Media Impact Funders was closed on Friday in celebration of Juneteenth. But our friends in the media were quite busy, exploring sometimes painful history and tragic current events, but also revealing uplifting personal stories of triumph over adversity. In the first installment of our Media Impact Forum, Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman interviewed Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Jane Fonda in discussions that highlighted the extremely important connections between climate justice, environmental justice and racial justice, in a time of overlapping crises. And all three of them were busy on Friday shining a bright light on issues of racial justice in their own way.
On Friday, Democracy Now! offered up a tour de force broadcast that featured a sweeping view of the history of slavery through to emancipation and beyond with University of Houston Prof. Gerald Horne, author of The Dawning of the Apocalypse: The Roots of Slavery, White Supremacy, Settler Colonialism, and Capitalism in the Long Sixteenth Century. Also on the program, from Tulsa, Dr. Tiffany Crutcher offered the painful perspective of a family torn by racial violence that spans the past century. Dr. Crutcher’s great-grandmother survived the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921 as a young girl who had to flee to safety when her community was destroyed in a violent rage. And more recently, Dr. Crutcher’s own twin brother—unarmed and unprovoked—was killed by a Tulsa police officer in 2016. As Dr. Crutcher acknowledged, “I always say that this same anti-Black, white supremacist culture that burned down my great-grandmother’s community is the same culture that killed my twin brother almost 100 years later. So nothing has changed at all.”
It being a Friday, Jane Fonda convened a special Pride and Uprisings edition of her Fireside Fire Drill in collaboration with Greenpeace, on Facebook, “for a deep discussion on the intersectionality of social justice movements, the roots of Pride, police brutality, and how our collective fights for justice can and must strengthen one another.”
And, in a playful turn on social media, Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson was offered the opportunity to take over the Instagram account of comedian and longtime environmental activist Julia Louis-Dreyfus, with a reach of 1.3 million followers at the officialjld account. In a short message promoting the experience, Dr. Johnson explained that she would be “taking over Julia’s account for a little bit to talk about the connections between the climate crisis and racial injustice and how we can build a society where we all thrive together.”
MSNBC’s Chris Hayes recently recorded a special brief message for philanthropic funders, encouraging more of them to support journalism on topics that commercial media is not addressing sufficiently. “On the whole, I don’t think the current market structure produces the kind of journalism we need. I think that’s why it’s incredibly, incredibly important for nonprofit funders to come in to do some of the funding of the basic civic infrastructure of our democratic society, including and particularly on things like climate.”
On Friday’s edition of All In With Chris Hayes, he devoted his broadcast largely to recent and historical events in Tulsa, with a particular focus on the tragic violence of June 1921. And he spoke to award-winning documentary director Stanley Nelson to reveal the context and impact of those attacks. Nelson explores those events briefly in last year’s Boss: The Black Experience in Business and he will be digging into that horrible episode more deeply in his new film, currently in production, Terror in Tulsa: The Rise and Fall of Black Wall Street, which is still in production.
Over the years, Media Impact Funders has been fortunate to hear directly from Stanley Nelson about many of his films. At last year’s Media Impact Forum, we hosted a screening of Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool. A few years back, on the occasion of the broadcast premiere of Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution, Nelson sat down for a conversation with Norris West, Director of Strategic Communications at the Annie E. Casey Foundation and a member of the MIF Board of Directors.
What was true then regarding a film about the Black Panthers remains sadly true today, about Tulsa and America beyond. As Nelson said then, “One thing I’ve learned from doing these historical films is that it’s important we understand and recognize that history’s a rollercoaster. A lot of times we want to think of history as an upward movement, especially black people, we want to be like ‘we’re up from slavery,’ you know, ‘we’re moving on up.’ It’s not that way. It’s a rollercoaster, and it really depends on struggle. It depends on people working for change.”