MARCH & MOVEMENT NOT
COVERED IN THE MEDIA?
September 7 1998
In this issue of the FNV Political Newsletter, I'm featuring two articles that talk about the recently held Million Youth March that took place over the Labor Day Weekend in New York City. One piece comes from young Brandon Potter who is raises a lot of questions. The other comes from Sister Kupendua who actually attended the event. To me, I was surprised at the lack of media coverage prior to the event especially here on the west coast. I know in New York City it made the news because there was a lot of controversy surrounding the event. The organizers had to fight tooth and nail to be able to hold the event in Harlem-which is one of the nations oldest and largest predominantly Black neighborhoods. New York Mayor Rudoulph Giuliani drew a line in the sand and refused to grant permits to the March organizers. Eventually this ruling would be overturned in an appeals court.
Anytime you get attempt to get young people together to make a political statement-it's news worthy. Especially at a time when so many are accussed of being apathetic. Heck, we see the press cover all the misdeeds of young people. If they rob a bank, gang bang etc it gets covered. The planning of this should've gotten some sort of coverage.. There should've been some sort of discussion about the goals and aspirations of young folks. I know that inspite of the media Blackout, the grassroots efforts by MYM committee members in SF resulted in close to a thousand people from the SF Bay Area making the trek to New York City.
Now, there are many who will claim that former Nation Of Islam spokesperson Kallid Muhammed detracted from the event. His anti-white and anti-semitic remarks from past speeches might have been the reason this event got very little news coverage. There are two things to consider. First, he got a lot of national media attention when he led armed Black Panther Party members to Jasper Texas to confront the Klu Klux Klan. If you could cover for that.. why not the Million Youth March? Secondly, there was a media blackout on the events leading up to the Million Youth Movement event that took place in Atlanta. Here you didn't have the militancy that was associated with Kallid.. All sorts of civil rights leaders ranging from Jesse Jackson to rap stars like The Goodie Mob attended this three day event. Again hardly any media coverage before and after. Why?
My take on this is as follows-Black youth coming together to improve the quality of their lives and to take responsibility for their actions is a threat. A lot of people including many within our own community have gotten to be quite comfortable and perhaps even addicted to ignorant/ghetto behavior. The images of young Black males walking around with their pants sagging, hats on backwards and calling each other nigga while puffing a blunt, drinking a 40 ounce and dealing drugs has become a profitable image that many don't wanna immediately shake. The image of young loud talking, gum smackin', hoochie actin' sisters who are dragging around several out-of-wedlock kids in search of 'they babies daddies' is another image that has become the norm in many circles.. When someone comes along and breaks that stereotype.. they're accussed of not 'keepin' it real' and 'sellin' out'. What's even more ironic is that as we head on into the year 2000, some of the loudest and most vocal critics to Black folks not behaving in this stereotypical fashion are non-blacks.
The image of positive moving young Black people is not a hot topic. It's not controversial enough.. It's not something to be rewarded by media coverage.. Positive brothers and sisters who exude some common sense in their day to day behavior are not the ingredients that have given rise to Jerry Springer and Rikki Lake. It's not the type of imagery we can live vicariously through or have a good laugh at.. It's not the type of behavior that has captured the imigination, admiration and eventual emulation of non-blacks world wide.. Sadly enough, like KRS-One said in one of his song.. 'You got white kids callin' themselves nigga'. It's not just the word.. but it's an attitude of ignorance and the celebration of a ghetto mentality which is now being commodified, imitated and spurned forth by profit. If you come forth and supposedly 'keep it real' by being the ultimate NIGGER.. oops I mean NIGGA you will find yourself being celebrated on center stage. You may find yourself on the front cover of a magazine.
The main story of the both the NY and Atlanta events were conviently overlooked. The story was not about Kallid and his confrontational rhetoric or Giuliani not granting permits, but young people trying to organize and partake in the Million Youth March. Did anyone talk to the kids and ask them what their take on this whole thing was? Did we get a spotlight on their role? Did any media outlets talk to scores of Bay Area youth like 19 year old San Francisco native William Walker who made the trip to New York City? Here you have a guy who as a senior in high school helped with numerous other students lead a city wide walkout to help bring about a more meaningful change in the student curriculum. Here you have a young man who at 17 was out there registering people to vote. He now works with young people who call into Youthline...a phone service in SF where young kids can call and talk to peers about their problems. William doesn't wear his pants saggin'.. although he spends all day talking to kids with saggin' pants trying to encourage them to find their way and to make a difference. He doesn't call women bitches and he doesn't smoke philly blunts.. There are some folks who will look at his clean cut appearance and hear is articulate speaking and boldly claim that the 6'3" lanky youth is not 'keepin' it real'.. He's not a news story.. He doesn't spark controversy, especially when they discover that he didn't fly to New York because he's a follower or in agreement with everything spouted by Kallid Muhammed.
No one highlighted Brother Dominique a senior at Oakland's Far West High School who has organized several student forums and teach ins. He not only made the trip to Atlanta's Million Youth Movement.. But he also wound up being one of the speakers.. A powerful speaker, his inspiring message of asking his peers to take responsibility for themselves and to become more involved in the upliftment of their respective communities was not gonna be highlighted on the 6 o'clock news. Kids like William and Dominique don't fit into that ignorant/ghetto nigger/ thug outted profile that is now being marketed to young people all around the world. Instead the mainstream focused on the controversy surrounding Kallid.. and where there was no Kallid in Atlanta.. It all but ignored that event.. It acted like it didn't exist.
One thing I do know about the media is that the best way to kill a story is to not tell it at all.. Make it disappear.. Cut the flow of information and in the end a population of people who have been socialized to trust and depend upon the messages sent forth by NBC, ABC, FOX, CNN and CBS.. will never know all that occurred at a particular event. the tone of an event or the perception of of a people are often influenced by media. He who controls the flow sets the pace. He who sets the pace to a large degree controls the game. The two youth events in New York and Atlanta are examples of that happening.
Let me know what you think...
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