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The Malcolm X Grassroots Movement Radio Barnraising
Congratulations to the folks from the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement's Center for Self Determination in Greenville, SC on the launch of the first community-run radio station in Greenville County, WMXP-lpfm on Sunday June 10, 2007- the Malcolm X Experience. Thanks to all of you who led workshops, transported others, cooked a meal, washed the dishes, raised the antenna, and wired the studio- among so many other behind-the-scenes work to help keep the barnraising moving.
If you couldn't make it to the WMXP barnraising, and want to check out some sights and sounds from the weekend (June 8-10, 2007), check out some of these links: Photos
We would also like to thank those who participated and facilitated a very important discussion on race and gender privilege awareness in the media justice movement. Please read Prometheus Radio's statement on the key points of that very important discussions by clicking on the read more link below.
Again, thank you truly from all of us for pitching in to help another community gain a new voice on the airwaves!
Prometheus Radio Project
This statement is from the Prometheus Radio Project to everyone who joined us for the launch of the new low power FM station WMXP at our radio barnraising with the Malcolm X Grassroots Center of Greenville, SC. First, we want to thank everyone who came and participated- the community members of Greenville, presenters from all over and long time Prometheus supporters. For us, as for many of you, this radio barnraising was filled with many amazing moments. People were able to come together for the first time and make beautiful connections with others from their area and across the country. These connections are building the current movement for media justice and advancing the broader movement for social justice.
Along with the sensation of victory that many of us feel when a new community radio station is born into a hopeful local, national, and international family, a radio barnraising inevitably brings many challenges. At this particular barnraising, our approach to some of these challenges led to the subsequent critique of both Prometheus' recent work in Greenville and the momentum of the media justice movement in general. This critique gives us reason to pause and seriously consider our successes and failures in addressing these issues of race, gender, and class in our organizing. We at Prometheus take to heart the personal frustration and anger that was expressed by organizers through the statement read on afternoon of Sunday, June 10th. Although the letter states, "We do not need apologies, we need the issues to be addressed," we admit that Prometheus made mistakes.
First, we struggled with our own internal process as we made choices about this barnraising. Despite the strong relationships built by Prometheus organizers touring in advance of the barnraising, and the subsequent concern they expressed that the goal of holding an inclusive barnraising would be hard to reach, we still decided as an organization to move forward. Secondly, we should have addressed our shared concerns about participation of the local community in the barnraising at the very beginning, so that these issues could have been discussed in a public and constructive manner. For instance, we all learned first-hand about the struggles of radical organizing in a very conservative town when Efia spoke at lunch on Sunday afternoon, and from the local people who came out to share in the exciting launch of the station on Sunday night. These discussions should have been given space on the first day, and throughout the weekend. Moreover, we could have been more conscious of these issues earlier in our planning.
Prometheus has learned from the collective experience of our volunteers, staff, allies, and friends, that everyone learns and teaches best in an environment that is safe and welcoming to them. At past barnraisings, we feel we have done a better job of emphasizing participation and leadership of women and people of color, particularly in the spaces where technical projects take place. Based on this experience, we should have created constructive spaces early on, to open a dialogue and develop strategies to identify and counter the tendencies of the mostly white male engineers to run the technical activities.
The challenges we faced in bringing local leaders and volunteers to the event exacerbated our failure to prioritize the leadership and learning of women and of people of color. Prometheus supporters have heard us say many times that "A barnraising is not the easiest way to build a radio station, but it is the most effective way to build a movement." The model of a barnraising is to welcome broad participation, provide training, and help strengthen the ties of the station to its own local community. Yet, in the rush to get WMXP on-air by Sunday June 10th, we short-changed several of these core goals of our organizing.
Many practical suggestions were made during the discussions on Sunday afternoon of the event. In the weeks that followed, we've also engaged in vital conversations with our volunteers and supporters, and have received guidance from the Prometheus Board. We view these discussions as the beginning of a process to develop a more conscious and focused analysis of race, gender, and class which will guide our future organizing around radio and other media issues. As we continue in this process, we are giving serious consideration to a number of suggestions that came up repeatedly:
- Provide a stronger framework specifically for barnraising participants from the local host community, to share their perspectives and issues with the participants from out of town.
- Identify and partner with groups that have strong connections to local community leaders who that are dedicated to the station and empowered as organizers to help meet the shared goal of station-building and technology training for, with, and by people of color and women.
- Identify and partner with groups that already incorporate the learning and development of local volunteers in their work, especially women and people of color.
- Develop a model for smaller scale events- one that prioritizes and focuses primarily on the learning and involvement of the local community. For example, this could be appropriate in cases where the local partner organization does not have existing volunteer capacity to host a large event.
- Prioritize resources in our outreach around the up-coming Full Power application window to support groups that are lead by and represent women and people of color, and encourage other groups to incorporate an analysis of race, gender and class in their work.
Taking this time to address these issues directly has made the organizers at Prometheus realize that we need to be more careful listeners to truly hear ALL the voices of our family. As we take the first step toward participating in this movement with more consciousness, intention and respect, we will also host a new email discussion list for those who were present at the barnraising.
The discussion list will be a space for all to continue the conversations begun on Sunday, June 10th - conversations about holding Prometheus, WMXP, and the media reform and media justice movements accountable to communities with the least access to the current media system. Prometheus will not moderate, block, or censor any voices in this forum.
We look forward to learning from those of you who choose to speak in this forum, and we will work as hard as we can to make this forum and other spaces open for this continuing conversation. All of these discussions will make Prometheus a more responsive and responsible organization.
The Staff & Board of
Prometheus Radio Project