New ways to look at race and media

Kareemah Abdur-Rahim conducts interviews for the "Muslim Voices" project at Masjidullah Mosque and community center.
Kareemah Abdur-Rahim conducts interviews for the "Muslim Voices" project at Masjidullah Mosque and community center. (LORI WASELCHUK)
Posted: September 05, 2014

How are African Americans represented in mass media?

Discussions of race and media generally stop at that question. Two film screenings this month at the African American Museum in Philadelphia try to go beyond that question by looking at how different media can be used to air issues of concern to African American communities.

The first, on Saturday, focuses on Islam in African American communities; the second, on Sept. 18, is about the explosion of African American news and cultural programming in the late 1960s.

"At the Intersection of Race + Religion: Muslim Voices of Philadelphia," on Saturday from 3 to 5 p.m., will feature the screening of three documentary shorts about different ways Islam has been integrated into black communities.

"They explore the practice of Islam as something that lies at intersection of race and religion," said museum educator Adrienne Whaley. "The films talk not just about the practice of Islam but how becoming a Muslim impacted one's sense of themselves as black Americans . . . or members of the African diaspora."

Brother Azeem Hopkins-Bey will introduce a film about the Moorish Science Temple of America, founded in 1913 in Chicago by Noble Drew Ali.

"Prophet Noble Drew Ali specifically sought to establish Islam for African Americans," said Hopkins-Bey, who is grand sheikh of Philadelphia's Moorish Science Temple at Fifth and Dauphin Streets. "He would teach so-called African Americans about pride in their nationality . . . [as] Moorish Americans."

The program, co-organized by West Philadelphia's Scribe Video Center, will feature representatives from nine African American communities in the region, said Whaley.

The second program, "Black Power TV: Screening and Discussion," takes place at 7 p.m. Sept. 18 at the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts' Harold Prince Theater in University City and will begin with a talk by Devorah Heitner about her new book Black Power TV, which examines a crop of African American-oriented and -produced TV news and cultural programming produced in the late 1960s, including Soul!, Say Brother, and Black Journal, whose creator, the legendary newsman and documentary filmmaker William Greaves, died Aug. 25 at 87. The program includes video segments from Black Journal and a panel discussion.

"The shows arose in response to widespread rioting and political protests across the country after the death of Martin Luther King Jr.," said Heitner.

Airing for the most part on local public television affiliates, the news shows were unabashedly critical of the racial and political scene in America.

" Black Journal was very pro-black liberation. It was very different from everything else on TV," said Heitner. "Very critical of racial, economic, and educational discrimination."

Documentary filmmaker and Scribe Video Center founder Louis Massiah, who will be a panelist, said these shows tried to redress the distorted view of African Americans presented by mainstream media, forcing the media to be more self-critical,. Those who produced them "attempted to use mass media as a way to broaden the cultural and political conversation," he said.


At the Intersection of Race + Religion: Muslim Voices of Philadelphia

3 to 5 p.m. Saturday at The African American Museum in Philadelphia, 701 Arch St.

Black Power TV: Screening and Discussion

7 p.m. Sept. 18 at Annenberg Center, 3680 Walnut St. Free


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