Media Diversified

Tackling the lack of diversity in UK media and the ubiquity of whiteness
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Alive again…. Lucky again

Israel began its intensified offensive against Gaza on the 11th July. The stated aim of the onslaught, which includes airstrikes by US made F16 fighter jets, was to destroy Hamas tunnels and ‘protect’ Israeli civilians from rocket fire. Since then, more than 710 Palestinians and 30 Israelis have been killed, about a third of the Palestinians killed are children. The UN human rights commissioner, Navi Pillay, has said there is a “strong possibility” that Israel is in violation of international law. She has also condemned “indiscriminate attacks on civilian areas” by Hamas. The charity, Oxfam, has said that food and water supplies in Gaza are dangerously low at this time.

From Gaza: Alive Again…Lucky again

At 4:00 am on July 14th I wrote on my Facebook: 10 minutes ago, three F16 airstrikes hit a government building in front of our apartments. For the last days and nights since then, both my wife and I have been supporting our children to cope by whatever means we can. We want to protect them physically but also psychologically. Unfortunately, tonight my youngest daughter, who is 9 years old, has fallen. She is crying and will not stop. Any advice to help alleviate her body fears would be appreciated.

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Brown girls don’t get eating disorders

by Anonymous

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“You have such a beautiful face; if only you lost weight it would not be such a waste” said one ‘auntie’ to me when I was 6 years old. Soon after, I heard two of my mother’s friends pull her aside and say “You have to watch her weight no one wants a fat girl”. That same year at school the teacher went around the classroom and asked everyone what they wanted to be when they grew up, ‘doctor’ said one person, ‘astronaut’ said another, and finally it came to my turn “thin and beautiful” was my answer.

For this was the dream, to be thin and dare I say it, over 20 years later I still have many days where it is all I can think about. I continue to herald a belief that my body is a work in progress and though I am not medically considered to be overweight my mind has been hijacked by certain body ideals promoted by Western media that have spread to other parts of the world.

From a young age I had been conditioned by some female members in my family to believe that being ‘slim’ equalled success, it was an aspiration, an achievement and frankly without that body, one was doomed to failure in every area of life. Ironically these women had grown up in India and Sierra Leone at a time where the concept of perfect bodies, size zero, diet plans, toned stomachs, thigh gaps and so on just did not exist.

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Homelessness: Behind every statistic is an individual

One of the most marginalised and often unheard groups in the United Kingdom today are the homeless. Not only do these individuals and families face challenging life situations, they also carry the burden of stigma and stereotypes meaning that they are silenced.

In a bid to challenge this silence and educate people about the reality of homeless people Farah Mohammoud, Co-founder of organisation You Press, brought together two often neglected groups in society today; the homeless and young people. The result was the conception and delivery of ‘One Story, Our Voice’, a powerful project through which individuals from both these groups were able to exercise their creative freedom, express themselves and tell the world what it really means to be homeless and serve as a reminder that behind every statistic is an individual.

Media Diversified spoke to Farah to find out more about how the project came to be and the impact that it has had.

Statistics regarding homelessness in the UK are not often discussed by mainstream media meaning that many people are oblivious to the issue. In terms of numbers what is the reality regarding poverty, social exclusion and homelessness today?

From my research I found that 1 in 10 people say they have been homeless at some point in their life and a fifth of these people experienced this in the last five years. Last year 113,260 people in England informed their local council that their status was homeless, an 11% increase over 2 years. A March 2013 study by the Poverty and Social Exclusion research team from Bristol University found that almost 18 million people in the UK cannot afford adequate housing conditions and 14 million cannot afford one or more essential household items. In addition to these shocking statistics, the research also identified that 12 million people are too financially unstable to engage in common social activities which are enjoyed by the majority of the population. Furthermore, 5.5 million adults go without essential clothing and 4 million children and adults are not properly fed by today’s standards.

Read MORE: Homelessness: Behind every statistic is an individual

Video Games’ Afrofuturism Frontier

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by Jordan Minor

There has been a lot of talk lately about the need for video games and gaming culture to diversify. But there are many different ways to do this, and without clear directions, an ultimatum could just paralyze an industry already timid about widening its representation. That is why I would like to humbly suggest one potential artistic avenue gaming should explore to expand its borders: Afrofuturism.

“Afrofuturism is the intersection between technology, black cultures, the imagination, and liberation with a heavy dose of mysticism,” says Ytasha L. Womack, author of Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture.It is expressed through an array of genres including music and literature.It can also serve as the basis for critical theory around culture and/or race. It is a lens to see alternate realities through a black cultural lens.” And it is particularly prevalent in literature like sci-fi/fantasy novels and comics books, gaming’s geeky cousins. “Comic book and sci-fi fans are accustomed to connecting with metaphors, mythology, images, and time benders, so it is easy for fans to grasp the depth of Afrofuturism.”

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The ‘Muslim woman’ on trial; Western society the judge

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Co-opting Narratives of the Other  

by Yasmine Nagaty

“There’s really no such thing as the ‘voiceless’. There are only the deliberately silenced, or the preferably unheard.”

This is the famous assertion made by renowned author and political activist Arundhati Roy. The term, “giving voice to the voiceless”- with which we are now all too familiar finds its roots in the contours of classic imperialist thought, where the “civilized” (essentially Western, white connoisseurs of knowledge and development) have gained more of a “self” by going out to “help” communities of the so-called third world. Of course, at the heart of this self-acclaimed charity lies the responsibility of representing the marginalized of those communities.

Representing women (as well as children) continues to be a profitable business for the Western media. Indeed, anthropologists Arthur and Joan Kleinman note that images of distant, suffering women and their children suggest there are communities incapable of or uninterested in caring for its own people. This logic thus suggests the need to re-write the stories of suffering of these individuals.

And yet, whereas the old and tired variations of “giving voice to the voiceless” have sought to narrate these stories, the latest recreation of this phenomenon is to provide the platform from which women can narrate their stories of suffering themselves. This is done in a space sponsored and confined by the same Western discourse that has continued to dictate representations of their communities.

By now the identity of these communities is a no-brainer; they are the communities of the “global south”, the “third world”, of any essentially non-Western community. Among many, anthropologist Homa Hoodfar notes that for the past two decades, Muslim women in particular, have been the most pervasive subjects of discussion in Western media. She attributes this phenomenon to the notion that,

“Failing to contextualize non-western societies adequately, researchers simply assume that what is good for western middle-class women should be good for all women.”

Due to this tendency, as well as a general fixation on the lifestyles of Muslim women, marriage and the veil (the two topics most dubbed as features of otherness in Muslim culture) are the most enduring subjects covered by western media.

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Young Voices: The policing and repackaging of black music go hand in hand

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by Amika Shah

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by Amika Shah

It’s not often that grime legend Wiley’s Twitter account is seen as a place for reasoned debate. However, over the weekend, the BBC’s urban radio station, BBC Radio 1Xtra released what it calls its ‘Power List’ – a list of the most influential artists in British black music, which seemed to be full of white artists, including Ed Sheeran at the number one spot. This went unnoticed until Wiley tweeted that the list ‘bumped’ black artists – the tweet has since been deleted, in true Wiley fashion.

It might make some uncomfortable to define music by race, but 1Xtra once seemed unafraid to do so. From the beginning, it had no qualms about calling itself a ‘black’ music station and not using any euphemisms like ‘urban.’ The station’s slogan until it rebranded in 2010 removing all mentions of race, was ‘Love black music, love 1Xtra’.

Black Music

Recently, Kele Okereke of Bloc Party criticised the way stations such as Choice FM – now called Capital Xtra – have ditched their policies on black music and talk shows for the black community, axing DJs such as 279 and reggae DJ Natty B in favour of Tim Westwood and chart house DJ Avicii. Just last week, in a response to Okereke, 1Xtra’s music manager claimed the station had a ‘commitment to black music and specifically black British artists.’ Yet when defending the power list, 1Xtra claimed that ‘anyone wanting to bring race into the discussion is a bit misguided.’

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If tokenistic gestures towards diversity worked, Sayeeda Warsi would be a Secretary of State

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by Huma Munshi

Diversity has been leading the news this week: from women bishops, to the Conservatives Cabinet reshuffle. Listening to Bonnie Greer in conversation with the MP Linda Grant at the National Theatre recently about her memoirs, brought home why representation and the ‘D’ word matters.

The audience at the National Theatre was a rare mix in that it was mainly filled with women of colour. I was reminded that having a space for diverse voices to share their stories matters. It matters because racism and sexism exist and society cannot have art and culture devoid of this. When we have the arts, culture or political structures for that matter that are predominantly white, straight and male, they are unreflective of the many cultures and stories that should be shared and heard.

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Teaching English in China While Black

by Ashley Evangelista

In the industry of teaching English abroad, people of colour don’t exist. Or at least that’s what you might think from reading articles like Vice’s White People with No Skill Sets Wanted in China. In the piece, Walker and Hartley suggest that Chinese people believe all white people can teach English well. They have, however, failed to acknowledge the harmful role that the English teaching industry and western media have had in painting the image of ‘good English’ as a domain reserved for white people. Whilst this image serves to fuel entitlement amongst whites it also renders English-speaking people of colour invisible and fundamentally deficient by way of their race. Clearly, since the rise of English as the language of empire, it can no longer be considered as synonymous with white. Perpetuating this perspective leads to situations where people ask me

“Oh? You’re an English teacher? But I thought you were black.”

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New drama series “ @LifeOfHersUK”, written by Samantha Chioma, directed by Ola Masha and Olan Collardy. The series, which reflects the lives and friendships of four women living in London is an exploration of the complexities of life as a young woman of the African diaspora and some of the unique conflicts that can arise between inherited traditions and assimilated new cultures.

Produced by Waïki Harnais and starring some of the UK’s most promising young black British actors, Life of Hers has already generated a strong interest from webseries lovers around the world, with viewers describing it as “something refreshing”, “a narrative black women can relate to”…

“This is a series that is unapologetically written for women and by a woman writer” explains series director Ola Masha. “When it comes to having prominent black women in the media, we’ve had one or two answers but still written from a man’s perspective, with women doing what men imagine them to do. With Life of Hers, you get an insight into what women get up to, how they really think, what inspires them…”

Follow Life of Hers on twitter: @LifeOfHersUK

View exclusive behind-the-scenes photos and find out more about the cast and team

 

 

by Fiona @fifibones

David Cameron’s reshuffle is a manoeuvre to make British parliament appear less Pale, Male and Stale – a long overdue consideration. However, it seems parliamentarians who make big decisions on how our country is run are not the only ones who need to better reflect society at large. The BBC is also guilty of suffering from this highly contagious Pale, Male and Stale syndrome.  The BBC website proudly shows off  its specialist experts but what is there to be proud of when all but two of them are white and male? One would not have thought this incredibly difficult to do, how does a publically funded body naturally exclude large proportions of the public’s demographics? Where are the women and where are those of African and Asian descent? One female out of 20 (a mere 5%) just does not cut it. The BBC have banned all male panels on comedy shows, this is definitely a step forward but there’s something unsettling about comedy being taken more seriously than the News and current affairs.

The BBC’s largely exclusively white, male and middle aged list of experts not only creates and perpetuates an old boys’ network culture, which surely breaks every rule in the book of equal opportunities at work but this also inevitably fails to represent a diversity of thought, experience and perspective. Without a shadow of a doubt this selection of experts also fails to represent the general public whose hard earned taxes go towards funding the much hailed ‘fair’ and ‘balanced’ British institution of which we are meant to be so proud.

By clicking along the topic tabs at the top and scrolling down you can see the BBC experts of each field.

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Here’s the UK expert;

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and the Northern Ireland expert;

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Here is the Scotland expert;

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Here are the Wales experts;

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Here are the business experts; hold on did I spot a rare species? It seems the BBC have bothered to include a female’s voice.

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Here are the politics experts; yep back to an all male line up

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…Health experts;

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Education expert;
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Science / Environment experts, yes you’ve guessed it;

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Technology expert;

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And last of all, entertainment and arts expert

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Something is VERY wrong here! And there are several things you can do to change it. Firstly, you could complaint to the BBC directly via this link

Secondly, you could complain to the Parliamentary figures on the Culture, Media and Sports Select Committee by clicking the following link but be warned; as we have already identified Parliament and the BBC share a common affliction so as you scroll down to the 11 members you will see improvements in diversity are dying to be made here too. I’m sure Lenny Henry would have felt quiet disbelief sitting in front of this panel as he recently gave evidence on how TV shows could be more representative of its audience;

In other news; LBC were recently exposed for their lack of diversity. If only we had a term that fittingly exposes the institutionalised exclusion of Black and minority groups’ voices and experiences… The Macpherson report anyone?

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Ed Sheeran The Poster Boy for British Black and Urban Music

by @SelinaNBrown

I am confused.  Are you confused? Ed Sheeran has been named by BBC 1Xtra as the most influential artist in black and urban music.   

Sheeran must have woken up to the news and ensuing furore like a startled deer, eyes wide in terror with car headlights thrust upon it.

The list, created by industry ‘insiders’ deems who are the most important and influential artists in black and urban music; it’s a power list. With three of the top four artists being white it suggests that black artists despite being credited as pioneers in the genre do not wield the power of their white contemporaries. at least in the industry’s eyes.

BBC 1Xtra was set-up to promote black artists in urban areas.  Before the station was rebranded the slogan was, “Love Black Music, Love 1Xtra?”

Black has been rebranded. White is the new black.

Sheeran from Suffolk, with very pale skin with ginger hair has a humble demeanor. His music uses a diluted format of what is recognized as black and urban music. He does not look or imitate what is perceived as the performativity of “blackness” or “urbanness”; the clothes, the swagger, the dialect etc.  Even his songs are not focused on an urban narrative, and are an eclectic mix of folk, grime and hip hop.

So why has he been crowned “the most influential artist… “? when the beats, the drum and bass, were originally created by black urban artists such as Wiley, Dizzee Rascal, Bashy, to name a few… Lee Pinkerton lays it out in his article for Indy Voices -
Is Ed Sheeran the most important British man in black music?


In his article ‘The Macklemore Problem’ Joseph Guthrie states that Macklemore grabbing three of the four gongs in the Rap category at last years grammy awards ‘was a categorical and poignant reminder that whilst black creations are themselves most welcome, when it comes to marketing them, a white face is preferred.’ And on our shores it seems to be no different.

BBC1 Extra’s power and influence list has highlighted the erasure of black peoples contribution and representations in the British media. The lack of recognition. Lack of job roles.  The lack that is perceived, in the black identity by those in power. I will leave you with a quote by Wiley  “black artist in england we are getting bumped”

by @SelinaNBrown

Telling black stories after Hollywood

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Sister Sister actor Tim Reid talks about his move behind the camera

by Zaneta Denny

Growing up one of my favourite shows was the American sitcom Sister Sister, about two African-American teens with adoptive parents. Regular laughs and relatable family dramas encouraged me to tune in weekly with my own family. Sister Sister was part of a slew of nineties African-American sitcoms that provided positive, fun representations of black family life, a stark contrast to the sombre and often criminal images of black people in UK prime time. Dare I mention The Bill?

Actresses Tia and Tamera Mowry are now both married and still enjoy the limelight in Hollywood, occasionally popping up in the Daily Mail’s ‘sidebar of shame’ but the nineties child within me wondered what on earth happened to their screen parents?

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The African-Argentine: Not an oxymoron

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by Rachel Décoste

I have been fortunate to travel extensively in my adult life. There is no better way to appreciate a culture than to live within it.

When the Euro stifled my tourist-buying power, I turned my sights toward Central and South America. It was in December, in the middle of their summer, that I landed in Santiago, Chile with the intention of flying home from Buenos Aires, Argentina 25 days later. Seven hundred miles and a treasure trove of adventures separate the two cities.

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How did the Africans disappear?

Although slavery was abolished in Argentina in 1813, many Afro-Argentine were still held as slaves. Emancipation was promised to those who fought in Argentina’s wars. Most African men signed up with hopes of winning their freedom. They were sent to the frontlines. Most perished while fighting for a country that did not recognize their rights.

Until 1853, the law forced slave owners to cede 40 percent of their slaves to military service. The promise of manumission was offered to those slaves who completed 5 years of service — a promise rarely kept.

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Make no mistake, white supremacy remains intact despite the increase in interracial relationships

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by Huma Munshi

It’s been a strange tale of race relations of late. On the one hand, research indicates that one in ten relationships are between people from different ethnic backgrounds. Yet on the other hand, the effects of institutional racism are as potent ever.

It can come as no surprise that we are seeing more people in relationships from a different ethnic background. In cities with a high population density, mixing within diverse communities is very much the norm. In London, the 2011 Census showed that the BAME population outnumbered White British for the first time. Within that, however, there are pockets where there is significant segregation of communities. The groups that are least likely to be in mixed relationships are Bengali and Pakistani. So even within the context of mixed race relationships there are anomalies.

But this is just one small piece of a complex jigsaw.

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Class VS Race how the liberal elite just don’t get it

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By Huma Munshi

As I was listening to Radio 4’s Today programme yesterday, I found myself gritting my teeth in frustration. The subject of black children and their aspirations was being discussed following recent research by Newsnight which shows that 21% of black children feel their skin colour would make it harder to succeed compared with 2% of white children.  Shockingly(!) the white male presenter could not understand the impact of racism, even at such an early age, on young black children’s aspirations.

What the presenter on Today could not fathom was that race could be a critical determinant. He suggested that poor white children face the same issues in terms of aspirations and life chances. There can be no question that poverty has huge impact on life chances. Poverty can be a vicious cycle which feeds into greater levels of exclusion. Children growing up in poverty are more likely to experience food poverty which has a knock-on impact on their ability to perform well in school. Statistics indicate that in the UK, by 16, children receiving free school meals achieve 1.7 grades lower at GCSE than their wealthier peers which impact their earning potential over the course of their lives.

But to disregard the impact of racism on young people, when the structure of racism is so glaring within society, is wilful ignorance. It can come as no surprise that young people feel the colour of their skin will be a barrier. Police forces are up to 28 times more likely to use stop-and-search powers against black people than white people. And the media simply adds fuel to this: black people are disproportionately depicted as dangerous violent criminals.

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