File This: Race And Media
First Baptist Church of Glenarden Host Martin Luther King Day Annual Town Hall
By Leris Bernard
Whether it’s the morning paper or the six o’clock news, race and media matter more today than ever.
So, it’s no wonder that for the First Baptist Church of Gleneden’s 8th annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Town Hall Program, the theme centered on race and media.
The First Baptist Church of Glenarden is pastored by John K. Jenkins Sr., and is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.
The Jan. 16 program opened with Praise and Worship by The Clark Sisters, introductions were made by WHUR’s Jacquie Gales Webb and NBC 4’s Molette Green served as Master of Ceremony. The illustrious panel was led by Jim Vance, NBC 4 and included: Joia Jefferson Nuri, News One Now with Roland Martin; Alonso Castillo, Telemundo DC; Simone Padler, Roll Call; Ericka Totten, Co-founder, Black Lives Matter-DC; and Towanna Williams, Fannie Mae.
The event was sponsored by WHUR FM and Fannie Mae’s Diversity & Inclusion Office.
Molette Green ventured the question to Towanna Williams of Fannie Mae’s Diversity & Inclusion Office as to how their corporation decided to handle the effect of last year’s emotional media stories about racial conflict in America’s major cities. Williams said the company had to acknowledge that productivity declined as conversations were beleaguered around the office cooler and people were distracted and distraught. They decided to address the elephant in the room by holding internal corporate Courageous Conversations about the race issues portrayed through the media. They decided to forego being color blind and became color brave. Towanna Williams concluded with saying, “I’m not the authority for all African Americans, but I am a voice for what is right and what’s wrong.”
Alonso Castillo acknowledged the significance of the holiday by reminding us that Martin Luther King, Jr. supported the Latino Civil Rights Movement with resources, public relations and emotional support. He even traveled to Los Angeles to fight for Mexican American rights. Castillo went on to put today’s program in perspective by stating that, “There are 55 million Hispanics in this country; they are the fastest growing demographic in America. Yet, the media ignores our potential and continues to feed the public misconceptions about our community. Whenever we hear about Latinos and African Americans in the news, we hear about crime, robberies and drug dealing. When President Elect Trump started his campaign by stating that Mexicans were rapists and criminals, the image of Latinos became even more polarized. The public mind is shaped by these stories. We don’t’ hear about the accomplishments and contributions that are given on a daily basis to this society.”
Jim Vance described the media industry as “…a mirror for those in power and privilege to see what they have wrought. They can’t deny it with any basis of truth.” He commended reporters of color who “reveal not only that which stinks in our community but that which blossoms and blooms.”
Again, Castillo called reporters out: “We need to challenge and balance the stories that we place in the news media.” Joia Jefferson Nuri concurred that the black voices who are media professionals “at the table” in the morning newsroom meetings, have to say something. “And not just those of us in the newsroom,” she says “but those who head organizations and their membership. Let news directors know you don’t like what is being said about your community.”
See excerpts of the program here: www.periscope.tv/FBCG