By Jason Fuller
As a young journalist in the making, interviewing Malkia Cyril from the Center for Media Justice was suave. I am a firm believer in media literacy acting as an interpretation tool, thus speaking with one of the giants in media justice was in retrospect intimidating. After viewing and listening to several of Malkia’s speeches I felt as though I knew Malkia personally. I could relate to the strong-knit family values, and the importance of having a nuclear family that made a significant contribution to her identity. Her poetic delivery as well as tone spoke volumes, and made me feel as though I was in the same room as Malkia. While doing background research, I watched a video of Malkia where she stated, “Media literacy is not a sexy synonym for diversity.” This very quote gave me goose bumps and provided me with mental sustenance.
After watching the videos online, I was mentally prepared for the years of knowledge, activism and passion, which would be funneled into a 30 to 40 minute interview (well at least I thought I was). As Malkia began speaking with us, I was immediately blown away by the years of pro-activeness that Malkia has contributed to the media literacy movement. From serving on the FCC’s committee and coming to the aid of the organization “Quote Unquote” when they experienced pushback from funders, to mandating the reduction in costs of family phone calls to the incarcerated. Each example demonstrates the hunger for equality and justice throughout the nation.
Hearing so much of this information made me stop within the midst of the interview and question my level of critical thinking, activism and contributions to society. For Malkia (with the help of CMJ) to accomplish so much, and never experiencing burnout was very impressive; this can only be accomplished by balancing service, activism, and at times anger, with one’s personal needs. I certainly gained a greater picture of the Center for Media Justice & Media Literacy Project’s vision, goals, and diligent media justice activism. After this interview, I walked off dazed as if I had been in the dark for years. I began thinking of ways for media literacy to remain in the forefront while pursuing a career as an international correspondent.
Although the interview was ground-breaking, I felt restricted. I wanted to have a more interpersonal interview with Malkia. I wanted to know of the trials and tribulations she endured while finding herself. Asking her questions about her childhood, personal hobbies, life & experience as a queer woman of color fighting for justice and shortcomings in life would be ideal. But I do have her contact information so perhaps this is still achievable.
As a huge sports fanatic, I often try to imagine being in Lebron James’s shoes; He is without question the greatest basketball player in the world. He has two championship rings, five Most Valuable Player awards (MVP) and two Olympic Gold medals. But at all times he is compared to Michael Jordan’s legacy, and for countless years he always came up short. Now Lebron did not make things easy on himself as he crowned himself “The King” during his rookie year in the league, however his issue was trying to be like Jordan. And after he let this fall to the wayside, he transformed his craft and as a result his name is paramount to the game of basketball.
The moral of this story for me is to not get caught up in that which another person has accomplished, for this stunts one’s growth. By all means, it is great to look up to people like Malkia, but trying to be them is futile because their success is just that, theirs. I am on my own quest and everyone who I have obtained knowledge from makes my awakening that much more breathtaking.