In high school I was in love with camouflage and the color silver. I would take silver glitter glue that came in tubes that you can still find today at craft stores, and outline the darkest patches of the camouflage jackets, pants, shirts, and bandanas I owned. This was before Missy Elliot beadazzled her camouflage! I not only enjoyed the color contrast, and the attempt to give a splash of femininity to such a hyper-masculine piece of clothing, but this was a safe form of activism for me. When people would ask me why I did that outline I would say: “because I want the military to know we see what they are doing and they can’t hide from us.” My clothing sent a message.
When I said “the military” I was talking about the US military industrial complex. This was the time when the US Navy was still engaging in bombing practices on the island of Vieques, Puerto Rico . Although born and raised in the continental United States, my parents who emigrated from Puerto Rico, raised my sister and I in a Puerto Rican and Caribbean home. To us, the “mainland” is not the US; it is the island of Puerto Rico, our homeland.
Years later in college I realized that my desire and ability to create and share my message through my clothing resulted in my realization that I am a media maker. It was a new identity and role that I had never imagined I would have because I always thought that the “media” is what you see on television, magazines, and billboards or hear on the radio. Never had I realized that creating a message and finding a way to share that message is a form of media, one that is often excluded in conversations about the media, but often more powerful than some ad campaigns!
My commitment to making media has taken many forms today. One of the main areas I focus on, especially when teaching, is how we can increase our media literacy skills. My belief is that if we learn to use these skills to examine the media and learn to understand the messages that are being sent to us, we become more aware. I’ve also discovered that our media literacy skills can and do lead to media justice! We do not have to settle for one-dimensional stereotypes, a lack of representation of our communities, or being told by people who are a part of “main stream media” that our voices don’t matter.
Media Justice is about inclusivity, accountability, and responsibility. In this space we’ll interrogate and deconstruct the multiple media messages that are sent to us and hold the media accountable for the messages they choose to construct. We’ll go beyond analyzing the media to actually evaluate it and be responsible for what we choose to consume and create.
Do you see yourself as a media maker? What programs, ads, or images do you want to deconstruct together? How can we reconstruct these images and messages so that they are a more accurate representation of who we are and where we come from?