Media Makers Convene In Philadelphia For Conference Panels, Regional Tours

Andrea Van Grinsven, for GPA -- In early August, the Alliance for Community Media (ACM) and National Alliance for Media Arts + Culture (NAMAC) held their first ever joint national conference at the Sheraton in Philadelphia.

The schedule on the first day of the conference was mainly comprised of regional meetings while the following days brought panel discussions and networking opportunities. After the panel discussions wrapped up on the final day of the program, conference attendees had the opportunity to tour media arts and cultural organizations around the city.

For instance, the “Leading Edge in Hyper-Local and Citizen Journalism” panel centered around panelists’ experiences with citizen-driven reporting, a growing movement that empowers communities often left out of mainstream media to tell their own stories. The panel was comprised of Ivan Sigal of Global Voices, Nuala Cabral of Presenting Our Perspective On Philly Youth News (POPPYN) and Frank Morris of Neighborhood Media for Cambridge Community Television. It was moderated by Rebekah Phillips of the Media Mobilizing Project.

Citizen journalism in Philadelphia often covers topics that local and national news doesn’t. Cabral shared an example from her team of POPPYN reporters, who interviewed the community in protest after a Philadelphia police officer allegedly sexually assaulted a high-school student, Darrin Manning, during a stop-and-frisk in January 2014. No other local news outlets were there, only plenty of police officers, according to Cabral.

The work of media makers in the community also shifts the conversations in the spotlight from negative to positive. When the rise of teenaged flash mobs in Philadelphia turned violent, tainting the reputation of area youth, POPPYN was motivated to share a more positive view of what young people were doing in Philadelphia by featuring their involvement with the community gardens.

Global or local news produced by citizen journalism initiatives must still maintain its badge of newsworthiness, Sigal emphasized. “If people aren’t talking about it, we won’t write about it,” he said of Global Voices, which has been collecting, verifying and translating trending news since 2005. “It’s important to determine whether conversations actually exist rather than inject something into a media system.”

The panel welcomed the audience to share experiences and ask questions. During the Q&A portion, the conversation revolved around technology, motivating volunteer participants and obtaining funding.

After the panel, conference attendees had the option to tour Philadelphia’s local media hotspots. On the 'Scribe Video Center Muslim Voices Tour," tour participants met members of three of the nine Muslim groups participating in Scribe’s community history project about Islam in Philadelphia. Established in 1982, Scribe Video Center provides Philadelphia media makers with the tools and training to represent their communities through film, video and audio production.

The tour traveled by bus to Lajna Ima’illah, the Women’s Auxiliary of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, the Moorish Science Temple of America and The New Africa Center while screening the groups’ short films between stops.

Lajna Ima’illah’s film, “Maidservants of Allah: Muslim Women in Perspective,” centered around personal stories of Muslim women and aimed to dispel misconceptions about Islam. “The Moorish Science Temple of America: Branches to Philadelphia, Rooted in Peace” highlighted the organization’s history and impact in Philadelphia. The New Africa Center’s “Lost No More” explored the evolution of the Lost-Found Nation of Islam. “Muslim Voices of Philadelphia” premiered at International House Philly on June 24, 2014.

During their visits to the organizations on the tour, media makers from the conference asked questions about the groups’ experiences before, during and after the making of their productions.

“It helped us introduce ourselves to the Islamic community that we’re a part of,” said a member at the Moorish Science Temple when asked about the outcome of the group’s documentary. He emphasized that participating in Scribe’s project encouraged greater relationship building amongst Philadelphia Muslims. Members of the group expressed plans to create more media about the Moorish Science Temple.

Other tours included “Making Media, Making Change: Philly CAM to Prometheus Radio Project to Woodshop Films,” “Power to Our Youth- Media/Arts Tour: Girls Rock Philly to the Norris Square Neighborhood Project,” “Public Arts Highlights,” and “Termite TV and Hidden City’s Interactive Chinese Wall Walking Tour.”

Image courtesy of NAMAC.