What do you do?
Currently, I am a Doctoral student in the Urban Education program at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte with a research focus on urban adolescents and critical media literacy. In 2017, I received my master’s degree in Educational Media with a focus on New Media Literacies and Global Perspectives at Appalachian State University. For the past eight years I have also served as the Founder and Executive Director of I AM not the Media, Inc., a non-profit organization for teens that empowers youth through media literacy and media creation and have served as the North Carolina Chapter Lead for the national Media Literacy Now organization for the past three years. Additionally, I am the creator of the Teen Media Literacy Conference in Charlotte, NC and am a part-time instructor at Carolina School of Broadcasting where I teach courses in New Media, Media Ethics and Media Literacy. My passion is definitely working with urban teens and young adults and utilizing critical media literacy as a tool for transformative learning.
Tell me about your latest work or project in media literacy.
Recently, I developed a program for my nonprofit in partnership with The North Carolina Humanities Council, titled the “Cyber Citizen Series” which received the 2019 Harlan Joel Gradin Award for Excellence in the Public Humanities from The North Carolina Humanities Council’s Board of Trustees. The Cyber Series program provided three of Charlotte’s most economically disadvantaged high schools, West Charlotte High School, Vance High School and West Mecklenburg High School, each with six educational critical media literacy workshops that focused on social media usage and engagement. Participating teens learned about the media’s influence on mental health, social media safety, cyber-bullying and fake news. The series concluded with an exhibit of photo advocacy campaigns designed by workshop participants to help spread awareness to other teens.
Why is media literacy important to you?
Media literacy is important to me because although we all are influenced by the media, minority populations are continuously marginalized through the hegemonic structures of mass media. As an African American woman, I recognize the limited and negative stereotypes that were reinforced through media to me as a child of those that looked like me in the world. I also recognize how consistent messaging was conflicting both mentally and emotionally regarding my identity and worth. When I sit with my nine year old daughter and we watch her favorite Disney channel tv shows, I am also aware of the limited representation of characters that look like her even today and see the need to have conversations that reinforce her importance in this society, why limited representation still exists and why diverse stories are essential. We also celebrate when we see positive representation of diverse stories in the media. I do this work because I know that unlike my daughter, these vital conversations are not happening in many other homes or in the schools with children that really need the exposure.
What are you most excited about in the media literacy field?
I am excited that the community and public is now valuing efforts centered around media literacy, which allows many others to see the importance and need to continue the conversation further to spark necessary change. Many higher education institutions are creating fields of study in media literacy and universal public education is more rapidly starting to see the need for principles of media literacy to be embedded in core standards and the need for digital citizenship. This makes me very hopeful that the field of media literacy will now be able to make the systemic impact that it is designed to achieve.
Why did you become a NAMLE member, what benefits do you see to membership, and how will it support your work?
I became a member of NAMLE to join a group of individuals that were knowledgeable about the field and just as passionate as I am about media literacy. For a long time I felt very isolated doing the work I was doing in North Carolina with my nonprofit until I connected with members of NAMLE and joined the community. When I became active with the organization, it led to many opportunities to become more vested in the field on a national level. Interestingly enough, the connections that I made in NAMLE led me to pursue my master’s degree at Appalachian State University which definitely was a life changing experience.