Next Week’s Parker Lecture

I’m so excited — next week, Tuesday October 24, 2017, is our 35th Annual Parker Lecture, and I can’t wait to see everyone and receive my annual dose of inspiration for the work ahead. I hope all of you will join us either in person at First Congregational UCC in Washington DC (tickets only $25 this year!) or live online via Facebook.

Almost 60 years ago, the founder of the United church of Christ’s media justice work, Rev. Dr. Everett C. Parker, began his effort to hold media accountable to the people they serve. Inspired by a conversation with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., he pushed local television stations to serve the African Americans in their audience. More than 10 years, 3 court cases, and hundreds of pages of innovative media monitoring later, federal courts ordered the Federal Communications Commission to revoke the license of WLBT-TV in Jackson, MS.

Next week we celebrate the life and work of Everett Parker. This event is 35 years old, and every year I leave the event believing we’ve outdone ourselves and I wonder how we can keep up. And every year, the amazing people who permit us to honor them stun me with their wit, commitment, vision and words. This year is no exception. We’re giving the McGannon Award to Ravi Kapur. Donald H. McGannon, for who the award was named, was well known for his commitment to bringing in women and people of color into the media industry.

Ravi Kapur has used his business acumen, and sheer drive and commitment to create a free, over-the-air network of programming focused on news about and for Asian Americans and South Asians. Only a few minutes on the DiyaTV web site gives you a glimpse of what the media looks like when people who are often left out of the boardroom and the studio get to call the shots. Not only is this programming critical for Asian American communities, but it is even more critical for people in the majority who may otherwise fail to recognize the media’s pervasive homogeneity without a contrasting view.

Rashad Robinson is a household name in many circles. His active schedule, media appearances, and visionary leadership of Color Of Change is without equal. I’m going to be a little star struck when he arrives next Tuesday morning. Color Of Change is truly creating a new generation of civil rights activists by using the most sophisticated online tools, organizing techniques, and strategic advocacy.

I’m particularly thrilled about honoring Rashad because Color of Change is all about media justice. Their sophisticated use of media and technology means they get the importance of the policies which impact media and technology. Color Of Change has been a leader on net neutrality, and at the same time, focused on the importance of local TV news coverage, and holding racist and sexist news commentators accountable for their words.

Finally, I’ve been looking forward to Rinku Sen’s lecture ever since she graciously accepted the invitation. She has just spent 10 years on the front lines of racial justice work in this country. She’s been one of the leading thinkers and activists, who also has always recognized the interplay between racial injustice and media. Her journalism degree and her focus on creating the news site Colorlines (which covers news with a racial justice lens) shows that she recognized media is a critical part of racial justice work from the beginning. And Rinku just helped unite Race Forward, the organization she has led, with the Center for Social Inclusion. Now she is moving into a new phase of her career. This is the perfect time to hear her thoughts and strategies about what has worked, what our society can do better, and the opportunities the next 10 years will bring. The Parker Lecture is always thought-provoking, and I’m ready to take notes so we can try to capture all the wisdom I know she’ll bring to this event.

I can’t wait to see everyone next week, from the fantastic corporate sponsors who make it possible, to my close allies in the work of media justice, to the UCC and faith community who join us every year. I’ts not too late to make plans to come!