Maya Wiley, the nationally recognized civil rights leader, will deliver the 40th annual Everett C. Parker Lecture, the United Church of Christ Media Justice Ministry announced today, and Jessica J. González, co-CEO of Free Press, will receive the group’s prestigious Parker Award at the September 22 event.

The annual lecture and awards breakfast comes at a time when recent events, including the covid-19 pandemic, have highlighted the role that media and misinformation can play in shaping history and the importance of wider and easier access to broadband connectivity. The ministry, formerly known as the UCC Office of Communication, Inc. (OC Inc.) will be celebrating one year under its new moniker as the lecture returns to an in-person event at First Congregational United Church of Christ in Washington that will be hosted simultaneously online.

Maya Wiley

Wiley is the newly appointed president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. She has worked as a litigator for the American Civil Liberties Union, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Inc., and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, and served as a legal analyst for MSNBC from 2018 to 2021. She co-founded the Center for Social Inclusion (CSI), a national policy strategy organization working to end structural racism, which is now part of Race Forward. In addition to her long work on civil rights issues, Wiley served as counsel to then-New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio and played a critical role in the city’s rollout of affordable broadband services, building on her work at CSI and championing a $10 million investment in affordable broadband in the city. Subsequently she founded the Digital Equity Laboratory at New School University and served as its senior vice president for social justice.

Earl Williams Jr., chair of the UCC Media Justice Ministry board, said, “We are so pleased that the fortieth annual Parker Lecture will feature Maya Wiley’s vision for racial equity and deep expertise on the importance of technology in achieving that equity and protecting civil rights.”

Jessica J. Gonzalez

González will receive the 2022 Parker Award, given in recognition for work that embodies the spirit and mission of the late Rev. Dr. Everett C. Parker, who founded the UCC Media Justice Ministry. González is an attorney whose advocacy spans a wide range of media justice and racial justice issues. As a former beneficiary herself of the Lifeline program that subsidizes telecommunications services for low-income households, González has worked diligently to fend off attacks on the program. At Free Press and at her prior position at the National Hispanic Media Coalition, she has been a champion of net neutrality and media diversity, and a forceful opponent of media consolidation. She co-founded Change the Terms, building a coalition of more than 60 civil- and digital-rights groups seeking to address online hate speech, and helped lead the “Stop Hate for Profit” boycott, seeking to persuade online companies to take more responsibility for deterring hate speech on their platforms.

Tickets and additional information about the event are available through EventBrite and on the UCC Media Justice web page.

About the UCC Media Justice Ministry and the Parker Lecture

The United Church of Christ Media Justice Ministry, formerly known as the Office of Communications, Inc., was founded in 1959, just two years after the formation of the UCC as a denomination. Rev. Parker launched the organization and led it until his retirement in 1982. Parker was inspired by the work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to reform television coverage of the civil rights movement in the South. His advocacy in the 1960s resulted in the establishment of the right of all American citizens to participate in hearings before the Federal Communications Commission and the FCC’s 1969 decision to terminate the broadcast license of WLBT-TV in Jackson, Miss., for its failure to cover its local Black community and the civil rights movement, and thus failing to serve the public interest.

The Parker Lecture was created in 1982 to recognize Parker’s pioneering work as an advocate for the public’s rights in broadcasting. The Parker Lecture is the only program of its kind in the United States that examines telecommunications in the digital age from an ethical perspective.

About the United Church of Christ

The United Church of Christ (UCC) is a distinct and diverse community of Christians that come together as one church to join faith and action. With approximately 5,000 churches and nearly one million members across the United States, the UCC serves God in the co-creation of a just and sustainable world.

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