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Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center

Media Justice Working Group

“The UCIMC is the central hub for organizations involved in the struggle for racial and social justice in Champaign-Urbana. UCIMC has had major state and national impact for media justice." - State Representative Carol Ammons.

The UCIMC Media Justice Working Group works to advance a vision and policy framework where media and technology are used to support rather than compromise human rights, equity, and justice. We win tangible victories by organizing with and lifting up the voices of people of color, poor families, immigrants, LGBTQ communities, women, those incarcerated, and returning citizens.

Since 2012, UCIMC has been a lead organization in the Media Action Grassroots Network (MAG-Net) a powerful network of over 100 social justice organizations working for racial and economic justice through media policy change. The Media Justice Working Group acts as UCIMC’s liaison with MAG-Net, facilitating UCIMC members’ participation in MAG-Net campaigns, cohorts, and convenings. We provide leadership to lead local, state and national media justice initiatives and host educational events.

Our current activities are focused on communications justice for those incarcerated and their families and curtailing state surveillance and its racial biases. We are currently leading a national team to establish civil rights protections for those on electronic monitors (ankle bracelets), advocating for state and federal regulation of video visitation with those incarcerated, participating in MAG-Net’s surveillance team, and providing local trainings on digital security and self defense for organizers.

UCIMC has worked in the media justice field for 17 years, aiding the launch of 65 media and social justice organizations, convening media justice organizers, and building strategic alliances across the country to win policy victories. Past media justice activities include:

  • Winning Prison Phone Justice for Illinois. The Family Connections Bill reduces the cost of phone calls from Illinois prisons by half - capping them at 7 cents a minute - starting January, 2018.

  • Expanding Local Community Radio. UCIMC helped win Congressional passage of the Local Community Radio Act in 2010, with the Prometheus Radio Project, MAG-Net and other partners.

  • Supporting the successful net neutrality campaign before the Federal Communications Commission to regulate the Internet as a public utility, along with MAG-Net, Free Press, Color of Change, Common Cause, Demand Progress, and other partners. UCIMC led local direct actions against Internet providers who were blocking progress and testified before Congress.

  • Helping to bring $22.5 million dollars in broadband stimulus funds to Champaign Urbana, playing a lead role in organizing community participation in the grant process and retaining public ownership of the broadband network. UCIMC is one of 245 anchor institutions on the network, providing media training and a free computer help desk to teach people how to repair their own equipment.

  • Providing testimony before federal and state bodies including Congress, Federal Communications Commission and Federal Trade Commission about the role of Community Media in the Future of Journalism, the essential role of the Internet in civil rights organizing, the impact of prison phone rates on families, the need for broadband expansion, and the civil rights impacts of surveillance.

  • Fighting for the right to video tape police officers operating in the line of duty in partnership with CU Citizens for Peace and Justice.

  • Establishing the right for all media to attend public press conferences, in partnership with Illinois American Civil Liberties Union.

  • Developing CUWiN (cuwireless.net), an internationally recognized leader in open source mesh network software, with support from the Open Society Foundation and National Science Foundation.  Deployed the first open wifi network in Champaign-Urbana, Homer, Illinois, tribal lands of the Mesa Grande Reservation, and the townships of South Africa.

 

Media Justice Working Group Leaders:

Urbana City Council member and President of SEIU Local 73 Chapter 119, Aaron Ammons has been a long-time member of UCIMC. He is co-founder of Champaign-Urbana Citizens for Peace and Justice. Another group he helped start, Citizens With Conviction, passed a Ban the Box ordinance in Urbana.

A co-founder of UCIMC, Danielle Chynoweth served as the Organizing Director at the Center for Media Justice and Director of External Relations at the Prometheus Radio Project. Currently running for Cunningham Township Supervisor, she served as an Urbana city council member, leading efforts to establish a public arts program, public broadband, and expanded public access television.

A college student and Champaign native, Wandjell Harvey-Robinson was in the third grade when both her parents were incarcerated. She has been a spokesperson for the Illinois Campaign for Prison Phone Justice. She testified before the FCC for national regulation of prison phones, as well as before the Illinois legislature for passage of HB6200: The Family Connections Bill. She works with Ripple Effect, a support network for families with a loved one incarcerated.

James Kilgore is a formerly incarcerated activist, researcher, and writer based in Urbana, Illinois. He is the author of Understanding Mass Incarceration: A People's Guide to the Key Civil Rights Struggle of Our Time (The New Press, 2015). He has written the groundbreaking report, “Electronic Monitoring Is Not the Answer: Critical Reflections on a Flawed Alternative.” He appeared in Netflix documentary “13th” directed by Ava DuVernay.

Robert King is a UCIMC Board member serving as chair of the Programming Committee.  An advocate for leadership development, community inclusion, and multicultural initiatives, Robert, serves on Champaign County board and is a member of the North End Breakfast Club. He  is the Senior Assistant Director of Family & Graduate Housing at the University of Illinois and is pursuing his Doctorate in Public Administration from the University of Illinois Springfield.

 

For more see:

"Regulation of Prison Phone Calls Sweeps the Nation." Truthout. Oct. 20, 2016

"E-Carceration: The Problematic World of Being on an Electronic Monitor." Alternet. Oct. 20, 2016.

Darrell Cannon, tortured by Chicago police and wrongly convicted, talks about being on an electronic monitor.