Thursday, May 24, 2012

Media Justice & Privacy? May They Exist?

cross posted from my media justice column

What does it mean to you to have privacy? Is it that your medical provider, if you have access to one, will not share your information with your community? That your parents and family members don’t go searching through your things? That your partner will not look through your emails or cell phone when you are not around? Do these ideas of privacy change when you are online? Are your ideas of privacy different when it comes to celebrities?

For the past 2 weeks there has been a focus on outing two well known Black women: Queen Latifah and Raven-Symoné. l I may be “preaching to the choir” when I remind folks that it is never ever our or someone else’s place to out someone. Outing someone is taking that person’s self-determination away. It is putting the belief and value system one person has onto another who may not hold the same values. I know a lot of research and individual testimonios tells us that folks who come “out” regarding sexual orientation, gender, HIV and STI status, relationship or parenting status, etc. experience a form of liberation. We also have a host of quotes about how our silence “will not protect us” and many folks connect this to outing others or shaming others to come out when they are not ready.

Liberation may be connected to speaking out for some and it may not be for others. Speaking out is not something we can define for other people. It is something we may define for ourselves and act and move in the world accordingly. Many folks have different ideas about what liberation means, looks, and feels like and some may disagree. There are times when safety and self-determination must take priority. If we are about ending oppressions for all people, creating a community and world where we realize our diversity (for lack of a better word) is a strength and not a weakness, than we must also recognize the forms of oppression we create and are a part of and how removing privacy is one of those things.

Women of Color’s bodies are always on display in various ways. The messages this sends is that folks have the right and privilege to speak on, examine, watch, and follow us. We are socialized into thinking this is okay because it is “normal” to do without really examining what it does to women and girls of Color. And when we speak on and up about our privacy, about this hyper-visibility and display we are not taken seriously, ignored, erased, and targeted for other forms of violence (i.e. name calling, defamation, threats, intimidation, and physical violence).

This is not the first post about these topics,  and if you do an internet search for privacy and women of Color you’ll find a lot of information about the privacy policies of websites centering, created by, and featuring women of Color. It seems the term “privacy” is not used for women of Color or by us to describe the ways we create boundaries for our own lives. This is telling.

I think the use of language is shifting in more ways than we realize.  If we cannot use the term “privacy” for our own lives, we use other terms, such as boundaries. This term is just one example and I’m sure there are plenty of others. Yet, the effort made to find new terms and apply to our lives tells us that our lives are ones that were always already public; meaning people had a right to comment on and critique us.

Living in “the future” as we called it two decades ago, where the internet is more than many had imagined, this idea of privacy is also changing. Is it possible to use social media, build community, and still remain to some extent private? Many folks know this may be possible using a pseudonym. For many of us, using a pseudonym is connected to our survival and ability to maintain community online and still maintain a level of privacy. It is a privilege to have our legal names attached to certain things we create and that are available online. I know all too well what it is like when folks target you and threaten your life and well being because of who you are and what you have created in a virtual space.

I’ve shared online before that I think working poor and working class people rarely have privacy in our society mainly because our society has been set up that way. When I first went to apply for unemployment 7 years ago, the long lines to wait in, the forms to fill out and the “talks” we were given were all in an open room with several other people packed into. It was the same situation when I applied for public assistance and food stamps. You had to bring in all the documentation you could to prove you were the right kind of poor (I wasn’t), stand in line, sit in crowded rooms, then when you spoke to someone to process your information it was in a room of cubicles where I could hear the testimonio of the older man behind me and that of the woman in the cubicle in front of me. I’m sure they heard more than they wanted to hear about me too.

I remember the time I went for an HIV test 5 years ago and chose anonymous testing at the nearby Department of Health. I had not ever done testing anonymously before and wanted to see how it was so I could have the knowledge to share with folks who I work with in HIV education and prevention. I was given a number and when called asked for demographic information (i.e. race, age, gender). When I was ready to have my sample taken by a medical provider the first thing the provider asks me is “what is your name” and I had to tell them that I was choosing to be testing anonymously. When the doctor came in (not sure why I had two different medical providers for such a quick test) they asked me why I chose to be tested anonymously, that I should know that I can’t be denied health insurance if that was a concern (in NYC). I shared that I didn’t have health insurance and reminded the doctor that it was my choice to take the test anonymously and that’s the best decision for me at this time.

Having to defend and remind folks that my privacy is my own was non-stop the entire time. Then hearing from folks that “if you write about your experiences online you are not being private.” They may also use those three stories as examples. How interesting that they think I can’t pick and chose what parts of my life to share. That making a choice to share parts of my life is part of the privacy and boundaries I value, and also part of the privilege I have and chose to use in a strategic way. Many of the personal stories I choose to share are connected to a larger form of conciousness-raising that I value. It’s also one way that I’ve learned to connect with others, help folks know they are not alone in certain experiences, and build community and find spaces for healing. You see when I share parts of my private life it is a choice I am making. It is my self-determination, my agency that I am using. When I chose not to share something that’s the same exercise of self-determination.

I hope that youth and folks online today recognize that they too have privacy and boundaries and they are to be respected. Perhaps privacy for you is having your Twitter or Facebook account locked, maybe it’s writing under a pseudonym, or having two different accounts for the different work you do. Whatever the choice your privacy and boundaries are your own, no one else’s. This is what we can also extend to the celebrities and famous folks in this world, especially those who are women of Color.

I encourage folks to look up and research Net Neutrality and all of the changes that are currently underway.  Understanding Net Neutrality is a part of our privacy, boundaries, safety and access online. 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Media Maker's Salon: Hip Hop Is For Lovers

cross posted from my Media Justice column

Last year Hip Hop is for Lovers (HH4L) became a live broadcast online. Since then, the expansion and attention HH4L has received is phenomenal. This is expected as the two women who are the driving force, creative energy, and developers of the series are fantastic. I asked Uche and Lenée if I could feature them for the Media Maker’s Salon as their form of media is one that is so accessible! They agreed. I should share that Lenée and I are homegirls, chosen family and that I am a regular listener, tweeter, and fan of HH4L.

Uche and Lenée both identify as 30 something Black women from the US who are English speaking. Lenée identifies as a “queer working class, anti-academic and Spanglish speaking” Black woman and Uche as a “hetero” African American woman. Their identities are important because this impacts the media they create, conversations they have, and education they provide on HH4L.

What is HH4L? When and where did it begin?

Uche: conception came from a conversation. First it was a microblog on tumblr and was almost a mixtape but now its a full on radio show and now
budding network. We discuss Love, Sex, intimacy and Hip Hop Music every
Wednesday 8pm-10pm and we have The XD Experience every Thursday

What was the motivation for beginning HH4L? What are some goals you have for the project/program?

Uche: The Motivation for HH4L in the beginning was to create a space where people we could talk about sex and Hip Hop in a real adult way. To address the issues in intimacy and sex that the hip hop generations faces on a daily basis.

My ultimate goal would be to change the culture of how sexuality, sex and intimacy is viewed, and discussed in the culture of Hip Hop. To create a space for adults who still engage in the culture of Hip Hop to deal with issues facing them in their personal lives.

How did the two of you meet and what went into collaboration?

Lenée: We met via twitter, actually. I was out at a wine bar in Brooklyn and Uche recognized me from my twitter avatar. We've been hanging out ever since. Later, she approached me about taking her microblog series, Hip Hop is for Lovers, to another level by making it a podcast. In May of 2011, we switched the format to include live broadcasts.

Share with us the importance of the naming of your media. How is language important in the projects you create and are a part of?

Uche: With Hip Hop, one of the main identifiers of people engaged in the culture is language. There is a seeded vernacular that in Hip Hop is this always changing but remains universal to the listeners. In Hip Hop is 4 Lovers we are using that language, that semantic to talk about Sex and Love.

Lenée: Language plays a huge part! The radio show is reflective of and steeped in Hip Hop culture and language -- the vernacular we utilize from the larger culture are a big part of the sound and tone of the show. Also, we have our own sayings that are part of the show's fabric. For instance, Uche coined the term "No bueno on the non consensual anal," in response to the idea that one partner can surprise another with anal sex. We have HH4L quotables on virtually every episode. Also, we name every episode uniquely -- usually something humorous -- as a way of piquing the interest of potential listeners.

What themes do you seek to discuss/address/present and how are they received by audience?

Lenée: Our subject matter is based on love, sex, intimacy, and relationships. So, we talk about sex itself, sex work, dating, coparenting, child rearing, etc. We talk a lot about personal agency in relationships and sexual encounters, consent, and transparency. I believe what we talk about on the show is very well received by our audience. I do find that sometimes our shows about very juicy (and for some people controversial) topics sometimes get more realtime feedback on twitter.

Uche: We talk about everything sex/ intimacy related. Everything from parenting to the kinds of sex people are having. Addressing topics like Slut Shaming, Self Love, even Polyamory has struck chords with our audience. We also, always put emphasis on consent and full disclosure in intimacies between individuals. Our audience seems to be excited to have a space where the issues that concern them and (even some that don’t) are being discussed.

How are topics and songs selected? Is this an individual process? The two of you? audience suggestions? something else?

Uche: Its both the HH4L team and our audience. We discuss and brainstorm about our topics and even do research to make sure we are giving a full representation of any topic and not just our own personal ideals.

Lenée: The creation of our library was a collaborative effort -- we both add to it regularly. We also take suggestions from our audience, and from artists themselves.

What role does race, gender, sexual orientation, class, and location play in the creation of HH4L?

Lenée: Hip Hop, as a culture and as a genre of music, belongs to People of Color (POC). It began in the Bronx, in a community of working and lower middle class black and brown folks and to this day is largely reflective of the lives and experiences, aspirations, goals, and sometimes the suffering of People of Color. Of course, there are white artists who make this music, and I find that the white artists whose work is best received both commercially and critically are people from working class and or poor communities, like Yelawolf. I think class plays a big part because early Hip Hop was self-made entertainment based on the experiences of black and brown youth. Though an abundance of Hip Hop music is driven by men who identify as hetero (or express heterosexual desires), there's a lot music informed by what we might call alternative viewpoints. Hetero women, queer women, queer men, and trans people make hip hop -- some of which is played on both the main HH4L show and the show on our network hosted by The XD Experience. Regarding location, we are NYC based. NYC is the birthplace of Hip Hop music and culture; this means that for a long time the epicenter of the culture was here -- some argue that it still is. I think that the urban experience of working class and or poor People of Color is as integral a part of the music of Hip Hop as rhyming itself.

Uche: As a woman (especially a woman of color) who grew up in the culture of Hip Hop and has no fear being identified as such is a big deal. I have met a lot of women who have a love/hate relationship with Hip Hop. Dealing with issues of “where is my place?” is very real for a lot of POC women who grew up listening to a music that at first glance doesn’t seem to value them or acknowledge their place in the culture. I’m sure that goes for other “alternative”(probably not the right word) identified groups that ultimately identify with the culture of Hip Hop. The fact that the majority of the people involved with HH4L are POC women is a big deal as we tend to talk about what affects us more so than our non POC counterparts.

How has HH4L evolved? How would you like to see it evolve in the future? Are there goals for the year?

Uche: We went from being a podcast to a live weekly show. Now we are branching out to becoming a network by adding The XD experience and some other shows that will be announced soon. We have goals of always expanding the audience and growing as a team.

As media makers, what outlets/equipment/training/workshops/tools/etc. do you utilize to create?

UW: HH4L is broadcast right from my home. I did research on a lot of different broadcast sites style sites before settling on We also use lots of social media to get the word out about our broadcasts and the happenings of HH4L. I would say that social media is a major tool for us.

Lenée: I think it's imperative that people who make media understand the intersections of social media (Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr) and traditional media (print/ radio/ video). It's all linked now. Since Twitter is a big part of what we use to communicate and share our media, I think demonstrated ability to navigate and manage social media is as important as knowing how to update a website via platforms like WordPress. Also, it's a good idea to learn about sites like podomatic, Spreaker, and Soundcloud.

What are some necessary texts, films, images, photography that you think are essential for youth, especially youth of Color, queer youth, and youth who are marginalized in general, to interact with/read/be exposed to? Why these artifacts?

Lenée: I think for young Women of Color -- queer and hetero alike -- to begin to actualize themselves, it is imperative that they know their experiences do not occur in a vacuum. I recommend Colonize This!,  and Borderlands/ La Frontera  for starters. I also suggest Sisters of the Yam: Black Women and Self-Recovery  and Naked be read in tandem. It's never too early to learn!

For marginalized youth in general, I think it's important that they utilize the resources they have access to -- be they libraries in the community or at school, or even the personal libraries of people they know and trust. When I was 15, I read The Autobiography of Malcolm X,  because I thought it was necessary for me to learn exactly how he became an activist. Not everyone is born with a fist in the air -- our kids need to know that. I also read Race Matters  by Cornel West (required reading by my school) and found the words I had been seeking all along to explain what I felt when my wealthy white schoolmates expressed not just racism or sexism, but classism in their interactions with me and one another.

Have there been any challenges/obstacles, etc. you’ve encountered in creating your media? Will you share some examples with us?

Uche: I would say that my greatest challenge in creating HH4L is that I didn't know of anything that existed like it before. I had no guide to tell me how to create a site/radio show that wants to discuss Love, Sex and Hip Hop. Sure there are sites and radio shows that discuss sex and hip hop but not together. So I would say my biggest challenge has been creating this form of media that I didn't know to exist prior to.

What support systems help you cope with frustration, challenges, obstacles, etc. as POC inclusive media makers?

Uche: I would say our biggest support system has been our growing audience. They have let us know we are doing something needed and wanted by them. That is what I know helps me face any challenges or obstacles I’ve faced.

Lenée: I'm not certain that we've faced too many frustrations or challenges as POC inclusive media makers, but I have noticed that sharing with people what I do as co-host and sometimes site contributor to the show can be met with puzzled faces. People really do seem to think that Hip Hop music is all about guns, hoes, drugs, and violence. They're sometimes surprised... While others think that the music library couldn't possibly be extensive, as the music within the genre that they like is very singularly minded.

What time management strategies/advice can you share with us about creating media and also finding time for yourself/family/friends?

Uche: There are times that I feel consumed by HH4L. I live it constantly so I make sure to have my down time to “check out.” Its essential for me to create a work/ life balance as it allows my creativity to recharge and grow.

Lenée: We make sure we're fed and hydrated before the show starts. It's imperative that we have sufficient nourishment and rest beforehand. HH4L Radio, though it requires a substantial time commitment for me, doesn't keep me from having quality time with friends and/ or family. I believe Uche has different experiences, though, since she's the site's founder and primary content contributor.

Are there any upcoming events planned?

Lenée: With dates TBD, we have a group trip to the Museum of Sex in New York City, and another Lovers Joint!

How may people get in contact with you? listen to the show?

Uche: Tune in to the show on Also, find us on Twitter, Tumblr  and Facebook.  If they want to submit music they can do it through the contact section on the website and also sign up for our mailing list.

Lenée: I don't know specifics, but we've got a good following on Facebook and Twitter. Also, the site we broadcast from shows us our stats including unique listeners to each broadcast and how many downloads we get. I'd estimate that we have just under a thousand folks listening to us, which is quite impressive to me considering that we've been doing the live shows for just under a year.

Are there any other topics/issues/etc. you’d like to discuss?

Lenée: Check for announcements about upcoming events and to stream our latest shows.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

When Language Changes: Using the @ Symbol

cross posted from my Media Justice column

“So if you want to really hurt me, talk badly about my language. Ethnic identity is twin skin to linguistic identity—I am my language. Until I can take pride in my language, I cannot take pride in myself.”

Gloria Anzaldúa, “How To Tame The Wild Tongue” in Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza. 2007. pg. 59.

Earlier this week I created a post on The LatiNegr@s Project about our use of the @ symbol. It stemmed from a question about if this was an appropriate term and form to use in a academic paper by a student in college. I was humbled and thankful to be asked this question and responded by providing this statement so the student could have a citation to support their use of the @ symbol.

Since writing that post many folks have had something to say and shared an opinion. For those of you uncertain about how Tumblr works, you can look to the bottom of the page and see who has responded and in what way, sometimes clicking on a person who has “reblogged” the statement can also show more input. I’ll get into some of their suggestions and thoughts in a moment. Before that I want to make a few things clear: The post I wrote was specific to LatiNegr@s. It discussed the code-switching that occurs, as a first language for some of us, in our daily lives and among LatiNegr@s. As a result, many comments and suggestions asked about other ethnic and racial groups using the @ symbol. I think this is fantastic!

The terms “Latino” and the use of the @ symbol in identifiers such as Chican@, Xican@, Mestiz@, etc. are fairly new terms. This is something that occurs when we speak for ourselves, from the spaces we occupy, and when we claim new and more appropriate and representative self-identifiers. I believe this is not something we need to be scared of or find anger in. I think these are opportunities to be challenged (much like challenging our use of ableist language), be more inclusive, and reflexive of how we use language to include, exclude, and create messages.

Language is at the core of media justice.

Language changes and that is something we may celebrate, especially when it is changing in a way that recognizes and includes people who are experiencing multiple oppressions. The @ symbol does just that by challenging a gender binary and dichotomy that has been implemented to privilege men, masculinity, and maleness especially in romance languages such as Spanish. It is also inclusive of our transgender and gender queer community who are often excluded and omitted on a regular basis.

When someone challenges and questions the use of the @ symbol, claims this is a part of “rewriting language” and who do we think we are to do that, those folks are not yet at a space to understand how language was created and in that creation it can be changed (regardless of how long ago it was created). In addition, these folks are also continuing to erase and isolate people in our community that are the most in need of our support. Finally, they are upholding the misogyny that is present in language, especially in the Spanish language. The process of unlearning can be a struggle for many and one that several may resist.

I ended my above post by stating: “The questions still exist of how to actually speak the @ sign and this has yet to really be resolved. How have others negotiated this?” This is where the most responses were shared and presented. I really loved reading how so many folks considered pronouncing and speaking the @ symbol. People shared some really thoughtful and personal testimonios of using the @ sign and how to speak it when in use.

There’s a lot of food for thought about this particular topic, and I hope it continues. I’d love to hear how others are approaching the use of language, code-switching and speaking new terms such as the @ symbol. How have you negotiated these terms?

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Media Justice: Why Citations Matter

cross posted from my Media Justice column

You may want to bookmark this post for future reference. For many of you in school (high school, college, a vocational school) you are most likely going to be expected to write something. Each semester I have students write at least two papers, which is something that we are encouraged to do in an effort to support and expect students to be able to express themselves through writing. With all of the advances in technology, many folks are writing online. When you write, citations are important.

Citations are not just for the reader, but they are also for you, the writer and the folks whose work you find useful. These citations are so important; they shows you have done your research, are open to other perspectives, and can offer ways for the reader to go back and read those citations and make their own opinions. They are also important because naming the people whose thoughts, ideas, beliefs, and work makes them visible. Often youth, working class people, folks with disabilities, who are trans* or people of Color rarely get the attention, support, and simple naming of their work that other folks receive. Our names are powerful and choosing not to name someone, or ignoring their name is a form of erasure. This happens too often, even within and among marginalized groups.

As someone who requires a paper using media literacy skills and examining different forms of media, citations are one area where my students struggle. With the advancements of the Internet, various websites, and social media networks where students find their information, they rarely know how to properly cite them in a paper. This article is for those of you who are trying to figure out how to cite these new forms of information collection! Some of these may change (such as citing Facebook Fan Pages and the like) as new forms of online communication and virtual spaces evolve. So this page will definitely be outdated one day.

I tell my students I don’t care if they use MLA, APA or Chicago Style, as long as they are consistent. An amazing resource online is the Purdue Online Writing Lab.  I encourage you to visit the site and spend some time becoming familiar with what is shared and how it will impact your choice in citations. Below are some examples on how to cite certain forms of print, non-print, and web-based media.

How to Cite a Film
Films need to be cited using the title (in italics), name of the director, studio/distributor, release date and if necessary a list of the cast/performers. A great place to find information about a film or television show is the Internet Movie Database. Let’s use the film Pariah as an example in MLA format:

Pariah. Dir. Dee Rees. Performers Adepero Oduye, Kim Wayans and Aasha Davis. Focus Features. 2011. Film.

(You can use the same format for MLA citations of a VHS or DVD just change the “Film” part to the format that the film is in).

Here’s how to cite in a paper:

There are not many films that center the experiences of young Black lesbian women living in Brooklyn in major theaters and the few that do exist rarely are limited release (i.e. Pariah, 2011).

How to Cite a TV Episode
For television series you have to know the name of the episode (this is where IMDb is useful too), title of the show/series, network, original air date, and city and state of the studio or distributor. Depending on the format you may also need to list the writer and director. Here’s an example using the TV series Pretty Little Liars (which my students seem to enjoy watching).

King, I. Marlene (Writer), Shepard, Sara (Writer) & Friedlander, Liz (Director). 2010. The Jenna Thing [Pretty Little Liars]. ABC Family. J. Bank (Producer) & L. Cochran-Nielan (Producer). Burbank, CA: Warner Horizon Television.

Here’s how to cite this in a paper:

In this episode, the clothing of the cast caught my attention and this is where we are introduced to the different styles of each character and how it connects to their personality (Pretty Little Liars, 2010).

How to Cite a Song
Citing a song is often done first by the name of the artist or performers. Included in the citation is the name of artist/performer, title of album (italicized), name of the song (in quotes if used), date of publication, recording manufactures information (i.e. record label), and the format (i.e. CD, MP3, Digital File, etc.). Let’s use Big Freedia’s Hits Album, where she has self-distributed her own album. Here’s MLA examples below:

Big Freedia. Big Freedia Hitz Vol. 1, 1999-2010. Big Freedia, 2010. MP3.

Another example of a group I’ve written about who are on a major label and focusing on a specific song includes:

Dead Prez. “Mind Sex.” Let’s Get Free. LOUD Records, 2000. CD.

When you cite this in the paper you do so like this:

When Dead Prez talk about getting to know one another before engaging in sexual activity, they are sending a message that supports abstinence (2000).

How to Cite a Website (Wikipedia is always popular!)
I encourage you to ask your instructor first before citing Wikipedia. Some folks are not in favor of using Wikipedia as a source because as a collective form of documentation, some information can change or not be factual. There are often citations at the bottom of the Wikipedia page and if you can go to the original source you should use those first as citations. Wikipedia has also offered a useful guide to citing their site. 

Let’s use the Wikipedia entry for Advocates For Youth in APA format. The same format that you use to cite a book or printed publication is what you use for online sites. The additional information needed is the year and date of publishing (or just the date of publication), and full web address and date retrieved (make sure you put the location, i.e. Wikipedia, in italics). Here’s an example:

Advocates For Youth. In Wikipedia. Retrieved May 2, 2012, from

To cite in the paper and text, a simple form is often ok; however sometimes when you paraphrase or quote from a particular paragraph on the site you’ll need the title of the heading (i.e. “Programs”) or the number of the paragraph you are citing (“Programs” para. 2). Wikipedia offers a more in-depth discussion of citing specific paragraphs and headings at their site.  For a more general in-text citation do the following:

Advocates For Youth is based in Washington, DC and have US and international programs (“Advocates For Youth,” 2012).

How to Cite a Tweet
Let’s use this Amplify Tweet as an example.

What you need for all forms of citations include: The original tweet, name on/of the account, date the tweet was sent, and the link to the tweet. Below is an example in APA format:

Advocates For Youth. (2012, May 12). Tell the Obama Administration: Stop Endorsing Homophobic and Sexist Program in Our Schools [Twitter Post]. Retrieved from:!/AmplifyTweets/status/197793985740288000

When you want to use this as a reference in your paper you will cite it as name on/of the account followed by the date. Here’s an example:

Advocates For Youth has been vocal about challenging the Obama Administrations endorsements programs in the US schools that they state are homophobic and sexist (Advocates For Youth, 2012).

How to Cite an Personal Interview or Email
For a personal interview or email communication you’ll need the specific date (including day, month and year), the person’s name and the format. Here’s an example if you received an email from me telling you how excited I am to share the link to this post with you and you wish to cite it in MLA format:
Laureano, Bianca. Personal Email. 2 May 2012.

To cite this in text you would do so in the following way:

My first opportunity to hear about a post featuring ways to properly cite virtual spaces and forms of media was when I received a email from the author (Laureano, 2012).