By Ramsey Khalifeh
Boston University News Service
Boston University’s College of Communication hosted a Black Media Symposium at the Howard Thurman Center Oct. 28, which centered on conversations on the intersection of race and media
The conversation focused on the presentation of race in the media, especially in the past two years following the murder of George Floyd in 2020. Merida brought up how internal changes in companies were at the forefront of progress during this period.
The keynote conversation featured speakers Paula Madison, a former executive for NBCUniversal, Kevin Merida, the executive editor for the LA Times and Ibram X. Kendi, a renowned author and professor at BU. The talk was moderated by Meghan Irons, a Boston Globe Spotlight investigative reporter and soon-to-be faculty member at BU. The talk lasted over an hour and around 60 people were in attendance.
“To have change, really, you need courage. We associate it with fighting wars, but the courage to speak up inside your company, take some action from within, that’s where I saw the rise,” Merida said. “There need to be lenses that look like people on the stage.”
Kendi, in continuation of the conversation surrounding race relations, reflected on how the media shaped certain narratives. Kendi cited that many TV stations were mostly covering protests that turned violent, while also retorting that studies came out saying that approximately 96 percent of the demonstrations that year were peaceful.
“The perception of people based on what they were seeing in the media was completely different [from peaceful],” Kendi said. He also noted the glaring hypocrisy of the media’s coverage of Black people in America in comparison to white people.
“After the invasion of the Capital, it wasn’t covered as if it was a white supremacist group, even though we now know it was [these] organizations who largely collude to overthrow [the 2020] election,” Kendi said. “The journalists were shying away from describing it as such.”
Madison, who was first to speak at Friday’s talk, was also disappointed in how the mainstream media covered protests in 2020 and was more direct in expressing her frustrations from the get-go.
At one point she responded to Kendi, saying “that’s what I said,” and the audience laughed and cheered. She also spoke on how she worked her way up through corporate news and navigated herself in an environment of mostly white executives and employees.
“This [talk] is for all the people who are concerned about imposter syndrome,” Madison said. “I’ve never had a company officer job before, I didn’t even know what went into [it]. But I knew that white dudes had it and at some point, they didn’t know how to do it either.”
The conversation continued into broader topics on power and opportunity for Black people in the media and how they can present accurate stories on Black people in the country.
“I think the unfortunate truth is, in many ways, people like us haven’t necessarily been taught how to navigate power, how to exercise power, how to leverage power,” Kendi said.
The talk concluded with questions from the audience. In response to one question, Madison emphasized the necessity for Black people in America to continue fighting, highlighting the key points from Friday’s talk.
“We talk about a reckoning, but for Black people in the United States, we have to admit and understand and accept that we got to come up with strategies for survival, not strategies for equality because it’s elusive,” Madison said. “We’re not going to be given equality.”