Stop Negative Connotations in Local Media, Say Calgary’s Racialized Youth

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Lack of representation, a celebration of diversity and a change in language are needed in local media, say racialized young Calgarians.

It was a conversation between youth and local media held Monday at Calgary City Hall. It was set up through a collaboration between the city’s anti-racism program and local education officials.

Young people shared their lived experiences and perspectives on local news and issues they see in the media today.

“I feel like black trauma is a really big thing,” said Melat Ghebraha, 16, and a student at Notre Dame High School.

“There’s no reason for me to watch shows about people who look like me, who go on living, like me, but you’re struggling, or there are negative connotations associated with specific groups of people. “

Opemipo Olojabi, a student at Bow Valley College, said she scoured the local media talent list and didn’t find too many people who looked like her.

“I don’t see myself in the media, or anyone who looks like me or has the same background as me,” she said.

“One of the reasons I don’t really watch the news is probably that I don’t see people like me.”

Celebrating Uniqueness: Rea

Darren Rea, an innovation and entrepreneurship student at the University of Calgary and a member of the Cree Métis community, said there is wisdom and depth in reporting on diverse communities.

“I want to see a celebration of uniqueness and humanity, a celebration of cultures and the beauty of those cultures,” he said.

“If our reporting focuses on those things, then we empower people by showing what’s beautiful and what’s great about those people. Then it just empowers them to shine that light and be themselves.

Jedidiah Akinloye, a computer science student from UCalgary, said that very often members of the black community are flagged as the “lost dog case.” He said a change of mindset was needed.

“I just feel like I have to completely eliminate that negative connotation and stop portraying it,” he said.

“We have enough films about the traumatic experience of black people. We have enough films of this person getting killed, this person struggling…”

Ghebreha said representation is important. The media has a big voice and influences a lot of people. She said that the perception of minorities is a very big thing.

“There are specific groups of people who have more experience in minority life or how people are discriminated against,” she said.

“But I feel like if you’re not, the media will kind of fill that hole. It allows us to be represented in specific ways, and if that representation isn’t accurate, it allows us to spread false notions or misconceptions about how the types of people we are.

build bridges

Dr. Linda Kongnetiman, the City of Calgary’s Anti-Racism Program Manager, in the Virnetta Anderson Room at the Calgary Municipal Building on October 24, 2022. DARREN KRAUSE/LIVEWIRE CALGARY

Rea said the media has a role to play in bringing out the voices of different communities to help them reach a wider audience.

“The role of the media, I would say, is to find the people who are passionate about sharing their message who have deep messages to share and to uplift them, empower them and encourage them,” he said.

“Never say no and shut them up.”

Olojabi said media should present content in an unbiased and unfiltered manner.

“Media contributes to people’s views and people’s views of a community, group of people or cultures,” she said.

She said the media should do a better job of reporting the truths of the people in their stories.

Dr. Linda Kongnetiman, manager of the City of Calgary’s anti-racism program, said the young people met with Mayor Jyoti Gondek. They said one area they wanted to tackle was anti-racism reporting. This led to the panel convening on Monday.

“It’s not about problems. These are not barriers. This is an opportunity to move forward and continue to deal with this,” she said.

“We all know that representation matters, and the narratives and stories we create and build have lasting impact.”

Kongnetiman said the goal was for parties to listen and relearn and move on to acting differently.

“Looking at situations through the anti-racism lens, so that our young people, our young people, can experience less racial discrimination, less racialization and have more availability wherever they go to experience racial equity,” a- she declared.

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