And So The Professor Shows His Age: Some Unorganized, Unresearched Thoughts About 2021 (and Beyond) Black Media

So much has changed in the 20 years since I wrote about now-known-as “legacy media” Black Entertainment Television, Radio One, 1190 WLIB-AM and WABC-TV’s Like It Is! Turns out the “new Black media” I ballayhooed in my very-flawed doctoral dissertation back then was waaaay premature! Nowadays, my study seems more like the “last Black mass media” story, not a “new media” story. After all, the Web was under 10 years old when I graduated and Web 2.0 was just on the horizon.

(The jury might still be out on whether my promoted ideological perspective [Black media has two prongs: it fights white hegemony and reinforces Black/African spirituality] and formula have current value, but since individuals can do what they want to do now, based on their own (grounded) theories and phenemological-based values, those might be equally obselete. Shhh! Don’t tell my Seton Hall University “Mass Media and Minorities” students this! LOL! )

From my vantage point, the de-massified media world we live in now comes from a combo of cheap-to-free tech, increased corporate hegemony and, frankly, the need and want of individual or collective championing or branding, depending on ones’ perspective and/or agenda. The three factors combined can be admittedly dangerous, but I wanna see the content first before I judge.

(Between the development of these new digital networks, and the great series and book on the digital transformations of Black journalism, all happening within the last two years, I definitely feel like a scholarly and journalistic dinosaur. And perhaps that description’s accurate: Hell, my professional 2021-onward goal is still to write something as good as Gay Talese’s now 55-year-old Esquire narrative classic “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold” or James Baldwin’s 60-year-old Harper’s feature “The Dangerous Road Before Martin Luther King,” articles only a little older than me! That shows you where I’m at! LOL!)

The loose, unresearched chronology I have seen and now see: 

1970-1980s: Black people created grassroots and/or national newspapers and syndicated print columns in Black newspapers, public-affairs shows and syndicated radio commentaries (and BET, which, it can be argued, comes out of both Black radio’s tradition and its white hegemonic corporate conglomeration, beginning roughly in the mid-1970s).

1980s-1990s: Black people created a) print magazines, then b) syndicated radio shows, then c) websites.

2000-present: Black people attempted all of the above, and then added radio and TV networks (Cathy Hughes’ TV One being the most prominent). Then website TV and podcasting, micro-blogging (FB and Twitter), social media TV and podcasting, and now, thanks to YouTube’s and now Zoom’s, and Crowdcast’s, etc., tested viability, the new era (and this time I think I’m right :)) of Black people creating their own BETs!


In my view, this chronology exists because of two reasons: the tech to produce and distribute became cheap or free and corporate America stepping to get every market they can.


It’s a golden era, really. As long as everything is archived and everyone is to the left of Larry Elder ;), I’m fine with it!

Asante Sana, Dr. Julia (“Judy”) Miller and Glen Ford

The Male Principle and The Female Principle, grit and fierceness inner and outward.

Coming out of the 1960s into the 1970s, both pioneers filled with revolutionary consciousness, both using work to create new space for words to propel The Race forward.

One celebrated for her expansive heart, the other celebrated for his sharp machete.

Personal versus/and ideological.

But both understood the power of planting yourself within a role, and then being left to the never-ending, back-breaking, un-privledged, un-advantaged labor of pulling out your own weeds.

And, by doing that, creating your own eras.

Some Unorganized Thoughts As To How We Live Now

I’m listening to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo now as I type, telling me how long COVID can stick on surfaces and hang in the air. He’s become my daily obsession. The Mumia Abu-Jamal event I’m waiting for is a little less than four hours ahead.

Still meditating on what happened just a couple of hours ago. I opened the front door, unmasked, waiting for my Whole Foods delivery, and immediately saw a sanitation worker–Friday is Garbage Day in our ward–in distress. Something powderish (?) had spilled on his face while working on our block, and he was less than panicked but more than disturbed.

He asked for warm water and soap and, thanks to me and the homeowner, Annette Alston, we quickly compiled.

Coming back out, I hear a voice to my right yell, “Amazon!” Delivery Dude is peeping the happenin’, so he quickly drops my bags at the foot of the stairs (social distancing, rigghht) and does a great imitation of Ricochet Rabbit. Annette hands me my mask to wear–after all, I’m now in close proximity to two people–and for the first time since the Apocolopyse, I wear it. I’ve been inside the house for weeks, writing my Mumia bio–only leaving the house to take out the garbage–so I hadn’t fully accepted this reality until I finally yielded to Paul Lawrence Dunbar.

Cuomo is talking now about an “economic tsunami” and is daring Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) to allow states to declare bankruptcy legally. “I dare you to do that!”

I really felt for the Sanitation Brother, an Essential Worker. This is not the time to be dealing with unknown substances. What was on his face? Oh, man…..

A neighbor from across the street is checking from her window, asking about his welfare. (Newark is a small town that, paradoxically and correctly, looks like a Big Ghetto from the outside.)

“What did we learn?” Cuomo is asking.

As a “lifelong student of Black media” (a quote from my bio), it’s fascinating how fast we have Zoomed along.  We were well along the road to becoming our own Black public-affairs shows via Facebook Live before the drip-blip, but it’ll be interesting to see how much of Black America will just junk prepared broadcast packages altogether for the live and interactive, the digital harambee. (Meanwhile, The Afro-American newspaper is trying to hold on, having laid off 25 percent of its staff.) I like to approach the study and teaching of media history from many perspectives, and one is from the changing of habits. Are we, slowly and eventually, the “B-SPAN” (Black C-SPAN) I’ve/we’ve been looking for?

Cuomo reads a letter from a Kansas farmer who has sent a mask for a New York health worker. “God Bless America,” Cuomo declared, who is not, he keeps saying, running for president. 🙂

Now he’s talking about taking versus giving. I’m glad Annette and I were able to help the brother. In this time of fear and uncertainty, our community is standing steady. He thanked me as, of course, we are all thanking them.

 

Lerone Bennett Jr.: Until That New Biography Comes Out Next Year……

…………I’ll have to be satisfied with this new, and fine, journal article by Christopher M. Tinson.

The biography, coming early next year, will be called “Ebony Magazine and Lerone Bennett, Jr: Black Popular History in Postwar America” by James West.

West tells me that I need to check out a forthcoming book on Hoyt Fuller by Jonathan Fenderson. It’s now on the list.

Book-Mini Review: Organic Black Feminism Within Traditional Black Community Activism


Lucile H. Bluford and The Kansas City Call: Activist Voice for Social Justice.
Shelia Brooks and Clint C. Wilson II.
Lexington Books. 112 pp., $80.

The story of how Lucile Bluford helped lead Black Kansas City from the late 1960s through the 1980s via her newspaper, The Kansas City Call, is not unusual, as 20th century Black press stories go. And that very normality is what makes this monograph important. When not roadblocked by Black male sexism (and even when they are), Black women seek, and fight, to save, heal and transform the entire Black community–to save it from itself, even if that work results in personal attack and vicious slander. These women, like Bluford, are strategic. And Brooks and Wilson explain that tactical nature, along with that unswerving commitment, in qualitative and quantitative form, showcasing well her roles as local activist, cheerleader and critic. In the Twitter Age, one in which Black feminist perspectives often lead national Black (digital) activist discourse, Bluford’s brand would today hold up as well as her electric typewriter on the book’s cover: she often used a male pseudonym when it was time to talk tough. But that is not the point here, although that historic action of Black press female reporters and editors should be the focus of future 19th and 20th century Black newspaper studies. Happily, there is no attack and slander in Bluford’s story, because she earned the respect of Kansas City as its Black informational leader and independent advocate. Future monographs about 20th century Black press publishers, reporters and editors should explain in further detail the ideological/personal relationships between Black newspaper staffs and Black activists, especially the idea that the Black women who have always driven local Black activism were major portions of these papers’ audiences. But for now, with more books published on Black women journalists in recent years than ever before, academia is now seeing a significant growth in the topic of Black press herstory.

My Latest Book Review, About The Power Of The 20th Century Black Press……

….is here.

The Covers To My Two New Books

Official announcements forthcoming!

My New “People’s Biography” On Ida B. Wells-Barnett……

…..is here.

 

My Trice Edney News Wire Review Of The Book On The Chicago Defender’s History…..

Chicago-Defender

…….is here.