Festival Recap: D.C. youth and educators promote media literacy

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June 26, 2017 | 12:01 pm by Mandar Apte

by Jeffrey Morris (photographs by Jeffrey Morris)

Despite the dreary Friday afternoon weather, students at the Richard Wright Public Charter School for Journalism and the Media Arts were charged with enthusiasm and inspiration at this year’s Youth Media Rise. The teenagers met separately from the adult educators in separate sessions, focusing on creating media for social change.

The common theme for both tracks was that, as important as it is to know about the mechanics of impactful media, it is also important to understand the process of producing media.

Teachers teaching teachers

The educator track of Youth Media Rise was facilitated by Dr. Renee Hobbs, founder and director of the Media Education Lab; Jordi Torrent, project manager of media literacy at the UN Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) and director of the Plural+ Youth Video Festival; and Dr. Srivi Ramasubramanian, co-founder of Media Rise and associate professor of communication at Texas A&M University.

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“There is power in blending art, journalism and advocacy to promote social change.” – Dr. Renee Hobbs. Photo by Jeffrey Morris.

The facilitators covered many topics important for budding media creators, including recognizing and responding to propaganda, teaching the impact that media can have society, and imparting knowledge not only how to produce media but also how to evaluate it for social impact.

Creative workshops

The youth sessions were facilitated by Ashley Simmons, program director of Gandhi Brigade; Kelli Anderson, founder and publisher of Sojournals;  Michelle Santos, director of journalism and media arts at Richard Wright Public Charter School; Hawah Kasat, artist, yogi and director of One Common Unity; and Rodney Johnson, program facilitator at One Common Unity.

"It is impossible to express all the faces of a person in a single tweet ." – Hawah

“It is impossible to express all the faces of a person in a single tweet .” – Hawah

The students came from Richard Wright Public Charter School and the Duke Ellington School of the Arts to participate in two breakout workshops. One session introduced methods, strategies and tools for using social media for activism, and included an exercise where the participants began planning a social media campaign. The other session focused on the importance of getting in touch with oneself to more clearly understand the subjects of documentary reporting, as well as the different mediums for producing social change, such as art, poetry and music, along with traditional and social media.

Promoting empathy

At the end of the day, the undercurrent running throughout the educator and youth tracks of Youth Media Rise was brought to the forefront by Media Rise co-founder Mandar Apte:

“To produce meaningful change we must both understand our own space and empathize with the space of those we are trying to change.”