During the month of January, the Running Rebels Youth Advisory Council challenged local media to report more positive news about Milwaukee’s black community. In this article, YAC members reflect on the results.
Running Rebels Youth Advisory Council (YAC) is working to translate research results into positive community action, and our current focus is on challenging the chronic, negative media images of young black men. We developed two media “action asks” for the month of January: 1) Friday black positivity recaps, where positive news on Milwaukee’s black communities (e.g. black artists, black- owned businesses, youth leaders, etc.) could be tracked and showcased each week; and 2) A weekly segment, written by or focused on youth. (For details on how and why the asks came about, see our first article.)
Every Friday, we tracked articles from participating media organizations (WISN Channel 12, WUWM Radio, James Causey of Journal Sentinel, Milwaukee PBS Black Nouveau and Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service) and posted them in a YAC Positivity Recap on Running Rebels Facebook page. Below, we share our results.
During January, we tracked 53 positive news segments focused on Milwaukee’s black communities and youth. Week 4 was the weakest turnout, with only five articles meeting criteria, while week 2 was strongest, with 19 articles.
Referring to tracking positive news stories, Terrance Robinson said, “It was a good feeling — it made us feel important and heard. And it makes us feel one step closer to changing the negative depiction of young black males.” Darius added: “The positive stories help show that we are not ‘at risk,’ we are on the rise.”
Though the overall impact was positive, the youth noticed that not every week brought a lot of positive news. Ashanti Travers noted: “Some weeks, I felt like the research was disappointing — we learned to expect a lot of positive news — but even though they (the media) initially listened to us, we saw fewer of the stories we were looking for over the weeks.” Victor Barnett echoed these thoughts, but also acknowledged that some of that responsibility fell on the YAC.
“When we first started looking at the news, it was really surprising how they listened to us and we found a lot of positive stories. But then we didn’t keep the pressure on and it seemed like as time went on, there weren’t as many positive stories — they (the media) started strong but then faded.”
WUWM’s LaToya Dennis and Michelle Maternowski visited us to talk about our ideas of good, positive news stories. They reminded us of our own responsibility and power in storytelling and said that reporters don’t often have the same access to youth networks or youths’ insider knowledge. They encouraged us to reach out to local media with story ideas, and to post our own stories on social media where local media can then share them. As Robinson reflected: “We learned that we need to help find and support the positive stories — to step up and be leaders in locating positive news and bringing reporters to the positivity.”
Though our tracking and Friday recaps are ending, our media partners made their own “asks” of us this month. As a result, we are happy to share that we’ll work on a collaborative story with WUWM’s LaToya Dennis, brainstorm positive news stories with the Marquette Wire, and share more about our process and results in a feature on Milwaukee PBS’s Black Nouveau with James Causey. And we were invited by Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service to write this Community Voices article. We’ll also perform in Running Rebels’ Black History Month performance at the end of the month where we will frame our process in the historic context of media perpetuating negative images of black men, which dates back to the 1600s.
Kevon Wright is inspired by the upcoming media activities, stating: “I feel like we’re going to make a change and have people notice that we want to make a change within the media community.” Frank Howard, initially more skeptical, added: “I feel surprised that they’re (the media) actually asking to work with us because I thought they weren’t paying attention. We didn’t always hear back from them, but when they started reaching out about working with us in February, it felt good to know they’re listening and interested in supporting us above and beyond what we asked them to do.”
On that note, we’d like to thank WUWM, WISN Channel 12, James Causey, the Marquette Wire and Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service for helping to start 2018 with more positivity, and to thank Purple Door Ice Cream for its ongoing YAC support and delicious ice cream!
Running Rebels Youth Advisory Council (YAC) is made up of youth members Ashanti Travers, Kevon Wright, Frank Howard, Victor Barnett Jr., Darius Simmons and Terrance Robinson, and leader Sandy Bogar.