The Big Idea: a directory, advice and contacts for writers of colour to help media companies access voices that better reflect our diverse society.
“But everybody on TV is white and all the nice people are blonde.” This is the title of an article I published on www.mediadiversified.org last year. It is also a quote from the 5-year-old niece of Hana Riaz who wrote the article. In those 10 words is the reason I set up the publishing platform and diversity in media advocacy group. Alternatively Whoopi Goldberg has said “Well, when I was nine years old, Star Trek came on, I looked at it and I went screaming through the house, ‘Come here, mum, everybody, come quick, come quick, there’s a black lady on television and she ain’t no maid!’ I knew right then and there I could be anything I wanted to be.” And this is why representation matters. Hopes and dreams and the resulting opportunities in life start when young. If black and minority ethnic (BAME) children only see themselves on screen mired in stereotypes and hear themselves and the adults around them talked about in pejoratives on the radio, the windows of opportunities we create for ourselves, narrow.
“The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.” Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
I founded Media Diversified in July 2013 after reading The Evening Standard of Whiteness, in the Voice newspaper. The author Rodney Sealy, had counted the photos of BAME people in one edition of the London paper. The results were not alarming. Only four pictures, two of them of U.S music stars were of non-white people, this in a city where 40% of people are ethnic minorities. Rodney is a teacher and in one of his classes a student had said to him Why are we "Sir, if all the images of black males shown to me are negative, therefore my perceptions of black males are negative, how am I supposed to succeed?"
Our aims at Media Diversified is to help writers and journalists of colour be published in national newspapers, magazines and get their voices heard in the broadcast media. We do this by giving them advice, contacts and promoting their work online. The network as well as providing a resource for the media has also provided a much-needed lifeline and vibrant forum for the exchange of ideas and experiences. It’s a mothership of affirmation and nurturing for writers, building resilience for the future and supporting people to take risks in tackling controversial topics and subjects that others aren’t. By including a great diversity of writers, Media Diversified applies the brakes to banal racism in the media that includes crude stereotypes. It also articulates how racism works in so many areas of life be it from colourism to the fashion industry. The worst of this can be seen in the moral panics but more positively/subversively what if having more writers of colour in the media undermines racism?
In order to address and to reverse decades of under-representation of ethnic minority voices in the media. The team at Media Diversified is running a crowdfunding campaign which you can find on the RSA's crowdfunding area to build a custom interactive directory of writers and experts available for media outlets such as the BBC and ITV to subscribe to in order to commission guests for TV and radio shows or to write articles. This is a tangible resource that could lead to real change and we’ll be meeting with media outlets to promote its benefits. By working towards greater representation, promoting change (by encouraging newspapers and broadcasters to sign up to an online directory) and providing a creative and supportive publishing platform for writers of colour, we are meeting policy and social needs for greater equality.
“game-changer for online, print and broadcasting” World Association of Newspapers – Editors Forum
We are coming towards the end of the campaign having just reached our goal, which we hope to surpass in order to also provide a series of workshops for ethnic minority writers in London. These will aim to develop skills in publishing, journalism, and professional networking, as well as building much needed confidence to help our writers pursue their future careers. We hope to expand the workshops across the country.
How you can help
What we need now is for you to get involved in our project. According to the National Union of Journalists in a report in 2012 94% of journalists are white. However 1 in 6 of the population is not. With just a few resources we can make inroads in this troubling lack of diversity in the UK’s media and try for real change. You can show your support for our goals by sharing our kickstarter campaign with friends, family and your colleagues. You can get yourself posters, books or workshop tickets by getting a reward. Or you can get your media company access to the directory. Or get in touch (see below) if you are interested in working with us to deliver a workshop where you live along the lines of the above.
Samantha Asumadu FRSA
Email Media Diversified
Tweet about @writersofcolour
Find Media Diversified on the RSA crowdfunding area
Read a blog by RSA staff member Maya Goodfellow on how Media Diversified is helping the ‘power to create’, namely to give everyone the freedom and capacity to turn their ideas into reality
To get help from RSA Catalyst for your social venture through grants, expertise and crowdfunding visit our Catalyst webpage