In the Streets and On the Screens: Why Black Independent Media is Resistance

by Aph Ko

While discussions about racism, white supremacy, and civil rights are currently dominating public discourse, I find that it’s relevant, more than ever, to discuss the importance of black independent media. As a 25-year-old young black media producer and content creator, I’ve found that digital media can be an awesome space for merging entertainment and social justice.

I’m the creator of two independent web series that center on political issues generally ignored by mainstream media. Most conversations that don’t cater to white people or men as the primary audiences don’t get much attention. In my first web series, “Tales from the Kraka Tower,” I spotlighted the awkward experiences minoritized students have in higher education. The show follows Lakisha Wisniewski, a biracial woman, and Sam, a white disabled man, who are both master’s students. They have to endure horrible situations and numerous interactions with offensive professors and peers who are unwilling to take a critical look at issues of privilege and oppression. Their awkward experiences highlight the violence of post-racial diversity and sanitized unity.

As I wrote on the Feminist Wire, in mainstream media, the “college experience” is seen solely as an undergraduate experience ripe with parties and casual sex. There is almost nothing centering on the experiences of graduate students and that's why I chose to write this particular story. I not only wanted to show the realities of how mundane school can actually be, but I also wanted to demonstrate how racism, sexism, and ableism still manifest in Master’s and PhD programs.

On December 1st, I released my second web series called, “Black Feminist Blogger,” which comically highlights the massive amount of invisible labor in the feminist blogging marketplace. I wanted to showcase how competitive blogging has become, while also highlighting my experiences as a woman of color who blogs.

The online blogosphere is rarely recognized as a workspace with its own unique set of challenges, co-worker dramas, and odd eccentricities. I think workspace comedies are hilarious because some of the wildest narratives arise from awkward collisions between people who have nothing in common. I love those silent moments of discomfort. This is the space my digital work enters and explores. I love merging these eccentricities with storytelling and critical analysis. Most of the stories depicted in “Black Feminist Blogger” are based on real events in my blogging career.

I love choosing different types of narratives to focus on in my videos. Today, most media products are politically, critically, and intellectually bankrupt. A lot of contemporary comedy is boiled down to two minute videos, saturated with overt satirical punch lines, and obvious “silly” music. Oftentimes when watching these products (that recycle trite racist, sexist, ableist jokes and subject matters), I feel like I’m being spoon-fed comedy, which isn’t all that stimulating. There is nothing challenging or original in a lot of mainstream humor, which is why I would rather create my own indie videos.

I feel like taking risks and sharing my creative political voice is a form of resistance, especially as a minoritized woman.

Imagination is a powerful tool that white supremacy keeps trying to hijack. When imagination becomes institutionalized, corporatized, or white-washed, it can become a tool of violence that can shape reality. Black independent media is a revolutionary reclamation of imagination.

As Ferguson protests occur, not only are we black folk taking up the streets to ensure that our collective voices are amplified, we are also taking up the screens so that everywhere you look, we’re represented.

I aim to create media for people who are regularly minoritized, who are excluded from the dominant idea of what constitutes the "mainstream audience." Sure, the route I'm taking is not as lucrative or fame-centric, but it at least provides a small contribution to people who are thirsty for critical media.

I think it’s important that black folks see a diverse range of representations in entertainment, so we know that we have options. As bell hooks says, “Being oppressed means the absence of choices.”

I don't think entertainment and intellectual nourishment are mutually exclusive. Pick up your own camera. Support creators of independent black media. Black imagination is one of the most powerful tools an activist has.

Use it.

Aph is a contributing writer for Everyday Feminism and loves merging social justice and digital media. You can check out her work here.

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