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nan-media-panelCharlotte Haywood believes the problem with media nowadays is that it’s hard to get a positive image of young people, which she expressed to Reverend Al Sharpton and his “Role of Media in Crafting the Social Narrative” panel at the National Action Network convention last Friday. And this is part of the problem she is finding herself in with getting her reality show of young black teenagers doing community service on the air. “Our numbers aren’t high enough,” Haywood said. “They’re not as high as the kids who rap about violence or the girl who is on the pole, and it’s really hard to get a positive image of black kids.”

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The consensus of the panel, which included New York Times op-ed columnist Charles Blow, Jet Magazine’s editor-in-chief, Mitzi Miller, Melissa Harris-Perry of MSNBC, and Joe Madison, host of Sirius XM’s radio show, The Black Eagle, was that black people must work together and do the work we want to see so there will be changes in today’s media.

The African American image in the media seems to only be centered around crime, so that’s what most of America may think of us. If someone has been shot or arrested, the first person they are going to ask for commentary will nine times out of 10 is black. But if situation is surrounding immigration laws or issues of health, our voice doesn’t seem to be there.

“We care about the same things as whites,” said Joy Reid, of The Grio, who was also on the panel. “News is biased toward conflict. We have to remind the mainstream media that we are whole.”

“Do not undervalue our experiences, because if you do it’s as if it doesn’t count,” Madison said. “You’re dumbing down the message.”

Media has transformed into just more than what we see on TV, hear on the radio, or read in magazines.  The inclusion of the Internet and social media is a necessary force to get the word out, but it’s what happens after we press send that counts the most. “We need your support,” said Miller, “that’s how you’ll hear your stories.” So it’s all about coming out to events, subscribing to magazines and online newsletters, and paying dues in addition to having conversation. It’s one thing for US to talk about our issues, but we want the whole world to know.

And we can make things a national matter. Let’s just take Trayvon Martin, for instance. His story came out of a small town in Florida, a story we all might not have known. “Trayvon Martin wasn’t a national story until young black men said, ‘No, that could be me,'” Madison said.

We need to be the change we want to see. “We as black people are socially conditioned,” he continued. “We believe in our own inferiority.”

Watch the entire panel discussion below.

(Photo via NAN)

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