Support Your Independent Black Media

Today being Support Your Media Day, it made me think about the late Don Cornelius, who was a trend-setter in the independent black media movement. I wasn't old enough to appreciate the musical legacy of Soul Train during the height of it's popularity. However, after recently viewing a VH1 documentary about the dance show, I developed more respect for Cornelius' entrepreneurial spirit and sense of black unity.

One thing I learned was that Cornelius was a forefather in developing black-owned media, when he gained ownership of his TV show in the 1970s. Cornelius did this at a time when there was very limited black visibility, let alone ownership, on television. He also leveraged his success with the help of other black-owned businesses, most notably with Afro-Sheen.

From Huffington Post:
...Indeed, part of the genius of Cornelius was understanding the value of Soul Train as intellectual property -- a portal into the knowledge that was being produced by black culture and everyday black folk, not only in musical arenas, but in business, advertising, fine arts, and mass media. This understanding explains why Cornelius continued to hold on to his brand well into his late years; both a product of wanting to get the most value for it, as well as protecting its legacy...
The idea of independent black media is still as important today. More independent content producers are finding new homes on the Internet. Last night, I went to a screening of "The Mis-Adventures of Awkward Black Girl" with it's actors/creators Issa Rae and Tracy Oliver in attendance.

Since the sudden popularity of the web series, the pair have been courted by various Hollywood executives about turning it into a TV show. Rae said that "the goal for this show is to change Hollywood;" however, many of the executives she has met with so far want to change the theme and the characters so drastically to the point where the TV show wouldn't remotely resemble the original web show. For instance, Rae, who is a dark-skinned black woman, said one executive wanted her character to be possibly played by a light-skinned black actress like Lauren London in order to get mainstream appeal. These challenges represent a larger problem.

"The only representation of blacks in Hollywood right now come from Tyler Perry," said Oliver. "If people want to change Hollywood, we have to support films and TV shows you want to see to give Hollywood a message."

Oliver reminded me of a recent episode of the Tavis Smiley Show, where the host interviewed "The Help" stars Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer about the lack of decent films and TV programming about African-Americans. Much of this goes back to the lack of black-owned distribution companies and black financial support for "positive" black shows and movies.

Watch Actresses Viola Davis & Octavia Spencer on PBS. See more from Tavis Smiley.

My point here is maybe if the black community came together with its resources, just maybe there would be more positive programs like "Awkward Black Girl" and less films that only portray blacks as maids and criminals. As corporate media quickly takes over everything, now more than ever is it important for blacks to demand better representation of themselves in the media, like Cornelius did 40 years ago. Whether it is through Hollywood or the Internet, maybe we need to get back to the black-owned business values and pride Cornelius established with Soul Train in order to reinvigorate a "real" independent black media movement.

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E-Waste & the Green Economy

Lately, there has been a lot of talk about how to be “more green” in our everyday lives, and in particular how to improve the global economy. In the last year, I have looked at the ways my company Global Wire Associates and my freelance journalism work operate and how I can create a smaller carbon footprint.

As a new media consulting firm, Global Wire Associates is in the business of using technology. However, with the growing problem of e-waste, we felt that it was our responsibility to use electronics with more mindfulness. According to the United Nations Environmental Programme, it is estimated that 20-50 million tons of discarded electronics are dumped into landfills around the world, mostly in developing countries, every year. Electronics include old mobiles, televisions, microwaves, computers and more. However, most of the time it’s not because these gadgets are broken; they’re being dumped in favor of newer versions.

Landfills with e-waste create serious problems in the long run. Toxic chemicals in electronics can leach into the land over time or are released into the atmosphere, creating severe health and environmental hazards in nearby communities.

Even if you take your old electronics to recycling sites, there is no guarantee they will be recycled properly. This is partly because it is expensive and labor-intensive to properly recycle e-waste in many developed countries, as most environmental laws in these countries require e-recyclers to use environmentally friendly processes.

So, for the last year, my company decided that when it is time to purchase any new equipment – cameras, computers, mobiles - we made sure that old or broken equipment was repairable first. We also donate old electronics that are not deemed useful for our purposes to other needy individuals or organizations. Before we consider making new purchases, we try to buy older but usable models whenever possible. If the electronics are beyond repairable, we properly recycle them.

Not only are we doing our little part to save the health of the planet and its people, but it has also made us feel really good about ourselves and wanting to extend our enthusiasm with others. So this year we launched our Recharge E-Waste campaign to make others aware of the global tech waste problem. We not only plan to use our website to have discussions about proper recycling, donating and/or selling of used electronics, and turning electronics into art and design models, but we are also seriously thinking about launching an e-waste management initiative later this year.

Our green awareness has also extended to other areas in our operations, like doing more web conferencing with clients instead of traveling, cloud computing and using green office supplies. Of course, I also use recycled cameras for my freelance video journalistic gigs. Sometimes it’s the smallest things that can make a big difference in our world.

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