ONE HOOD MEDIA—Jasiri X welcomes guests to the opening ceremony. (Photo by J.L. Martello)
In November 2011, the Heinz Endowments produced a report on how the Pittsburgh media portrays African-American males. While the report found low overall media coverage of Black men and boys, representing only 8.9 percent of all front-page stories; the existing coverage was overwhelmingly tied to crime, with 86 percent of television stories about Black men and boys focused on crime.
As one component of the Heinz Endowments’ response to the report, the organization gave One Hood Media and the August Wilson Center for African American Culture a $40,000 grant to fund the One Hood Media Literacy Academy in 2011. The academy for young African-American males gives them the tools to analyze media messages, broaden their media experience and produce their own media.
“The curriculum focuses on breaking down a lot of these images that are promoted toward Black men that are primarily negative,” said Jasiri X, one of the academy’s creators. “But it also gives them the skills to create their own media so if you see you’re being misrepresented, you can create a blog where you say this is how I’m representing myself.”
Now One Hood Media is re-launching the academy with an additional two-year $180,000 grant from the Heinz Endowments. On Jan. 25 they held an opening ceremony where they invited the community to learn more about the academy and the misrepresentation of Black males in the media.
“Most of the time Black men are covered it’s in crime or sports,” Jasiri X said. “I would like (our students) to be more intelligent media consumers in terms of not believing everything the media says about them because often times the media you see is trying to sell you something.”
The program is open to 25 African-American males, ages 13 to 19. This year the students in the program will be receiving iPad minis to aid them in learning how to master blogging, video production and social media.
“Young people are really bombarded with more media images than ever before,” Jasiri X said. “We’re also teaching about appropriate use of social media. So, with how dominant social media has become in our lives, we really think we should teach young people how to use it appropriately.”
As a successful hip-hop artist and online blogger, Jasiri X has ample experience with the power of the media. In addition to the attention he’s garnered with YouTube sensations like “What if the Tea Party was Black,” he also produces an internet news series, “This Week with Jasiri X.”
“For me as a hip-hop artist, I don’t talk about the things you hear on mainstream radio. By being able to create my own media, I’ve been able to really create a career for myself,” he said. “I blog every week so for me finding that niche in creating media people wanted to see and covering areas that weren’t covered led me to building my own career.”
The opening ceremony featured Grammy award winning artist David Banner and a performance by One Hood Media Academy graduates Jordan Montgomery and Cameron Layne. Jasiri X said he has been impressed with the wisdom and creativity that came out of the academy’s first class of graduates.
“Who speaks for young Black men? We want to empower the young Black men to have their own voice,” Jasiri X said. “I was really surprised at the world analysis these young men had so you’d be surprised if you ask them, what they can create.”