What are our community needs and how do we better meet them?

From Tammy Gomez

We asked the facilitators to respond to the session questions. Below is from Tammy Gomez who will be facilitating the session on Value.

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For over twenty years, I have been exploring the multitude of possibilities for bringing diverse folks together to hear each other’s voices in triumph, outrage, passionate testimonial, poetic exhalation, theatrical expression, literary publication.

I believe that, by offering people in the community a chance to create and share in a public forum, I have opened a door for them to pursue their own, self-directed politicization.

Once they have turned away from the television set and joined others in locations of community expression and production--that is when a more relevant and meaningful communication exchange can happen. People come to realize that they have messages and information to share that has value to others and, in turn come to value the unique voices and worldview of those who are not on mainstream tv or the radio.

That is what has been my mission, no matter where I live and what meager resources I have had to work with.

I have hosted poetry/literary open mics, where i’ve challenged the audience to consider that they break down fences and societal walls when they care to sit and listen to fellow citizens share their written performed words. I’ve published literary anthologies of work by women, youth of color, so that these contributors could begin to believe that their opinions and ideas are valid and necessary. On KO.OP radio, for over a year before this station was even on the air, I worked with dozens of local women--under the mentorship of Frieda Werden of WINGS--to train, strategize, and plan for the eventuality of providing
woman-produced programming on KO.OP that addressed the informational and cultural needs of the listening community. As an active participant in the blogosphere, I've maintained connections with other grassroots activists, Latino/a writers, cultural
critics, and local bloggers.

Last year, I interviewed my mother for the StoryCorps project when their traveling recording studio--in an Airstream trailer--was parked in Fort Worth for two weeks in October 2007. When this opportunity became available, I made it a priority--as more of us should when there’s a chance to add one’s voice to the archives, the debate, the conversation. After the
interview was completed and a newly-pressed cd of it was placed in my mother’s hands, she was inspired to document more of her life stories. Of course, I’ll make sure we accomplish this in the near future. For now, my mother, a Latina “war baby” who didn’t even fiinish high school, is represented in the archives at the Library of Congress--with that StoryCorps interview.

Just as StoryCorps has the mission of creating an “oral history of America” by documenting interviews with everyday people, I think that engaging more folks in media production awakens them to the practice of this concept we call “participatory democracy.”

I believe that it benefits men to hear women’s voices on the air; I believe that it enhances understanding when people of color offer their expressions to a majority white listening audience; and I also believe that the opinions of our disenfranchised young
people--in their own voices--could add alot to the public debate about the future of this country.

When one puts an ear to the wall to hear the conversation of neighbors in an adjacent apartment, it is to learn more about people who we lack the courage and conviction to meet and engage with face-to-face. We are curious about them, want to know what their world is like, desire to learn what makes them tick.

If we value an increased mutual understanding and tolerance of our so-called fellow Americans, what better way to facilitate this than by hearing, reading, listening to, or seeing their stories, their perspectives, presented on viable and sustainable channels of public communication?

Do we value the community’s access to such channels of public communication?

Do we put value on the availability of diverse voices and ideas in the forums of our public media channels?

Or do we value more our access to a “good picture”, a “clear signal”, and ”professional broadcasters?”