The United Church of Christ Media Justice Ministry announced today that Talila “TL” Lewis, co-founder and outgoing director of the cross-disability abolitionist organization HEARD, will receive UCC Media Justice Ministry’s McGannon Award. Lewis will be honored in recognition of special contributions in advancing justice—specifically for Lewis’s path-breaking advocacy with and for disabled incarcerated people, and work to identify and address the inextricable links between ableism and all forms of oppression.
Lewis co-founded HEARD in 2011 to support deaf, deafblind, deafdisabled, and hard of hearing people affected by incarceration, especially those who were wrongfully convicted. Lewis went on to work on numerous deaf wrongful conviction cases; and provide direct advocacy for incarcerated community members while serving as HEARD’s volunteer director for nearly a decade. Under Lewis’s stewardship, HEARD grew into a cross-disability abolitionist organization that works to end ableism, racism, capitalism, and all other forms of oppression and violence.
Lewis and HEARD’s tiny team (almost all-volunteer for a decade) have advocated with and for thousands of deaf/disabled defendants, incarcerated, and returned people and their loved ones.
Beyond direct advocacy, Lewis is a thought leader, educator, and consultant who works to identify and interrupt the interconnected social, cultural, and structural hierarchies that assign some people and communities less value than others based on “socially constructed ideas of normalcy, productivity, desirability, intelligence, excellence, and fitness.” (Learn more at bit.ly/ableism2022).
Cheryl A. Leanza, policy advisor at UCC Media Justice, said, “TL’s tenacity leaves me in awe. Nothing stops TL’s campaign for abolition of all forms of incarceration and work to illuminate the stories and needs of multiply-marginalized and incarcerated people. TL worked for years without pay to lead an organization laser-focused on its values and the people most in need on the inside and returning home. Beyond this, TL’s thought leadership helps everyone, whether in the advocacy sector, the government sector, or beyond.”
Lewis will join Parker Lecturer Maya Wiley and Parker Award recipient Jessica J. Gonzalez at the September 22 event in Washington D.C.
The McGannon Award is named after Donald H. McGannon who was a broadcasting industry executive during the formative years of the television industry in the United States. As chairman of the Westinghouse Broadcasting Company, McGannon used his prominence in broadcasting to influence the regulations, standards, and practices of broadcasting. He was a vocal advocate of social responsibility in broadcasting and worked to educate the public through television.
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.