WIMN’s Voices: A Group Blog on Women, Media, AND…

Jill Nelson

Jill Nelson is the author of Straight, No Chaser: How I Became A Grown-Up Black Woman (Putnam, Fall 1997, Penguin, Winter 1999) and edited Police Brutality: An Anthology, for WW Norton, published in April 2000. Her first novel, Sexual Healing, was released in June 2003.

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Jill Nelson's Blog Introduction

Women, Media, AND... Outrages & Responsibilities

In these grim and dangerous times, the mainstream media too often functions as an enthusiastic arm of the right wing or as intimidated, cowering lap dogs. In such a landscape, the voices of outrage and responsibility, particularly those of progressive, radical, and just plain sane women, are virtually silenced. Yet we know that being silenced does not mean we acquiesce to the status quo. This group blog will give voice to a diverse community of women to voice our passions, and to suggest ways to take responsibility for and action against this crippling media complacency and collusion. In my corner of the blog, I plan to point out both the outrages and, perhaps less frequently, the instances in which media fulfills its responsibility to report without fear or favor. For example, here are some “Outrages and Responsibilities” in recent media coverage of women:

  • Why did the coverage of the death of civil rights activist Rosa Parks mostly fail to tell readers about Parks’ activism in Montgomery, Alabama prior to her refusal to give up her seat on a bus to a white man? It’s true that Parks’ action helped set in motion the Montgomery bus boycott and the modern civil rights movement, but wouldn’t responsible journalism explain that far from simply being tired that day, Parks’ bus action was a coordinated effort from the burgeoning movement? Organizers had been looking for the right moment and person to refuse to stand up for several years, and Parks – married, Christian, employed, and a stellar citizen – knew full well what the consequences of her actions could be. Sorry saccharine spin-meisters, but the reactionary line that Parks was simply a “tired ol’ colored lady who jes’ got fed up” is neither true nor inspirational. I respect and adore Parks even more because she knew exactly what she was doing! And why did most of the coverage simply say Parks refused too give her seat to a “white person”? Shouldn’t it be made clear that this Black woman refused to give up her seat to a White man?

  • From “When the Leaders of Civil Rights Were Civilized,” in the Wall Street Journal, 10/28/05:

    “An America where blacks run Merrill Lynch, American Express and the State Department no longer needs civil rights activism of the Rosa Parks and James Weldon Johnson variety, and hasn’t for decades. Thanks in large part to their diligence and sacrifices, the battle for legal equality has been fought and won. Blacks still face social and economic challenges, but these result mainly from self-inflicted cultural wounds, not a manifestly unjust society.”

    Given the sound of Parks, Johnson and others turning in their graves, no comment from me is necessary.

  • Army Corp of Engineers whistleblower Bunnatine Greenhouse, who went public with allegations about no bid contracts being awarded to Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown and Root and was demoted in 2005 for her honesty. A profile in the Washington Post, 10/19/05, told us more than we needed to know about the place settings on Greenhouse’s dining room table, yet mentioned but did not follow up the fact that in 2000 Greenhouse’s treatment on the job “led her to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging race and gender discrimination (a complaint that has never been investigated, Kohn says).” I know I’d rather hear what’s been going on with that EEOC complaint for the past 5 years then about Brown’s table-setting!

  • Even though it’s pretty bad, all is not lost, as an article written and emailed by the anti-war/social justice coalition A.N.S.W.E.R. about a student protest at Howard University, excerpted below, reminds us:

  • On Thursday, October 27, hundreds of Howard University students greeted Laura Bush with a militant protest against the war in Iraq, the criminally negligent and racist conduct of the federal government in response to Hurricane Katrina and cuts in education.

    Holding signs that read, "2000 Dead, End Occupation: Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq, Haiti…, Money for Education Not War," the students began their demonstration at 11am in protest of Laura Bush's presence on the Howard University campus.

    The demonstration was led by Youth and Student A.N.S.W.E.R. and Cimarrones, a progressive Black Student Union of Caribbeans, Central and South Americans, as well as various other campus organizations such as Howard University Student Association (HUSA), Howard Amnesty International and Ubiquity.

    The demonstration turned into a confrontation as university officials working with Secret Service and DC Police threatening to arrest the students unless they moved. "They are trying to force us to disperse or at least move back 30 feet, but we in the Black community have been told to move for 300 years," said Eugene Puryear, a coordinator of Youth and Student A.N.S.W.E.R and Howard sophomore.

    Jill Nelson's Biography

    Jill Nelson was born and raised in Harlem and has been a working journalist for over twenty years. She is a graduate of the City College of New York and the Columbia School of Journalism. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, including The New York Times, Essence, The Washington Post, The Nation, Ms., The Chicago Tribune and the Village Voice. Jill was a staff writer for the Washington Post Magazine during its first years of existence, and was named Washington D.C. Journalist of the Year for her work there. She freelances and lectures widely, and writes a twice-monthly column, “On the Verge,” for NiaOnline.com. Formerly, she was a monthly contributor to the Op Ed page of USA Today. She was a professor of Journalism at the City College of New York from 1998 to 2003. Jill wrote the best-selling memoir, Volunteer Slavery: My Authentic Negro Experience (Noble Press, hardcover, 1993 and Penguin, paperback, 1994) which won an American Book Award. She is the author of Straight, No Chaser: How I Became A Grown-Up Black Woman (Putnam, Fall 1997, Penguin, Winter 1999) and edited Police Brutality: An Anthology, for WW Norton, published in April 2000. Her first novel, Sexual Healing, was released in June 2003. Her latest book, the non-fiction Finding Martha’s Vineyard: African Americans at Home on an Island, was published in May 2005 by Random House. The mother of an adult daughter, and a grandmother, she lives in Harlem.

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