The revolution will not be televised—but what will? And how does that impact us? African Americans continue to watch more TV than any other group, but what we see in mainstream media rarely paints a full, accurate or even violence-free picture of us. Are you really like one of the Housewives? Do most of us really spend our days fighting, snapping our necks and cussing people out?
According to Roland Martin, the host and managing editor of TV One’s NewsOne Now, we can affect how our stories are told by being strategic in our approach to new media—and changing our one-sided relationship with traditional media outlets.
Martin was the featured speaker in “The “Mess in the Media’s Message,” an hour-long teleconference moderated by the National CARES Mentoring Movement last month. The talk was the fifth in an eight-part series launched by CARES, in partnership with the National Alliance of Faith and Justice’s PEN or PENCIL (penitentiary or education) program, to help Black men and women bring their best selves to mentoring, parenting and guiding our children. The initiative, “Mentoring Mondays,” connects listeners with some of the nation’s most inspiring leaders each Monday at 7 p.m. (ET) and will run through the end of May. Past speakers have included spiritual teacher the Rev. Dr. Iyanla Vanzant and Georgetown professor and author Michael Eric Dyson. (You can listen to their calls in entirety here.)
Martin kicked off the discussion by exploring why media control and access are so crucial. “If you want to understand the power of the media, understand that if there’s a coup anywhere in world, one of the first things they’re likely to get control of is the media,” he said. “It’s number two, right after the military.”
However, he said, if mainstream media, particularly mainstream news outlets, have been guilty of ignoring or misrepresenting our communities, we’ve in part, empowered them to do so. “We have to stop waiting for somebody to show up and validate us with their presence,” he said. “The problem I’ve always had is too many of us look at White or mainstream media as the be all, end all. We have to stop thinking of [our own outlets] as less than.”
He added that while online and social media are helping to level the playing field, we’ve yet to crack their full potential, even as Black folks outpace other groups on sites like Twitter and Instagram. “[Mainstream media] no longer controls the access,” he said. “The question now is how do we take this and use it.”
“The problem with social media,” he said, “is that we have too many people who think just because I retweeted something my work is done. The real challenge is [figuring out] how we harness our energy?”
And to that we add, what should we do with that energy once harnessed? For the sake of our children, that is a decision we must make right now.
Listen below to hear Martin’s talk in full.