by Troy Landrum
“So be it! See to it!” wrote Washington’s very own Octavia Butler, as a source of encouragement, in her personal notebook. The bestselling and award-winning author would be read by millions. In 1995, she became the first African American woman to win the MacArthur Fellowship. She is one of the greatest (if not the greatest) science fiction writers of the 20th century.
As participants of the Media 2070 consortium meeting on Thursday, April 21st, we meditated on those words and then were asked, “Now what will you do with your writing?”
As a writer, and especially a writer of color, it’s those golden nuggets of wisdom that remind us we are on the right path. That we just have to keep on pushing until we can fulfill the things that we have imagined for ourselves. And for all the individual motivation, there is also a need for collective action against structural racism in media institutions.
The virtual event drew us in with one sentence, “Media reparations are coming!” As a Black journalist, and as a journalist in solidarity with the movements for equity, this line sparked a deep interest and joy. Black people are owed for our sacrifices, for this nation’s attempt to genocide our people, for unfulfilled governmental promises, and for all the unrecognized, uncompensated, monumental contributions we have made to this nation.
Journalism was a path I stumbled upon. My love of writing begins with Black history, fiction, nonfiction, and short story writing. My work often features sweet connections back to my family’s history through the Great Migration and Jim Crow South. Journalism has offered me opportunities to blend my interests and connect more deeply to my community. I have a platform through journalism to share the stories that are important to me and my community. I stand on the shoulders of my ancestors, grandparents, and parents, who encouraged me to continue to contribute myself and my talents to this nation in a positive way, even when it doesn’t do the same for me.
Media 2070 is a consortium of media-makers and activists who are encouraging conversations about reparations through media. The organization believes Black folks should control their own narratives in the media and have stakes in owning outlets as well.
Mainstream media and news is rarely controlled by the people covered by the news, creating another instrument for making money off the backs of Black and Brown people. Media 2070 is “A growing consortium of media-makers and activists collectively dreaming reparative policies, interventions, and futures. This work is an effort to radically transform who has the capital to tell their own stories by 2070 — 50 years from today.”
Through its efforts, it is sharing knowledge of how the media industry has sometimes uplifted, but also directly participated in, violence toward Black people in the United States. When we finally control our own narratives, that will be the day that justice can be served.
In addition to education and empowerment, Media 2070 has also produced a short film called Black in the Newsroom, a film that explores the journey of Elizabeth Montgomery, a Black female journalist who worked for a major U.S. newspaper in Arizona.
Through first-person narration, Montgomery takes us through the turmoil of being a tokenized Black woman and the only Black woman at the newspaper where she worked. As a budding journalist telling stories of underrepresented communities, she often had to choose between food and rent.
The film was heartbreaking and empowering, and as we sat contemplating it after it ended, we listened to music of Black resistance from the ’70s and ’80s.
As the meeting closed, we were asked variations of these two key questions:
- What do you need from your journalistic or media organization to excel in your work environment?
- What can you do in order for journalists of color to excel in your local media organizations?
These questions touched on the overall message of media reparations. Media 2070 speaks to the communal effort of Media justice. It will take all of us to move the dial forward into a just world of media accountability and storytelling.
As our great Octavia Butler said, “So be it! See to it!” Realizing our personal and collective dreams as writers, journalists, and media-makers will mean receiving our reparations, one way or the other.
If you’re interested in learning more about Media 2070, being a part of its mission, or showcasing a screening of Black in the Newsroom locally, please visit its website for more information.
The South Seattle Emerald is committed to holding space for a variety of viewpoints within our community, with the understanding that differing perspectives do not negate mutual respect amongst community members.
The opinions, beliefs, and viewpoints expressed by the contributors on this website do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs, and viewpoints of the Emerald or official policies of the Emerald.
Troy Landrum Jr. was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, and is currently a program producer for KUOW’s “Radioactive” program. He has spent the past few years as a bookseller at Third Place Books in Seward Park and recently graduated with a masters in fine arts at the University of Washington, Bothell. Follow Troy on Twitter at @TroyLandrumJr.
Before you move on to the next story … Please consider that the article you just read was made possible by the generous financial support of donors and sponsors. The Emerald is a BIPOC-led nonprofit news outlet with the mission of offering a wider lens of our region’s most diverse, least affluent, and woefully under-reported communities. Please consider making a one-time gift or, better yet, joining our Rainmaker Family by becoming a monthly donor. Your support will help provide fair pay for our journalists and enable them to continue writing the important stories that offer relevant news, information, and analysis. Support the Emerald!