Member Spotlight: Michael Anderson

Michael Anderson is a graduate student at UCLA Graduate School of Education.

What do you do?

I am a product of the Caribbean, so therefore I am a writer. I write historically informed poetry. I am a student of the past and of the global working class. I study history, specifically the History of Black Education from Slavery to the present. And on my best days, if I try really hard, I hope people can call me a mentor and a teacher.

Tell us about your latest work or project in media literacy.

My latest work combines media and history and political education. My current series “History Class with Michael” engages viewers in Black history and uses history to help contextualize the global abolitionist uprising led by Black Lives Matter. I am also working on my second book of poetry called “BrownEd”. It is a story that highlights and pays tribute to the amazing Black teachers that taught in segregated schools during Jim Crow and their relationship to civil rights and human rights activism. It is also a story of the Black Students who helped change the world at the time as well.

Why is media literacy important to you?

Media is a gift and a curse. It can be used to educate for both subjugation and liberation. Media is one of the many ideological arms of the state. As people dedicated to the freedom of all people it is pertinent that we understand how the media works to create what Noam Chomsky calls “manufactured consent”. It is also useful to know the techniques and technology of the media in order to use it to combat oppressive hegemonic ideology.

What are you most excited about in the media literacy field?

I think a growing group of school-aged children, especially Black and marginalized children, having the skills to interpret media and dissect it, challenge it, and counter it, is a beautiful thing. Media literacy education is a key feature of what Betina Love calls “Abolitionist Teaching” and is crucial to teaching ideas of Global Citizenship Education. Media Literacy in an of itself is good but what is always needed is Critical Media Literacy that looks at media in relation to power, political economy, structures of inequality, and hegemony or “the way oppressors get the oppressed to agree to being oppressed”.

Why did you become a NAMLE member, what benefits do you see to membership, and how will it support your work?

I love learning from new people. I think NAMLE has gathered a great community of people who are engaged with ideas of media literacy and also teaching media literacy. As a person who studies the education system, it is invaluable to be a member of a community that is so committed to teaching and learning how to teach media literacy to the world.

Your headshot is its own media literacy lesson. Can you elaborate further on it?

As media literacy scholars we need to challenge ideas of representation that holds specific politics behind it or “politics-neutral/apolitical” representation. So within this one medium of photography there are two other pieces of media: text and literature. Both are used as a form of representative clarification.

Over the summer there have been many “anti-racist reading lists“ that have circulated. As media literate people we must be able to see these “lists” as a form of media themselves and understand that all media is political. While these anti-racist reading lists are an excellent societal impulse to learn more, I’ve noticed that the lists that are generally circulated do not have a specific politics behind them. Instead what we generally see is a “Black people wrote these books so you should read these books” approach. That’s not actually helpful because just like any other group of people, Black people have a broad array of politics, some progressive and some conservative. Along with simply reading we need to ask who are we reading and why? Are we reading Black feminists? Black people from across the Black diaspora? Voice of the Black working class?

I am making a direct political statement with the books presented here. If one reads these books they will come away with the understanding that we cannot be anti-racist without being anti-capitalist; they work together and that is a basic understanding in any Black/Ethnic they address another issue of representation that’s been happening this summer related to media.

Mainstream news media, both liberal and conservative have chosen to skew the definition of “Defund the police”. They have ignored the words of the actual grassroots movement leaders of Black Lives Matter and the larger Movement for Black Lives who have told the public that defunding the police means just that: divesting money and resources given to violent police forces that harm and kill Black and Brown people systemically for decades, and invest those resources in the community-based resources that actually keep people safe (education, health facilities, mental health facilities, etc). Defund the police is the first step in police and prison abolition. The news media has gone out of their way to mute and obscure this truth and make it sound like we want to keep police in our neighborhoods. I’m using this photo to be very clear about the intentions of the movement. 

The views and opinions expressed in the M-Passioned Member blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of NAMLE or its members. The purpose of the M-Passioned Member blog is to highlight our members and give them a place to share their reflections, opinions, and ideas.