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During two back-to-back discussions hosted by The Black Wall Street Legacy Fest on Friday, panelists talked about the Black experience working in the media and how the Black community could take control of the narrative in public and private spaces.
The lively discussion featured heavy hitters from Tulsa’s Black community and abroad.
‘Who Controls the Narrative?’, a panel moderated by CBS News This Morning anchor and Tulsa-native DeMarco Morgan, held a riveting discussion with Black members of the press. Guests included The Black Wall Street Times editor-in-chief Nehemiah D. Frank, journalist Victor Luckerson, former Oklahoma City reporter Porsha Riley and MahoganyBooks owner Ramunda Lark Young.
Telling our own stories our own way
Frank, the founder of Oklahoma’s largest Black-owned digital news media company, said the key to controlling the narrative is supporting Black journalists and Black-owned media outlets. “We have to have the courage to speak up. Our people’s lives are on the line,” Frank said.
Luckerson is a nationally published freelance journalist who is currently writing a book about the history of Black Wall Street. A Tulsan by choice, Luckerson has immersed himself in the history of the area. “Learning about Greenwood helps you to understand the complexity of the world,” he said. Highlighting the whitewashing of history by White-led media, Luckerson said, “in the aftermath of the massacre, there was White media trying to gloss over what had happened.”
Ultimately, the decisions by primarily White-led media have serious consequences for Black journalists still today. Riley, a former Oklahoma City reporter, knows these consequences well. After what she said were a series of mishandled racially sensitive stories and events, Riley resigned from her job. She shared her experience and reasoning for leaving in a YouTube video that quickly went viral.
Controlling the narrative
“Working in TV news, sometimes it’s unpopular to speak out. I decided to control the narrative by a video when I resigned,” Riley said. “Black journalists (in Oklahoma) are few and far between. It was important for me to tell the story of my community in the correct way.”
The sentiment was echoed by Young, who owns a publishing company in Washington D.C. with her husband. “It starts with a book. Let’s just be real. That, to me, is one of the greatest ways we have flexibility to control the narrative. We have to go the independent route. We don’t have to wait for someone else to tell our story,” Young said. Young’s company places an emphasis on publishing writers of color. “There’s so much more to us than being involved in the civil rights movement or slavery.”