Building Strength in the African-American Community
On a cold, rainy night nearly 100 people from Chicago’s African-American community packed a room at Little Black Pearl in Hyde Park to talk with members of the African-American media about how to work together. Attendees represented nonprofits, businesses, youth groups, educators, and families from the South Side and West Side.
“The biggest thing that happened at Little Black Pearl was a visible showing of a tremendous hunger that the community has for helping build local black media that better reflects its issues and perspectives,” said Jeanette Foreman, an attorney and 35-year community activist involved in organizing the event. “It was a joy to see a standing-room-only crowd.”
The event was part of the larger We Are Not Alone/No Estamos Solos campaign launched by the Community Media Workshop in 2010 to bridge divides in Chicago’s African-American and Latino communities and to discuss successful strategies to fight violence.
“This event planted the seeds for substantial change,” said Glenn Reedus, editor of the Chicago Crusader and panelist at the event. “I think the We Are Not Alone campaign can change the dynamics in Chicago. By starting to work with other communities and organizations, it can start a dialogue that people never thought would happen.”
Panelists at the event, which included journalists from the Chicago Crusader, WBEZ radio, WVON radio, Blogging While Brown and The Final Call, told the audience that they are committed to representing the black community but need people to come to them with stories.
“The hands kept going up as people asked about the future of Chicago’s black media and whether it will survive, whether it will learn to talk to everyone – young and old and especially whether it will be the community’s voice now that the community needs it,” said Steve Franklin, manager of the Workshop’s ethnic media project and We Are Not Alone campaign.
According to Franklin, one question kept returning—what could the media do about the violence in their communities? Couldn’t the news media get together, plan ahead and take a week to tell the story of what black Chicago is doing about the violence?
The media on the panel thought it could happen. In fact, more trainings and meetings between the African-American media and community and a brainstorming sessions for the black news media are in the works to follow up to the packed meeting at Little Black Pearl.
“By learning to better support, use, and contribute to its own media, the community will realize great potential to define itself in more positive ways and grow its capacity to resolve many issues, including the root causes of violence,” said Foreman. “I’m excited, optimistic, and looking forward to the 2012 next steps.”