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Powerful Stories at the 34th Annual Parker Lecture

ful stories were retold today as a faith leader, a government regulator and a rural advocate were honored at the 34th Annual Everett C. Parker Ethics in Telecommunications Lecture at First Congregational United Church of Christ in Washington, D.C. The annual lecture is sponsored by Office of Communications, Inc. (OC Inc.), the media justice ministry of the United Church of Christ (UCC), which was founded by the late Rev. Parker.

Commissioner Clyburn, Dee Davis, Rev. Traci Blackmon

The Rev. Traci Blackmon, this year’s Parker Lecturer, framed her remarks by recounting a West African proverb: “Until the lion tells the story, the hunter will always be the hero.” Blackmon, currently the UCC’s acting executive minister for justice and witness ministries, came to national attention in the fall of 2014 as part of the pastoral presence working to quell months of civil unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, following the fatal police shooting of black teenager Michael Brown there.

Blackmon noted that as a young African-American girl growing up in Birmingham, Alabama, and later as pastor of a church near Ferguson, she had learned something of the “power and marginalization of the lion’s story.”

She stressed the importance of understanding the context of a story, and cast the Brown shooting within the history of the St. Louis metropolitan area and a long list of recent shootings of unarmed black men by police officers. She noted that “the mainstream media is not the only resource for hearing the story of the lion,” and pointed to the role that social media had played in the coverage of the Ferguson story.

Rev. Traci Blackmon

But she also spoke, powerfully, of her own temptation to claim the high road but “remove the humanity” of those with whom she disagrees. “But when we do that,” she concluded, “we are not better and we are no more righteous.” She cautioned, “it is too easy to look outside ourselves for the answers that lie within,” because “within us all lies both the lion and the hunter.” “We are experts at extrapolating stories that soothe us, but God has not called us to be comforted, but rather to comfort the afflicted.” 

In her acceptance speech, Federal Communications Commissioner Mignon Clyburn turned to a Biblical text in accepting the Newton Minow Award, conferred by the UCC in recognition of exemplary government service in support of the public interest. Clyburn, who faced scrutiny when took office in 2009 without previous experience in Washington, quoted from 1 Samuel 16: “people look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” She noted “people had doubts, people drew conclusions, but they did not know what was in my heart.” 

Commissioner Clyburn

Clyburn, who served as acting chair of the agency in 2013, was recognized for her leadership in restricting the predatory telephone rates that had been charged to families and friends of prisoners, and for the agency’s moves to modernize the Lifeline program that helps low-income people afford telecommunications services. She described a recent visit to a correctional facility, looking in the eyes of a small boy who gets few opportunities to visit his incarcerated mother. She noted that in the half-century since Everett Parker founded OC Inc., the “next generation of advanced telecommunications services” present “issues that are increasingly complex.” But, she said, the mission of the FCC still needed to be focused on ensuring that all Americans have access to “robust and affordable telecommunications services.”

Dee Davis, president and founder of the Center for Rural Strategies, received the Everett C. Parker Award for work embodying the principles and values of the public interest in telecommunications and media. Davis got his start as a trainee at Appalshop, the arts and cultural center in Whitesburg, Ky., and eventually rose to be its president.

Davis expressed his appreciation that “people in this town,” the nation’s capital, had launched the War on Poverty in the 1960s, providing funds that had built the center for “the people in my town,” and t

Dee Davis

eaching him skills in media production. He joked that the award would “vindicate the Hillbilly Sunday School teachers who gave up on me.” Looking back on his career, and the “powerful tools” that are now available—cameras, computers, and broadcast licenses—he urged his audience to “use them for good.” He spoke movingly about the power of being a “witness to history.”

OC Inc. established the Parker Lectureship in 1983 to recognize its founder’s pioneering work as an advocate for the public’s rights in broadcasting. In 1963, Parker filed a petition with the FCC that ultimately stripped WLBT-TV in Jackson, Mississippi, of its broadcast license and established the principle that the public could participate in matters before the agency. Parker died on September 17, 2015 at the age of 102. The Parker Lecture is the only lecture in the country to examine telecommunications in the digital age from an ethical perspective.

More photos, video clips and materials from the Lecture will be available on UCC OC Inc.'s web site in the near future.

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Clyburn and Davis to be Honored in 2016 Awards

FCC COMMISSIONER MIGNON CLYBURN
AND RURAL CHAMPION DEE DAVIS TO BE HONORED
AT 34TH ANNUAL EVERETT C. PARKER LECTURE

The United Church of Christ’s media justice ministry will honor Federal Communications Commissioner Mignon Clyburn and rural advocate Dee Davis when it holds the 34th Annual Everett C. Parker Ethics in Telecommunications Lecture and Awards Breakfast on October 13. 

As previously announced, the Rev. Traci Blackmon, acting executive minister of the UCC’s Justice and Witness Ministries, will deliver this year’s lecture, to be held at First Congregational United Church of Christ, 945 G Street NW, in Washington, DC, beginning at 8 a.m.

Commissioner Clyburn will receive the Newton Minow Award in recognition of her work at the commission to reform predatory prison telephone rates and to modernize the Lifeline program that supports telecommunications services to low-income households. This marks only the second time that the UCC’s Office of Communication Inc. (OC Inc.) has conferred the Minow Award, given in recognition of exemplary government service. Clyburn has been a member of the FCC since 2009, and served as its acting chair from May to November 2013.

Dee Davis, president and founder of the Center for Rural Strategies, will receive the Everett C. Parker Award, in recognition of more than 40 years of work to bring telecommunications services to rural America, particularly the people of Appalachia. The Parker Award is given annually in recognition of an individual whose work embodies the principles and values of the public interest in telecommunications and the media as demonstrated by the late Rev. Dr. Parker, OC Inc.’s founder.

Starting as a trainee in 1973 at Appalshop, the prominent Appalachia-based media, arts, and education center, Davis became its first president and spearheaded a number of initiatives that used media as a strategic tool for organizing and rural development. In 2000, he founded the Center for Rural Strategies to improve economic and social conditions for rural communities, both at home and around the world, through the innovative use of media and communications. Since then, he and the center have been instrumental in building and managing the National Rural Assembly, a coalition of more than 1,000 organizations and individuals seeking to promote the concerns of rural America.

Rev. Blackmon, this year’s Parker Lecturer, came to national attention in the fall of 2014 as part of the pastoral presence working to quell months of civil unrest in Ferguson, MO, following the fatal police shooting of black teenager Michael Brown. She assumed her current UCC post last January, and has since been appointed by President Barack Obama to his 15-member Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

The Parker Lecture was created in 1982 to recognize the Rev. Dr. Parker’s pioneering work as an advocate for the public's rights in broadcasting. The event is the only lecture in the country to examine telecommunications in the digital age from an ethical perspective.  Rev. Dr. Parker died in 2015 at the age of 102.

The Cleveland-based United Church of Christ, a Protestant denomination with nearly 1 million members and more than 5,000 local congregations nationwide, recognizes the unique power of the media to shape public understanding and thus society as a whole. For this reason, the UCC’s OC, Inc. has worked since its founding in 1959 to create just and equitable media structures that give a meaningful voice to diverse peoples, cultures and ideas.  

For more information about the 2016 Parker Lecture and Breakfast, or to purchase tickets, go to www.uccmediajustice.org.

United Church of Christ, Office of Communication Inc.

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Remembering Wally Bowen

We were saddened to learn of the passing of this year's McGannon Award recipient, Wally Bowen, last night after his long battle with ALS.  We at UCC OC Inc. are gratified that we got a chance to demonstrate to him how important his work was nationally as well as in his home community of rural western North Carolina. 

His friend Monroe Gilmour was able to attend the ceremony in Washington DC in October to receive the award on his behalf, and then present it to him at home in North Carolina, as captured in this picture.  Upon learning of his death, Cheryl Leanza, OC Inc.'s policy advisor said, "Wally's lifelong dedication to the cause of media justice was inspirational to me for as long as I knew him.  Wally took policy opportunities created in Washington and made them into real opportunities for his neighbors in western North Carolina.  All the victories in Washington will be for naught without people like Wally to translate them into action on the ground." 

 

Wally Bowen was recognized for his leadership in building the Mountain Area Information Network in western North Carolina, and then working to bring a low-power FM station, local cable access channels and broadband access to his community.

 

Bowen's acceptance remarks highlighted his dedication to his home community,  and noted that his work had been inspired and supported by his own faith community, Jubilee!, in Asheville, NC.  He quoted the words of theologian Frederick Buechner: “Your true vocation is found in that place where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep hunger.”  He continued, "It has been my good fortune to have found that place of true vocation in my work through the Mountain Area Information Network these past 20 years. On behalf of the rural citizens for whom we advocated, thank you again for this award affirming this work."

 

Thank you, Wally, for doing the work.


The description of Wally's achievements and press release, as well as additional photos of the Parker Awards and of Wally receiving his award are available online.

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Parker Lecture a Strong Success!

The 33rd Annual Everett C. Parker Ethics in Telecommunications Lecture and Awards Breakfast was successfully held on October 20, 2015.  2015. Read about honorees and sponsors, read the press releasePhotos from the event are available on our Flickr stream. Please feel free to download any photo you want using the Flickr download button (the down arrow icon on the bottom right hand side of the photo). Video highlights of the event are also available on the UCC Media Justice YouTube Page.

We were thrilled to have so many guests join us to celebrate our honorees, Wally Bowen, co-founder and executive director of the Mountain Area Information Network, and Joseph Torres, senior external affairs director for Free Press, as well as hear from danah boyd, founder of Data & Society Research Institute.  Although he could not attend in person, after the event, Wally received the award in North Carolina.

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Parker Lecture Announces 2015 Honorees

danah boyd, INTERNATIONAL EXPERT ON TECHNOLOGY AND SOCIETY,
TO DELIVER 33rd ANNUAL EVERETT C. PARKER LECTURE;
JOSEPH TORRES AND WALLY BOWEN TO BE HONORED

danah boyd, named by Fortune magazine in 2010 as “the smartest academic in tech,” will deliver the 33rd annual Everett C. Parker Ethics in Telecommunications Lecture and Joseph Torres and Wally Bowen will be honored at the 2015 Parker Lecture and Breakfast. The event, organized by the United Church of Christ’s media justice ministry, the Office of Communication, Inc., will be held at 8 a.m. ET on Tuesday, Oct. 20, at First Congregational United Church of Christ, 945 G St. NW, Washington, DC.

danah boyd describes herself  as “both an activist and a scholar” whose “research examines the intersection between technology and society.” With degrees from Brown, MIT and UC Berkeley, she is a visiting professor at New York University and a faculty affiliate at Harvard. Dr. boyd’s newest research focuses on the intersection of civil rights and big data analytics.  For over a decade, she focused on how young people use social media as part of their everyday practices. She documented her findings in two books: Hanging Out, Messing Around, Geeking Out: Kids Living and Learning with New Media (2009) and It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens (2014). Dr. boyd’s more recent work centers on the social and cultural dimensions of the "big data" phenomenon, with an eye to issues such as privacy and the civil rights implications of data analytics.  She is also a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research and the founder of Data & Society Research Institute.  She has worked as an ethnographer and social media researcher for various corporations, including Intel, Tribe.net, Google, and Yahoo! and serves on the board or advises Crisis Text Line, the National Museum of the American Indian, and the Electronic Privacy Information Center. 

Joseph Torres, senior external affairs director of Free Press, advocates in Washington to ensure that our nation’s media and telecom policies serve the public interest. He works closely with racial and media justice groups to ensure their voices are heard on key policy debates in the struggle for a more just and equitable media system.  Torres will receive the Everett C. Parker Award, given in recognition of an individual whose work embodies the principles and values of the public interest in telecommunications and the media.  He writes frequently on media and Internet issues and is also the co-author of The New York Times bestseller News for All the People: The Epic Story of Race and the American Media.” The book documents the harms caused to communities of color by the media as well as the struggle waged by people of color for a just media system. Torres also serves on the board of directors of the Center for Media Justice and the National Association of Latino Independent Producers. Before joining Free Press, Torres worked as deputy director of the National Association of Hispanic journalists.

Wally Bowen, a nationally-known advocate for local self-reliance via local ownership of media infrastructure, will receive the Donald H. McGannon Award. This year’s McGannon award is being given in recognition of Wally’s dedication to bringing modern telecommunications to low-income people in rural areas. He is the co-founder and executive director of the nonprofit Mountain Area Information Network (MAIN) in Asheville, N.C., a nonprofit internet service provider that offers internet service in western North Carolina. He is also the founder of the low power FM station WPVM and a former member of the North Carolina Rural Internet Access Authority. Wally’s vision and commitment to serving underserved people in rural areas inspired him to create MAIN in 1996 when only two counties in western North Carolina were served by commercial Internet Service Providers. He also led a decade-long effort to create the first public access TV channel in the mountain region of North Carolina. In these roles and others, Wally advocates that media reform needs to be accountable to our communities. He was an early advocate of locally-owned “middle-mile” fiber networks, such as ERC Broadband and Pangaea, while representing western North Carolina on the N.C. Rural Internet Access Authority. Bowen is the author of Local Network Cookbook (2009).

The Everett C. Parker Ethics in Telecommunications Lecture was created in 1982 to recognize the Rev. Dr. Everett C. Parker, founder of OC, Inc., and his pioneering work as an advocate for the public's rights in broadcasting. The event is the only lecture in the country to examine telecommunications in the digital age from an ethical perspective. Past speakers have included network presidents, Congressional leaders, and FCC chairs and commissioners, as well as academics, cable and telephone executives and journalists. More information is available at bit.ly/parkerlecture2015.
 
The Cleveland-based United Church of Christ, a Protestant denomination with more than 1 million members and nearly 5,200 local congregations nationwide, recognizes the unique power of the media to shape public understanding and thus society as a whole. For this reason, the UCC’s OC, Inc. has worked since its founding in 1959 to create just and equitable media structures that give a meaningful voice to diverse peoples, cultures and ideas.

# # #
 
United Church of Christ, Office of Communication, Inc.
Cheryl A. Leanza, media contact
202-904-2168
cleanza@alhmail.com

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