After inviting its most inclusive class of new members ever, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences has received an endorsement from one key advocacy group: the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. NAACP national board of directors Chairman Roslyn M. Brock issued a statement Friday commending the academy on its commitment to… [Read more…]
I spent last week at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, covering the national NAACP’s annual convention.
If you saw some of the coverage on television, you know that there was no shortage of heavy hitters participating in the organization’s 106th annual gathering. Although she didn’t talk about the Freddie Gray case, Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby stopped by, as did U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
Heck, President Barack Obama came by and talked about how he was going to clean up the mess that is the criminal justice system. And former President Bill Clinton came by to tell NAACP members how sorry he was for creating said mess by signing the Crime Bill of 1995 into law, a bill that made huge mandatory sentences the norm and not the exception.
But while there were workshops on everything from education to LGBT rights, there was no workshop on the media, its impact on the lives of people of color, and how to get your message–or what you feel is the right message–out to a public that might not care about voting rights, police brutality or economic injustice as much as it ought to.
It’s that last one that I’d like to focus on because if the NAACP, or any other like-minded organization, would like to see better coverage, it’s got to be a joint effort…something that it wasn’t always last week in Philadelphia.
On the Friday before the convention officially started, members of the NAACP leadership held a press conference at the Convention Center. The press conference was designed to tell the press about what was on the agenda, how to get credentials to cover President Obama, and to highlight things like the author’s pavilion (which is where I met Harriet Glickman) and a massive job fair filled with companies looking to hire, something that’s desperately needed in a town with the highest deep poverty rate of any city of its size.
Assembled at the dais were a group that included Roslyn M. Brock, chairman of the NAACP Board of Directors, Convention Chair Leon Russell, President and CEO of the NAACP Cornell William Brooks, Philadelphia NAACP chapter president Min. Rodney Muhammad, and Dwayne Jackson, president of the NAACP’s Pennsylvania State Conference.
After everyone made their statements, the floor was opened up to questions, so I asked about the disconnect that established civil rights organizations seem to have with younger folks like, say, the #BlackLivesMatter movement.
It wasn’t a disconnect that I was just making up. When the Rev. Al Sharpton held a march back in December, young people had to bum rush the stage to be heard. The Rev. Jesse Jackson was booed when he came to Ferguson, Missouri, after the death of Michael Brown because the activists on the ground were a little annoyed by the perception that he not only parachuted in, but tried to take over.
I even had a conversation with a young activist on Twitter who bemoaned the fact that this generation of activists has heard “What da hell is a hashtag?! Ya’ll ain’t gonna get nothin’ done with that! Y’all need to march!” one too many times from elders who should be mentoring, instead of hectoring, them.
But while I had a legitimate basis for my question, and plenty of incidents to back it up, many of the folks on the dais were not trying to hear me on this point.
First, they brought up Da’Quan Love, chair of the NAACP’s National Youth Work Committee, a member of the organization’s national board of directors, and someone who was on the dais, but probably wouldn’t have gotten the chance to speak had I not asked my question. They also brought up a lot of college aged kids who were members of college student chapters.
“The NAACP has one of the largest groups of non-religious affiliated youth in the country,” Love said. “We have over 1,000 high school students that are here for the ACT-SO competition, the Olympics of the mind. We also have students that will be participating legislatively. While some may say that we have a gap with [young people], we have spent the last 10 years trying to bridge that gap. NAACP is one of the only national organizations that have a place for young people on the board.”
So because the last thing that Love did before he left the stage was blame the media, I asked a follow-up question: “It’s one thing to say you’re doing things, but you have to be seen doing them. Since the perception that the NAACP has a disconnect with the young is still out there, and you’re blaming the media for that, what are we missing?”
Basically, Love repeated himself, punctuated with a “Run Tell That!” from Chairwoman Brock.
(It’s not every day that I’m told to “kick rocks” as a reporter with the title of a Martin Lawrence movie, but hey…)
Since I’m not really big on taking no, or your first couple of no’s, as a final answer, I went to Chairwoman Brock and asked if it would be possible for the two of us to sit down and talk about what the media is getting wrong when it comes to the NAACP. If there’s something that we’re not getting and need to know as journalists, AllDigitocracy.org is the best place to get the word out, I said.
I submitted my request in writing. Twice. After a while, the folks in the press office were tired of seeing me as I followed up on my request.
I’m still waiting.
Now, I got so involved in covering the convention itself with all its moving parts that it took a colleague of mine pointing it out for me to realize that there were no media workshops on the program. There was supposed to be one on Hashtag Activism, but it was reduced to a 10 minute summation because it was scheduled at the same time as President Obama’s speech.
So, because I’m a helpful sort, and because I’ve had a while to think about it, I’d like to offer some suggestions to the NAACP and other non-profits who want better, more inclusive coverage of what they do because, let’s face it, knowing what these folks are doing benefits all of us.
1-Before you invite reporters in, know what you want them to know and get them that information quickly: Newsrooms are a lot smaller these days. City desks that used to house 15-20 people, now house five…maybe. Unless they’re freelance writers like myself who have a little more time to spend with your organization, reporters can’t hang around for hours as you figure out what you want to say. Know that before you invite us in.
2-Make the people most connected to your issue available for interviews: As I mentioned earlier in this piece, I sent a written request to the NAACP’s leadership for a sit-down regarding the issue of young people, the NAACP, the perceived disconnect and how the media plays into it. I also sent written requests for interviews with other participants in the conference, particularly those involved in the Hashtag Activism panel.
I’m still waiting for a response. And while I don’t think that folks need to drop everything to talk to reporters, answering an email or a phone call to respond for a request for information doesn’t take a lot of time…and it might be the difference between getting it right and getting it wrong.
3-A good, fact-filled press release is your friend: Even if a reporter can’t necessarily make it to your press conference, a good press release that details what you want the media to know and understand about your issue can still get coverage for your organization. Make sure that all of the information you send is correct and has sources attached. If it’s an event you want us to attend, make sure that the date, place, and time are on the release. (You’d be surprised at how often I get press releases that don’t contain that information.) Include a contact person who not only is available by phone or email, but who can share some things that might not be on the release itself.
4-Be prepared for questions: Now what do I mean by that? I mean that if you’re going to have a press conference on the issues connected to your organization, be prepared for reporters to have questions for you, questions that might contain information that you don’t want to talk about. Reporters don’t ask questions in a vacuum and they generally don’t ask things that aren’t based on research they’ve already done. If it’s a question that you either don’t want to answer or have a disagreement with, say that.
While it’s my NAACP experience that has inspired this column, it’s something that I’ve wanted to say to and about non-profits for a long time. Right now, non-profits are doing most of the good work that’s being done in our communities and they deserve their moment in the sun.
But it’s really hard to get it right when we don’t have all of the information.
In other words, we can’t “Run Tell Dat!” when we’re not sure what “Dat” is…
Denise Clay is assistant editor of allDigitocracy.org. She is also contributing editor at The Philadelphia Sunday Sun.
PHILADELPHIA — For those of us who grew up reading “Peanuts,” the iconic comic strip from the late Charles Schulz, the antics of Charlie Brown, his sister Sally, and his friends, the blanket-toting Linus, his crabby, football-snatching sister Lucy, piano virtuoso Schroeder, and Snoopy, Charlie Brown’s beagle (and World War I Flying Ace) were a part of what made our childhoods fun.
But while Charlie Brown was a kid who managed to maintain a kind heart despite almost always being the butt of the joke, he also lived in a world that was pretty much white.
On Sunday, as part of the NAACP’s national convention in Philadelphia, Harriet Glickman, the woman who inspired Charles Schulz to create the character Franklin, shared her story of integrating the Peanuts Universe as part of a chat at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. She was joined by actor Mar Mar Tidbit, who will be lending his voice to the character of Franklin in 20th Century Fox’s upcoming film “The Peanuts Movie.”
After the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King in 1968, Glickman, then a special education teacher in California, decided that it might be time for Charlie Brown and company to make a new friend, a friend that might help move the country toward the beloved community the slain Civil Rights leader was working toward, she said.
“I wrote to Charles Schulz and suggested to him that he put a black character in `Peanuts,'” she said.
At first, Schulz was hesitant. He thought that a character of color would be a good idea, but he was concerned about whether or not he could do it justice.
But Glickman wasn’t taking no for an answer. She reached out to friends who were black and had children. She encouraged them to write to Schulz and make their feelings known.
On July 31, 1968, America met Franklin, a black kid who brought Charlie Brown the beach ball his sister Sally had thrown into the ocean. The two boys then built a sand castle, talked about baseball, and shared stories of family and friends like any two kids would. He was just one of the gang.
That, Glickman says, was the point.
“I thought that every kid should be able to pick up the comics and see themselves,” she said. “They should be able to see their friends. They should be able to see what their schools look like.”
While the reaction to Franklin was mostly positive, Schulz did have problems with Southern papers and with the syndication house that distributed “Peanuts” when it came to the subject of integrated classrooms, Glickman said.
To his credit, Schulz handled the criticism like a man who was the creator of an iconic cartoon.
“Schulz told them that if they changed the strip, he’d quit,” Glickman said. “They left the strips alone.”
Franklin, who went to school across town with characters Peppermint Patty and Marcie, made his television debut as a member of the “Peanuts” gang in the special “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” in 1973. For Glickman, who has collected Franklin memorabilia ranging from stuffed animals to t-shirts, it was a proud moment.
“It was as if I saw one of my kids on television,” she said. “It was wonderful to see.”
While Franklin was the first black child in the “Peanuts” Universe, he wasn’t the last. In 1976, three years after Franklin’s television debut, Schulz created another character, a toddler named Milo, as part of a diverse group called “The Goose Eggs.”
But while Franklin stood out as a character in the late 1960s, his presence might not even get noticed these days.
“Now when I look at the comic strips in the LA Times, I see at least five comic strips with Black characters,” Glickman said. “One of the strips, `Stone Soup,’ has a mom, and a little boy, who are white, and the mom’s boyfriend who is black. They’re about to get married, their families are there, and no one even notices.”
“The Peanuts Movie” premieres on Nov. 6.
Sometimes friends disagree
President Obama came out this week in full support of net neutrality rules, announcing that a free and open Internet was as critical to Americans’ lives as electricity and should be regulated like those utilities to protect consumers. Obama’s statement paves the way for the Federal Communications Commission to adopt tighter rules to prevent broadband companies from blocking or intentionally slowing down legal content and from allowing content providers to pay for a fast lane to reach consumers.
This approach also puts Obama at odds with several civil rights groups, including the National Urban League, the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council and Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow/PUSH Coalition. The civil rights groups believe treating wired and wireless broadband service could slow broadband adoption, lead to increased prices and choke innovation. Republicans who are against the president’s net neutrality vision are now citing opposition by the civil rights groups, including the NAACP, as a reason the FCC should reject stricter regulations.
FCC chairman Tom Wheeler has been working on plans to protect the open Internet. At stake is whether the Internet will be treated like a public utility, like electricity, or like a more costly luxury, such as cable television. Several civil rights groups, however, wanted to leave the door open, allowing internet service providers to report any practices that would change consumers’ and content providers’ “relationship” with networks. This would give the FCC the ability to intervene on a case-by-case basis.
“This approach to the Internet, first chartered with bipartisan support during the Clinton Administration, has created 945,000 jobs for workers of color in the broadband sector and an overall “app economy” that supports another 750,000 jobs a year,” wrote Marc H. Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League, wrote in a Oct. 15 blog post on thehill.com. Morial and others are calling for the FCC to use its existing authority to regulate the internet, and added treating it like a public utility is an “extreme approach.”
Morial’s position — and that of his social justice allies — is more in line with what big telecom companies want, prompting net neutrality activists to accuse the civil rights groups, including the Urban League, of selling out.
“In its filings with the FCC, the National Urban League acknowledges its close working and philanthropic relationships with the biggest phone and cable companies. (On its own site, Comcast touts its partnership with the National Urban League and notes that it’s given the group $12 million in free airtime.) The National Urban League, its local chapters, and some traditional civil rights groups have repeatedly cited the philanthropic donations made by the big ISPs as a reason the government should approve mega-merger after mega-merger. Many groups are making this argument in the pending Comcast-Time Warner Cable and AT&T-DIRECTV deals,” wrote Craig Aaron and Joseph Torres for Freepress.net. “So maybe it shouldn’t come as a surprise that some civil rights groups are aligned with the policy positions these corporations are pursuing, including opposing strong and enforceable Net Neutrality rules.”
It should be noted that not all civil rights groups oppose the president’s plan. Color of Change, which advocates on behalf of black Americans, supports the public utility option. So do civil rights icons including John Lewis and John Conyers, both members of the U.S. House of Representatives. But when it comes to net neutrality, legacy groups like the NAACP, Rainbow/PUSH, MMTC, the Urban League and the president are on opposite sides of the spectrum (apologies for the pun). Sometimes friends disagree. But this isn’t just a difference in opinion. What the FCC decides will impact the way journalists and other content producers provide and deliver information, and it will also impact how our audiences consume our products. Besides, when it comes to politics, there’s no such thing as permanent friends, or permanent enemies. Case in point, even conservatives back the president’s plan.
Obama has other pals anyway. Within minutes of the president’s video release of his message expressing support for treating the Internet like a public utility, lawmakers across the country began tweeting their support.
— Cory Booker (@CoryBooker) November 10, 2014
— Richard Blumenthal (@SenBlumenthal) November 10, 2014
— Bill de Blasio (@BilldeBlasio) November 10, 2014
— Kirsten Gillibrand (@SenGillibrand) November 10, 2014
— Nancy Pelosi (@NancyPelosi) November 10, 2014
— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) November 10, 2014
By Barry Cooper, Guest Blogger
Back in the day, when newspapers had full staffs of local editors and reporters, there was this beat called the “minority affairs beat.” Okay, maybe the title sucked, but it was the minority affairs reporter’s job to know what was going on in minority communities.
The minority affairs reporter would know everybody at the local chapter of the National Urban League, the NAACP, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and so forth. In those days, the L.A. Chapter of the NAACP would not have gotten away with this nonsense of “selling” awards to Donald Sterling.
An enterprising reporter looking to get a story on the front page of The Los Angeles Times would have sniffed out the payola, given Sterling’s racist reputation, and pitched the story to his city editor. The Times would have outed the L.A. NAACP long before now — and maybe Sterling would have been kicked out of the NBA years ago.
The problem is there aren’t many minority affairs reporters left, and there is not much local watchdog journalism, at least not in black communities.
A lot of gains were made in the 1970’s and 1980’s as newspapers made genuine commitments to diversify their newsrooms. However, many of those hires have been laid off or forced out as papers have cut back because of the economy and the current focus on digital.
To be sure, journalists of all colors have lost jobs, and my heart goes out to everyone who has been affected. However, the deep cuts into the ranks of African-American journalists is especially painful because we were just starting to make some gains.
With almost no mainstream media watching, it was easy for the NAACP to crawl into bed with Donald Sterling at the same time he was making life a living hell for people of color through alleged housing discrimination.
But here is the really sad thing:
There is a good chance that as the NAACP was selling out to Sterling, some 80-year-old black grandmother from Compton was taking $15 from her Social Security check and sending a money order to the L.A. Chapter of the NAACP.
To help with the fight against discrimination, of course.
Barry Cooper is a pioneering digital entrepreneur who lives in Orlando, Fla. He founded Black Voices, which was later sold and is now Huffington Post Black Voices.
Davis was convicted and sentenced to death in 1991 for the 1989 murder of off-duty Savannah police officer Mark Allen MacPhail. Davis’s conviction was based largely on eyewitness testimony and, in the intervening years, the case against him has fallen apart. Seven of the nine witnesses against Davis have recanted or contradicted their testimony and three of those witnesses now claim their testimony was coerced. In addition, two other witnesses have stated they never saw the murder and that their testimony was false. No physical evidence links Davis to the crime. Still, the Georgia Department of Corrections plans to execute him later this month.
Now 42, Davis has been in prison for more than 19 years.
In addition to organizing marches, a hallmark of the NAACP, the nation’s oldest civil rights organization is fighting Davis’ pending execution by using Twitter, blogs and even Youtube. The organization has also created a mobile petition. The NAACP is encouraging the community to text “TROY” to 62227 to add names to a petition to save his life.
“With the execution set for Sept. 21, there is very little that can be done but the NAACP is not letting this man go down without a fight. Thankfully, technology is at our disposal and could potentially be what helps saves a life,” states BlackWeb2.0, a website helping to get the word out about Davis.
On Monday, Sept. 19, two days before the scheduled execution, Davis will have a clemency hearing in front of the five-member Georgia State Board of Pardons and Parole. At the end of the hearing, the Board will decide, via majority vote, whether to grant Davis clemency.
Though he was denied clemency in the past, the board’s membership has changed since Davis’ last hearing and, in the interim, new witnesses have come forward.
With the clemency hearing and the execution date fast approaching, the NAACP realizes the best, and fastest, way to get out its message and to mobilize is the internet.
This is Davis’ last chance, states a page dedicated to Davis on the NAACP’s website.
- Text “TROY” to 62227 to add your name to a petition to save Troy Davis’ life. Or
- Take action by signing this online Amnesty International petition opposing the death penalty for Troy Davis.