Over the course of one year as an Emerging Activist Fellow, Palika Makam – Executive Director of The Babel Project – embarked on a journey to exchange media advocacy skills with three grassroots organizations around the world.
Supported by The Social Change Initiative, I worked in London, Ferguson and Cape Town to:
• Produce media advocacy videos and campaigns with activists
• Share skills in media advocacy and impact with organizations
• Evaluate and observe organizational strategies
• Assess the media needs of each community/city
• Improve upon my own model of media advocacy
• Explore new models for media impact
• Deepen and refine my leadership skills
I chose each city strategically, pulling from my social justice and activist network, and considering parallels in institutionalized racism. For example, both organizations I worked with in London and Ferguson have dealt with and deal with issues of police violence and lack of police accountability, and all three organizations are working against systemic racism experienced by Black and Brown communities, though the approach and specific issues look different in each space.
The nature and impact of my work with each organization varied according to the community’s needs, while continuing to advance and challenge the role of media and storytelling in activism work.
I walk away from my fellowship year with a new understanding for the potential of media advocacy, expanding the scope of my work from solely the youth media space to thinking about how visual documentation and storytelling can be assets within the larger organizing and movement spaces. With new ideas for how media can be integrated into activism work, and understanding of the parallels between activism and media production, I now clearly see how narrative building (and often narrative destroying) are integral to creating change both in regards to affecting public awareness and targeting harmful policy or legislation. Furthermore, I walk away from this year with a more thorough understanding of the different ways storytelling can occur in activism work – paying special attention to the difference between visual documentation and character-driven storytelling, and when each approach might be appropriate. I look forward to advancing these ideas as I continue my media activism career.
I developed this resource for media makers, development workers, human rights practitioners, educators and anyone in the social justice field interested in learning more about how media and storytelling can be integrated into activism work. I decided to utilize a case study approach because I believe context is paramount when analyzing social justice work.
I hope my journey within these 3 organizations offers insight, ideas, and inspiration for not only how media can be utilized as a tool for activism, but why storytelling and visual documentation are integral components of human rights work.
I invite you to explore highlights from my Year in Media Advocacy.