Guerrilla Journalism: $25K Fund-Raiser For Grassroots Media Countering Corporate News Slant

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The publisher of a newspaper founded with seed-money from Bill Cosby is part of a new project -- a crowd-sourcing fund-raising campaign for $25,000 to create a grassroots-based and owned media company that will empower regular folks in African American communities to report and tell their own stories.

The crowd-sourcing campaign on Go Fund Me has already raised $3,000 towards its goal with contributions ranging from $15 to $500 from a total of 46 supporters so far. The campaign will last until June 30, 2015.

"There is no reason why people at the grassroots should be at the mercy of publications such as The New York Times, The Daily News, or The New York Post, who get to determine what stories are worth telling, which ones never get told, and how these stories are are told," says Milton Allimadi, publisher of New York City-based The Black Star News (www.blackstarnews.com).

For the past four years, Allimadi has been teaching a free journalism workshop --basic reporting and news writing and critique of news stories-- every Monday, from 6PM to 9PM at Sankofa International Academy, the independent Afro-centric learning center, whose proprietor is Sister Ollie McClean, in Brooklyn's Bed-Stuy neighborhood, in New York.

He launched the workshop, Guerrilla Journalism first in Harlem at the Black River Dance Studio on Malcolm X Avenue and 128 Street, before moving to the current location at Sankofa Academy. Anyone can attend the workshop -- participants include people who are between jobs, teachers, a construction worker, high school school students, recent college grads, a retired cop, financial analysts, a building superintendent, poets, and self-employed vendors. Between 15 to 25 people attend on any given day. The participants ages ranges from 12 years old to a 90-year old, Rev. C. Herbert Oliver, who participated in the civil rights struggle and led boycotts in Birmingham, Alabama, back in the day.

Four people joined the workshop after listening to Allimadi during his regular morning commentaries every Tuesday at 7.10 AM on WBAI on 99.5 FM or www.wbai.org on Michael G. Haskins' "The Morning Show."

"Many of the so-called mainstream publications only focus on stories about crime in most African American communities as if those are the only things that happen there; and as if crime doesn't occur in other neighborhoods, including on Wall Street and the suburbs," Allimadi says. "When we report about crime, it's important that people understand the context -- the stories must also look at unemployment, which for Black people has been consistently double that the rate of Whites for the past 50 years. We need to look at the abysmal conditions in the public schools; when you combine lack of adequate education with lack of job opportunities and training, or access to financing to launch businesses, you don't need rocket science to understand the reasons behind many of the problems."

Also when it comes to covering the conduct of police officers in African American communities, Allimadi notes that the so-called mainstream media are often be manipulated by police departments. "When Eric Garner was strangled to death by Darren Wilson, an NYPD cop on Staten Island, the first article on July 17, 2014 in The New York Times didn't even mention the chokehold," he says. "That's because the police had fed the Times with a false and misleading story; what if Ramsey Orta had never taken that video on his phone? We never would've known what really happened. So we need critical media that aren't always quick to buy the police version of these incidents."

Allimadi also points out that after Darren Wilson killed Michael Brown, The New York Times published a story about the victim, Brown, in which the article stated that he was "no angel." He adds: "Which one of us is an angel in this world? That's the kind of article that taints the perception of potential jurors or people on a grand jury. Combined with an incompetent prosecutor such as Bob McCulloch in St. Louis, no wonder Darren Wilson wasn't indicted."

Allimadi studied at the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia university in New York. He then interned for The Wall Street Journal before reporting for The New York Times as a freelancer for the Metro News Desk for a number of years after which he became deputy-editor of The City Sun, a legendary weekly African American newspaper that was published by the late Andrew Cooper.

Allimadi then co-founded The Black Star News, which focuses on investigative and general news in 1997 with seed-funding from Camille and Bill Cosby. The Black Star News has been credited for breaking several major news stories by publications such as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times Magazine, The Daily News, The New York Post, and Brill's Content Magazine.

The workshop teaches many aspects of journalism -- the inverted pyramid news-writing style; how to ask questions for reporting; how to write a strong news lede; how to ensure that the story supports the lede; and, the use of quotes. The workshop members also learn to critique articles from so-called mainstream newspapers, and how to detect distortions, slants, and hidden biases. Participants also critique the writings of their colleagues in a no-holds barred approach. A few people with tender-skin have not returned after spirited critique of their work by colleagues. 

The workshop has also benefited from visits by prominent journalists as guest speakers, including: the late Gil Noble, Host and Producer of "Like It Is," on ABC T.V.; Les Payne, the Pulitzer Prize winning reporter and editor at Newsday; Carla Murphy, investigative reporter at ColorLines Magazine; Candace Kelley, a former reporter at BET News; and, Herb Boyd, senior reporter at The Amsterdam News.

"By coming consistently every Monday for four years many of these writers have now become good journalists," Allimadi says. "And with the Go Fund Me campaign they now want to take it to the next level by creating their own grassroots-based and owned news media outlet with an office, a website, computers, cameras, recorders, and other equipment. They want to cover stories in Bed-Stuy and from there cover other parts of the City."

"This is a way for people to take control of their stories and their destiny. With all these killings of unarmed African Americans going on, including Garner, and Brown. Akai Gurley, Tamir Rice, Eric Harris, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, Malissa Williams, Timothy Russell, and many others, we need media outlets that whose stories won't focus only on the police's version of events," Allimadi says.

"Ultimately, the goal is to have Guerrilla Journalism grow to other neighborhoods throughout the country." 

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