New Westside Stories: News from the Perspective of Communities

Chicago Peace Fellow

On behalf of Westside Media Project & Storyline Studio, I am excited to announce the launch of two new initiatives. The first is ‘New Westside Stories’, an urban news show based on Chicago’s West side. The second is a podcast series discussing issues facing BIPOC led non-profits. The purpose of both projects is to establish platforms where communities can utilize technology to engage in powerful and more balanced storytelling, doing so can have a profound impact in redefining our communities.

‘New Westside Stories’ is a recently launched news series which puts communities and young people at the centre of the storytelling and reporting.

The pilot for this series premiered on 22nd March 2021 and can be seen here:

This project will provide relevant and accessible information and news related to our community from our perspectives. Likewise, we will be highlighting organizations which do positive work because, despite its portrayal in the mainstream media, we know our community is more than just crime, drugs, and social ills. We want to change the narrative by showing that people from disadvantaged backgrounds and communities can come together to support one another, share their perspectives, and deliver those perspectives to wider audiences.

From the pilot we established a model for future episodes, including time length and number of stories covered. We will now devise a regular schedule for these news stories which will highlight relevant news, events and activities that emerge and impact or interest our community. We are also lucky to have community partners who are interested in what we are doing and wish to participate in this initiative, however putting this together during the pandemic has been a challenge, so we are also now ensuring that we have a team together to manage the logistics of it all.

2021 marks Westside Media Projects 15th year of operation, and within those 15 years we focused our work on youth media and working with middle-school students. Through these two initiatives, we are now transitioning from a school-based media arts program to a community-based one, with the same concepts but expanding it to different segments of the community. So, we have revamped and redesigned our programming to be inclusive of all age groups. By doing so, the topics we cover, our range, and the impact we will have is much greater and wider.

Alongside this, we are also starting a podcast series for which we launched our pilot on 30th March 2021:

Our first episode was a conversation with another Chicago Peace Fellow, Gloria Smith (who leads Black Star Project), in which we discussed philanthropy in Chicago and how inequity in funding impacts Black led non-profits. The episode references my open letter ‘Dear White Funders’ and shares Gloria’s perspective and experiences with philanthropic funding imbalances, which is an issue both Gloria and myself are concerned about.

It is my view that philanthropy at its core does not respect Black leaders. It has traditionally been a white dominated field with few minorities in positions of power where younger generations of whites make decisions on where older white wealth is allocated. Several studies have documented the huge inequity in funding given to BIPOC led non-profits in comparison to white led non-profits. Equally disturbing is the fact that many white-led non-profits are funded to do work in BIPOC communities. So, through this podcast series we will keep this conversation going and continue working to spread this message as it cannot be just a trendy topic which loses momentum.

Our next podcast episode will feature a community leader from a minority background who will share their experience of working in social justice spaces.

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