," said Cheryl Leanza, policy advisor for the historic ministry. "The FCC is not only capping the rates paid by families but cracking down on fees that could otherwise have been a source of abuse."
Because of the limits on both rates and fees, the commissions previously paid by phone companies to jails, prisons and detention centers will be severely curtailed. "I can see why Global Tel Link and some prison phone companies might want the FCC to stop commissions in addition to capping rates," continued Leanza, "those companies would like to keep all of the revenue and pass none of it on to correctional facilities. But make no mistake, the only entities harmed by tomorrow's vote are the phone companies that have been gouging families and pastors for so long."
UCC OC Inc. and many civil rights and criminal justice organizations signed a letter just before the record closed, laying out their strong support for the FCC's planned vote.
UCC OC Inc. has been working with a long list of allies, including The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Center for Media Justice, Prison Policy Initiative, many faith leaders, and the Prison Phone Justice campaign and all of its members. A rally celebrating the FCC's order is planned for Thursday morning at 9:30 am outside the FCC.
boyd, Torres and Bowen Honored at 33rd Annual Everett C. Parker LectureSubmitted by Greg Tue Oct 20 2015 16:34:49 GMT-0400 (EDT)
boyd, Torres and Bowen Honored at 33rd Annual Everett C. Parker Lecture
Leading media reform advocates were honored today as a media executives, faith leaders and media justice advocates gathered at First Congregational United Church of Christ in Washington for the 33rd Annual Everett C. Parker Ethics in Telecommunications Lecture.
danah boyd, founder of the Data & Society Research Institute, delivered the 2015 Parker Lecture, asserting that “one of the things that I’ve learned is that, unchecked, new [technology] tools are almost always empowering to the privileged at the expense of those who are not.”
Also honored at the event were Joseph Torres, senior external affairs director of Free Press, who received the Everett C. Parker Award in recognition of his work embodying the principles and values of the public interest in telecommunications, and Wally Bowen, co-founder and executive director of the Mountain Area Information Network (MAIN), who received the Donald H. McGannon Award for his dedication to bringing modern telecommunications to low-income people in rural areas.
In her address, boyd described how “digital white flight” from certain technology platforms had mirrored the problem in the traditional world, and how predictive data technologies, if not used thoughtfully, had the potential to exacerbate stereotyping. “More and more,” she concluded, “technology is going to play a central role in every sector, every community, and every interaction. It’s easy to screech in fear or dream of a world in which every problem magically gets solved. But to actually make the world a better place, we need to start paying attention to the different tools that are emerging and learn to ask hard questions about how they should be put into use to improve the lives of everyday people. Now, more than ever, we need those who are thinking about social justice to understand technology and those who understand technology to have a theory of fairness.”
The United Church of Christ’s Office of Communication, Inc. (OC Inc.), the media justice ministry of the Protestant denomination of 5,700 local congregations, established the Parker Lectureship in 1983 to recognize Rev. Dr. Everett C. Parker’s pioneering work as an advocate for the public’s rights in broadcasting. In 1963, Parker filed a petition with the Federal Communications Commission that ultimately stripped WLBT-TV in Jackson, Mississippi, of its broadcast license and established the principle that the public could participate in matters before the agency. This year’s event included special remembrances of Parker, who died on September 17, 2015, at the age of 102.
In her remarks, boyd said, “We are here today because Dr. Parker spent much of his life fighting for the rights of others--notably the poor and people of color, recognizing that the ability to get access to new technologies to communicate and learn weren’t simply privileges, but rights. He challenged people to ask hard questions and ignore the seemingly insurmountable nature of complex problems. In the process, he paved a road that enables a whole new generation of activists to rally for media rights.” Click here for the full text of boyd’s remarks.
In his acceptance speech, Torres, co-author of News for All the People: The Epic Story of Race and the American Media, said: “The struggle for racial justice is very much dependent on access to the media so we can tell our own stories. But this is hard to do when you’re dependent on corporate gatekeepers to tell your story, when people of color own few broadcast stations and cable outlets, when our nation’s media policies are shaped by structural racism.
“This is why the fight over the future of the open Internet, over Net Neutrality, is so central to this struggle for racial justice. It’s provided the digital oxygen that has helped breathe life into the movement that cries out ‘Black Lives Matter,’ ‘Not One More’ and ‘Say Her Name’.” Click here for the full text of Torres’s remarks.
Bowen was recognized for his leadership in building the Mountain Area Information Network in western North Carolina, and then working to bring a low-power FM station, local cable access channels and broadband access to his community. Monroe Gilmour, coordinator of Western North Carolina Citizens Ending Institutional Bigotry, accepted the award on behalf of Bowen, who suffers from ALS. In a statement that Gilmour read on his behalf. Bowen noted that his work had been inspired and supported by his own faith community, Jubilee, in Asheville, NC, and quoted the words of theologian Frederick Buechner: “Your true vocation is found in that place where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep hunger.” Click here for the full text of Bowen’s remarks.
The Rev. Dr. John Dorhauer, president and general minister of the United Church of Christ, recalled the legacy of Everett Parker in his remarks: “Unlike others for whom strong rhetoric was enough, Everett always looked for action that mattered. He was one who got things done--and his commitment to ensuring that every marginal voice would have access to the airwaves not only mattered . . . not only matters still . . . but was something almost every other justice advocate missed. He didn't.”
The Rev. Truman Parker, son of Everett Parker, detailed his father’s long list of accomplishments beyond the WLBT case, including creating educational shows for children and preparing reports on the early days of religious broadcasting. Parker recalled a childhood home that was filled with props for the shows his father produced and boxes of filings on the hiring practices of television and radio stations to which his father had demanded access.
In a review of OC Inc’s successes of the past year, Board Chairman Earl Williams Jr. praised the FCC’s plans to move forward this week on further capping predatory prison telephone rates. He also commended the agency for its Open Internet Order and for moving forward on making broadband Internet access more affordable for low-income households.
Since its founding in 1959, the United Church of Christ’s Office of Communication, Inc., has worked to create just and equitable media structures that give a meaningful voice to diverse peoples, cultures and ideas. The Parker Lecture is the only lecture in the country to examine telecommunications in the digital age from an ethical perspective. More information is available at www.uccmediajustice.org/parker.
Joe Torres' 2015 Parker Lecture RemarksSubmitted by Greg Tue Oct 20 2015 16:28:14 GMT-0400 (EDT)
I want to say how incredibly honored I am to receive this award named after Dr. Parker.
I had the honor of meeting Dr. Parker on a couple of occasions, and I feel so grateful to be a part of the struggle that he and so many others spent their lives fighting.
People of color have always struggled and fought to make sure their voices are heard in the media. It’s why we created our own newspapers 200 years ago and why we go online today.
But it has never been in the interest of those in power to allow our voices to speak or be heard.
It wasn’t in Jackson, Mississippi, during the 1960s when Dr. Parker and Black local civil rights leaders challenged the TV license of WLBT, a racist station that used the public airwaves to prevent integration and preserve a separate and unequal society.
At the time, U.S. residents didn’t have the legal right to challenge a broadcast license, even one run by a white supremacist. But the UCC lawsuit changed history when a federal court ruled that everyday people could challenge FCC policy.
This unleashed a new era of media activism. Black and Brown civil rights leaders demanded that broadcasters hire people of color and air programming that informed rather than demonize their communities.
From 1971–1973, more than 340 license challenges were filed, mainly by civil rights groups. This uprising forced the industry to hire the first wave of journalists of color to integrate its newsrooms.
But 40 years later, it’s easy to be discouraged by the lack of progress. There are too few journalists of color working in newsrooms today and still too much media coverage that marginalizes our community.
Because throughout history, people of color have been covered as a threat to society.
Back in the early 1700s, the colonial Boston News Letter wrote that Blacks were addicted to stealing and lying.
In 2011, a Pew report on the Pittsburgh media market found that “Of the nearly 5,000 stories studied in both print and broadcast, less than 4 percent featured an African American male engaged in a subject other than crime or sports.”
As the journalist Stacey Patton recently said, “The American mainstream media is working exactly the way it should. A racist society requires media bias. A racist society requires coverage of people of color that aligns and overlaps with broader racist sentiments and stereotypes.”
The struggle for racial justice is very much dependent on access to the media so we can tell our own stories. But this is hard to do when you’re dependent on corporate gatekeepers to tell your story, when people of color own few broadcast stations and cable outlets, when our nation’s media policies are shaped by structural racism.
This is why the fight over the future of the open Internet, over Net Neutrality, is so central to this struggle for racial justice. It’s provided the digital oxygen that has helped breathe life into the movement that cries out Black Lives Matter, Not One More and Say Her Name.
But while the Internet can be a tool for liberation, we know it can also be used as a tool for our oppression through mass government and corporate surveillance.
But we’re able to fight back today because Dr. Parker and Black leaders fought in Jackson to ensure our voices weren’t silenced.
We’re able to fight because Al Kramer of the Citizens Communications Center worked with the community to force broadcasters to hire people of color.
We’re able to fight because William Wright of Black Efforts for Soul in Television organized the Black community to stand up to institutional racism in the media.
We’re able to fight because Emma Bowen was troubled by the impact of the media on the Black community and founded Black Citizens for a Fair Media.
We’re able to fight because journalists like Juan González and Charlie Ericksen (two close friends and mentors of mine) have exposed the media bias that is harming the Latino community.
And we’re able to fight today because a new generation of activists is demanding a just media system that ensures broadband is an affordable lifeline, that fights predatory prison-phone rates, that fights the targeted surveillance of communities of color, that fights for an open Internet that allows our voices to be heard and never silenced, and that fights for journalism that seeks to expose institutional racism rather than protect it.
This is why I’m honored to receive this award. It validates that we are on the right path that so many have fought so hard for us to walk on.
I want to thank my Free Press family for giving me the opportunity to be a part of this noble struggle, especially Craig Aaron, Kimberly Longey, Matt Wood and Misty Perez Truedson.
I also want to thank my media justice and civil rights family: Malkia Cyril, Steven Renderos, Brandi Collins, Rashad Robinson, James Rucker, Jessica Gonzalez, Michael Scurato, Alex Nogales and so many others for allowing to me to lock arms with them in service to this struggle, because in order to achieve racial justice, we must have a just media system.
I also want to thank my family, my wife, for all of their support. I especially want to thank my wonderful daughter Charis who is with me today.
I am also so proud to stand alongside Wally Bowen, who has fought to ensure people have access to modern telecommunications regardless of where they live or how much they make.
Finally, I want to thank Chance Williams for flying to be here today and Cheryl Leanza, the United Church of Christ and the selection committee for believing I am worthy of this recognition.
Rest in power, Everett Parker.