Black Media Stereotypes
Last Saturday in between the rain and the sun, The Harlem Book Fair was in effect. For the first time I was out there as a vendor selling my Hotness T-shirts and so I didn't get a chance to check out the panels. I'ma blog more on the Book fair itself in a day or so, but first I must post about one of the panels that I caught on C-Span on Sunday.
The panel Black Media and Black Stereotypes was moderated by Cathy Hughes (Radio One) and featured Roland Martin, Dick Gregory, William Rhoden and Juan Williams. I think Al Sharpton joined later but by then I was probably engrossed in something way more interesting like cutting my cuticles or cleaning my microwave. This panel was not only a snoozer but it was so rudimentary that it was offensive.
When asked what is Black media, Roland answered with the following observation: "I believe there are three types—Black Owned, Black Controlled and Black Targeted." Black Owned would be WLIB, Black Controlled would be Essence and Black Targeted would be The Source (when headed by Dave Mays & Benzino). He then went into this exegesis of sorts about The Washington Post and how he never wanted to work for them and Milton Coleman. Then seemingly out of nowhere both he and Cathy launched into this tirade about Janet Cooke who won a Pulitzer for a fabricated story she wrote for TWP and how "mainstream media types encourage this type of behavior." Oh, did I mention this Janet Cooke fiasco happened in 1981 and that coincidentally after everyone discovered what a big liar she was (allegedly she said she graduated from Vassar too), Janet claimed that the high-pressure environment of the Washington Post had corrupted her judgment?!? Okay, so many things can be said about this entire exchange. Like why are your references as to how yucky white media can be like 25 years old (dang isn’t that when MTV debuted?), or why is that when Black folks eff up at "mainstream" companies, it's the fault of the company and not the individual, or better yet how is it that in 2006 you still believe that mainstream outlets like the Post somehow compromise and tarnish the talents of Black journalists without even acknowledging the value and depth folks like Lola (NY Times), Greg (Village Voice) and Cheo (LA Times) have added to these outlets? Well my friends it only gets better.
Next up was William who couldn't stop waxing nostalgically about how great it was to play football at Morgan State and get a job at Ebony. It seemed that for him this was the epitome of Black Male success and at that time it probably was (oh yeah, I forgot to mention that no one on the panel was under 45 or female [Cathy moderated]). Again it's 2006 and you are talking about Ebony magazine as a model for what? You know I'm not going to say anything more about that moment. Especially since I had walked by the QBR booth right outside the Schomburg that very day and heard this sister ask who reads Ebony because her book was featured in this month's issue. I lie to you not, no one said a word. I heard crickets on 135th Street, yo! Startled, homegirl said something like well make sure you go to your doctor's office and check it out.
So back to the panel. After about 30 minutes of yapping, I was shocked that in their talk about Black Media no one mentioned, never mind discussed, online media and how digital platforms like Blogger, or this and Black sites like EUR and this one are impacting community, media and politics. Nope not a word. Then again there were no youngin's on the panel cause we all know X-ers like me only get asked to participate on hip-hop panels.
Juan Williams brought up a good point about the history of Black journalists being advocates and using the press to promote a specific point of view like DuBois did with his Crisis. He wondered where was the advocacy in Black media and how do Black journalists fit into niche media. This bright point never got a fair shake as Dick Gregory and Cathy Hughes somehow started talking about Marion Barry.
In what had to be the panel's finest moment, both Dick and Cathy ranted about how the gov't set up Barry and how the media twisted the story making a mountain out of a tiny snow hill. "Is he the only man in America that sniffs coke," one of them whined. Errr um, he was the dang mayor of DC and it was crack. And please break it down to me how the Post manipulated him to do a Pookie and light those rocks and get high? I'm starting to wonder if Dick is sniffing his leftover Bahamian Diet Mix powder. Jeesh! At this point I changed the channel and made myself a drink.
I turned back 30 mins later hoping that these cats were trying to redeem themselves. Unfortunately Dick was talking about how all of his children had attended Black colleges except for one and that "she's the craziest child in his family." Then of course Rhoden chimed in about how great his experience was at Morgan.
When so many Black and Latino children drop out of high school and decide not to go to college, what the hell is so fracking constructive about dissing Black kids like me who decide to go to a predominantly white college. This has got to be the funkiest crap I've heard in a longtime. I was pissed. Still am. And because I've already written a novel here, I won't go into detail about how much more advanced-- academically and socially I was than the chick I shadowed at Howard in '89. I had read the books they were reading as sophomores in my junior year at Hunter H.S. Now I'm not dissing Howard or Spelman or any of the other historically Black colleges, but I'm saying they were not for me and that was my choice. I don’t think I need to be dissed or feel ashamed for making that choice and if this is what Dick and the other cats on the panel think is the major problem facing Black journalists then I guess Darfur, AIDS and poverty aren’t the biggest issues for Black communities. It's old school ignorance.