My voice and demands for accountability in Georgia political coverage have caused biased reporting by WABE and the AJC. There is nothing new about attempts to undermine or discredit Black women. Like Ida B. Wells, I will not be silenced. My voice, my brand, and the spaces I have been blessed to occupy are important and valuable, regardless of who decides that I am worthy of their shine and attention. Last month, I was approached about doing a story on me and my grassroots work. The impression was that I have not been accurately represented by local media, this would be an opportunity to be heard. It was not until this past Monday that I had any indication this story was going to be anything potentially negative. Trust matters.
I have never required anyone’s platform to elevate my own thoughts and positions. Earlier iterations of my blogging, at times, had no one besides my parents or siblings reading the pieces. I was fine because I was writing, and knew that someday people would read and hear what I had to say. Over the past few years, other bloggers and then independent media commentators and hosts have reached out to engage my voice and perspective in ongoing dialogues about the issues directly affecting our country and the world around us.
We have to talk about liberating minds as well as liberating society. – Angela Davis
If anyone is confused about my motivation, it is simple: I was raised in a communal environment by forward-thinking Black people focused on uplifting the community. At my core, there is a commitment to addressing systemic injustice, and one avenue I have seen as viable is through electoral politics. This is not the only path, but I refuse to cede ground to those who do not put our interests and communities first.
Although Black women are heralded for our overwhelming civic participation, our value extends only as far as it can be used in the furtherance of someone else’s political agenda. If and when we are a threat to the status quo we are attacked and discarded. Not this time.
At a time when we are organizing and building in the south and expanding opportunity for electoral gains, while people are championing Black Women, there are forces here in Georgia who would rather see me go away. I am respected in many spaces and understand the importance of building in relationship across communities. This state is ready for a great change and that scares certain people. They do not understand their place, in a Georgia that is truly reflective and representative of all. We must stay the course even while addressing the hypocrisy in our midst.
Black writers have been under attack before and we will continue to be under attack so long as we are challenging the status quo and the inner workings of white supremacy. Over the past 48 hours, WABE and The Atlanta Journal have doubled down on inaccurate mischaracterizations of me, my voice, and my work. This is what happens to Black Women on the rise of actualizing our fullest potential.
The selective support and elevation of Black women when it suits particular interests do not go unnoticed. In the coverage by both outlets, there are several key things intentionally left out to craft a narrative with the only purpose of undermining who I am.
“Discomfort is always a necessary part of enlightenment” – Pearl Cleage
When I raised an objection with the “journalist” as my response to his fact check ahead of the story was completely disregarded, he assured me the web story would have more nuance. Specifically, I challenged the overall tone and characterization of the piece. The omitted information and discussion of my actual work and experience resulted in a mischaracterization of who I am and what I do. I have my own blog and podcast. I have done interviews and contributed to multiple outlets. I choose who to work with based on the integrity of the hosts and their reputation in their own field.
Despite our lengthy conversation, there was no mention of my work with Women for Bernie which is how I started doing interviews. Something I specifically clarified more than once so that it was clearly understood how I got started. From that, I began working with Benjamin Dixon, Editor in Chief and founder of the blog Progressive Army. I contributed regularly during the 2016 election to his show and as a host of my own weekly show, The Way with Anoa.
When I was asked why I didn’t simply go on Democracy Now or some other platform instead of Eugene Puryear’s By Any Means Necessary, I was dumbfounded that I needed to explain to Kauffman that absent a high national profile one does not simply demand access to anyone else’s space. I do not seek out interviews, people ask me to contribute and sometimes I do and sometimes I decline.
The WABE piece failed to reference any of the other information I shared with Kauffman during our initial interview or subsequent updates. Because it didn’t fit the framing of a particular narrative he had in mind. I explained several times that overgeneralizing and feeding into the fear of Russia that has grasped our national politics the last year is problematic. Yes, we need to have commentary and conversation about Russian “interference” or “influence” but those are two different words that are used interchangeably and do not mean the same thing. As I explained to Kauffman, the Russia issues as it pertains to threats to our Democracy are but one aspect of a much larger problem.
Without any regard to the degree of pushback on social media, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution decided to run an entry in its blog about the WABE story with NO MENTION of the pushback happening against the station and NPR. The same piece claims I am “under scrutiny.” Vague and heavy-handed these people are. Like scrutiny from where? From whom? An outlet currently being blasted for a ridiculous article that is itself could be construed as state-sponsored propaganda? What is this the mean girl’s lunch table? And somehow I’m under scrutiny but others here who have been on Russian “backed” platforms are not? How sway?
“To be afraid is to behave as if the truth were not true…” – Bayard Rustin
Any time we stand up or speak out we are treated as THE problem. We get pushed to action.
Black political activists and thinkers have been undermined by trying to smear us by association with foreign enemies of America have been going back several decades. That is my point. Eugene has control over the contents of his show. That fact actually does matter and isn’t emphasized nearly enough. Without it, this entire conversation is seriously misleading. My contributing to By Any Means Necessary is not newsworthybut for the contrived hysteria around Russia.
I wrote about this in The Nation last November, after reporter Greg Bluestein of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution attacked Marcus Ferrell, former African American Outreach Director for Bernie Sanders and former Deputy Campaign Manager for Stacey Abrams. Bluestein ran an article with a clickbait headline, without even contacting Marcus for comment. Only after Marcus contacted Bluestein raising his objections to the egregious errors, omissions and misrepresentations did Bluestein have the story updated. Bluestein’s initial posting also failed to mention other guests of note on the show including individuals from Planned Parenthood, elected officials and nationally recognized journalists. Ultimately, the story notes that Marcus said nothing controversial. Unknown to us at the time, while Marcus was being attacked for doing thoughtful commentary on By Any Means Necessary, others in here in Georgia had done commentary on RT. Funny how the only concern that was raised was in connection with a woman on track to make history as the First Black woman Governor of Georgia.
I watched my friend work through the anxiety of the whispering and the insinuations that, by conversing with another Black man about the ongoing conversation here on Confederate monuments and their removal, he did something wrong. Few looked past the clickbait headline. Jena Garland, then Press Secretary for Former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed retweeted out the erroneous story on Marcus with the comment “I’m one Georgian who is concerned about Russia’s interference in our democracy.” Except for nothing in the piece about Marcus provides credible information about alleged threats to our Democracy here in Georgia in connection with interviews on By Any Means Necessary. Disclosures show that at the time of her twitter comment she had donated to the Evans campaign.
During the same period, a vocal surrogate for the Evans campaign, former Georgia State Representative LaDawn Jones had done commentary on Ed Schulz show on RT, aka Russia Today. Just as LaDawn is not being attacked for her clear commentary and analysis on important headline news; neither should myself, Marcus, or anyone else in this state who has provided balanced commentary on these outlets.
Marcus was more heavily scrutinized than the sitting member of the Georgia Legislature, who threatened a high profile Black woman over her stance on removing the monuments. Misleading comments on tweets and clickbait headlines do far more damage to our voices and our opportunities for advancement. They shift the narratives and undermine potential to grow new alliances.
I was ready to fight for my friend, but we decided at that time to let this be, in order to not distract from the growing efforts of a campaign that we both believed in. At the time of my article, people asked if I had other examples of Black progressives being attacked over alleged Russian influence. I never knew that I would become a prime example of what is wrong with reckless disregard for facts, nuance, and context in covering our stories. Students of history know this is also how Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was attacked in the midst of his amazing work.
On the right? Who on the right is embracing this story? Or any of my work?
— Adolfina Villanueva aka Black Justice (@TheWayWithAnoa) April 20, 2018
Sorry to disappoint folks, the right isn’t embracing me or my narratives. I haven’t ever been on Fox News for example and if anything I have been attacked on multiple fronts for addressing systemic racism and mischaracterization of the work of Black leaders. Claiming that I’m being used by the right is white supremacy working in action and yes people of color sadly toil to maintain the stranglehold of white supremacy.
When you play me, you play yourself. – Beyonce
It was important to address what has happened this week, but overall these types of smears distract us from the goal of collectively building what it takes to win. It is sad that so-called liberals and even those who may consider themselves progressive would feel the need to do this. Clearly, they do not understand the bigger picture of what it takes to win with an inclusive cadre of engaged citizens.
By impugning my credibility these stories seek to divorce numerous individuals, organizations, and political leaders from me by labeling me as tainted. My only purpose has been to be an asset to whatever spaces I am blessed to occupy. I believe in leveraging platforms with good conversations and good people doing good work. I am selective about who I engage with, when and where. Building relationships with those who want to see our communities do better is not wrong. It is what we ought to be doing.
I want to thank everybody. My voice is important. Our voice is important. So many of you have stood in solidarity with me this week and it is greatly appreciated. These are just a few of those who have held me down and countless others offline.
— Jami Miller 🌹🌻☭🏴 (@pixieonmoon) April 20, 2018
This headline is a throwback to the McCarthy/HUAC era. Why haven't you asked yourselves why foreign media does a better job covering American social issues than mainstream domestic ones? @TheWayWithAnoa does real work. Do better. https://t.co/htttxaB7bU
— Torraine Walker (@TorraineWalker) April 19, 2018
— Metro Atlanta DSA 🌹 (@MetroATLDSA) April 19, 2018
Our country needs more fearless progressive women of color like @TheWayWithAnoa leading the fight for racial & economic justice, voicing the need for inclusive populist political change anywhere and everywhere she can. Can’t wait to have her at our training in ATL this weekend.
— DemocracyForAmerica (@DFAaction) April 19, 2018
— Dr. Goddess (@drgoddess) April 20, 2018
Thank you to my parents who have endured through their own years of activism and struggle, and my children who are Black excellence on the rise. We are not discouraged. We stand resolute and strong whether 10 people stand with me or 1,000.
However, we cannot get caught up in the weeds as there is a bigger picture at stake. We are organizing to win and will not stop.
I am my own voice. I am my own person. No one tells me what to do or say. I am moved by the strength and sacrifice of the women in my family, community and those who now reside amongst our ancestors.