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Social Change A Priority for Stuart Davis

By Tina Gomez
On April 18, 2015

As the human race progresses through the age of information and technology, we become more aware of the tools in our armory. We have come a long way from the twig and flint, and now rely on the necessity of the computer and modem. Without our social connection to other human beings, our daily struggle would be too immense to imagine. Hence, the ability to socialize and assemble has become much easier, due in part to the Internet. Consequently, along with the ease of assembly comes the rise of activism.

Assistant Professor of Communications at Texas A&M International University, Dr. Stuart Davis, gave The Bridge a deeper understanding behind the movement known as “community media” and his dutiful commitment to it. Dr. Davis recently received his PhD in Media Studies from the University of Texas at Austin, with concentrations in international communication and global media, development communication, and community-based media production.

“My research deals with community media, community journalism programs in informal/generalized communities” Davis informed us. “Which is to say that I looked at community journalism programs in favelas in Rio De Janeiro, [Brazil].”

You may feel like you are late to the conversation if this is your first time hearing the term “community media.” Davis understands the dynamic history and movement behind the term and gave a better explanation.

According to him, “Community media is grassroots journalism based in marginalized communities.” The power of reporting being shifted to the citizen, or any other community member, provides an untouched view of how news develops firsthand.

A fact unknown to many is that the foundations behind media journalism began with the ability to protest and the many movements behind social-economic world issues.

Davis explained that, “In that moment [the late 1990’s], you see a lot of activists from all over the world engaged in  --or participating in organizations for things like labor rights, indigenous activism, [and] environmentalism; all these different activists from different sectors coming together, talking.”

Davis continued, “They called it a ‘movement-of-movements’. You see all these social movements that had developed kind-of-sort-of alongside each other in ongoing conversations since the 1970’s; some [movements] like the women’s movement, … or even different international movements, or social movements.”

This is what drove activists to form non-governmental organizations (NGO’s). “One of the outcomes of these protests were that you had these new networks where people were coming together --working with each other and that turned into something called the World Social Forum [an NGO]; which was started in Brazil.”  stated Davis. Ultimately, this had led Davis to set foot and begin his research surrounding favelas (the Brazilian equivalent to slums) in Rio de Janeiro.

When asked why he decided to make his origin point in the Latin American country of Brazil he explained, “I had been interested in media activism and social movements in Brazil for a long time -- since the early 2000’s.” He continued, “I became interested in that because I was already doing activist work with a labor union for immigrant farmers in North Carolina, and that kind of got me interested in Brazil.”

Davis’ journey continues here at TAMIU, with hopes that he can continue his research surrounding the frontiers of community media with support from other TAMIU faculty.

He stated, “The reason I chose to come here was because of the potential to do work on things like media monitoring, and watchdog type activities about the way the media covers issues on the border; [emphasis on] the way media mainstream depicts images such as illegal immigration, drug trafficking, etc.”

Fortunately, Dr. Stuart Davis has decided to call Laredo home, where he will continue to work on the issues Laredoans face in their own backyards. The Bridge welcomes forward thinkers such as Dr. Davis, and we support his ongoing crusade for change within marginalized communities.

For comments of further questions you can reach Tina Gomez at cristina.gomez@dusty.tamiu.edu

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