Techbook Online Corporation – the news and event company involved in the historic partnership between Philadelphia Magazine and black talk radio station 900am-WURD to produce a social justice themed podcast to be released across platforms on Martin Luther King, Jr., Day – over the years has developed a reputation for its ability to pursue justice and push-back against local government, on behalf of the people it serves, while maintaining a relationship with said government to influence policy and produce events that promote civic engagement and reform.
The announcement Wednesday morning that I, the CEO of Techbook Online, will co-anchor, along with Philadelphia Magazine Associate Editor Mr. Malcolm Burnley, a special podcast presentation on the topic of effective white allyship, reflects on not only my journalistic competency – which was self-taught and matriculated in the streets instead of classrooms – but mine, and the company’s, social justice bona fides, which were earned during a more than five year commitment of foregoing the status quo in favor of revolutionary, pro-community actions.
My desire in this space isn’t to brag – though bragging seems to be germane to the news industry, whether its touting ratings and page views, the amount of corruption exposed or social change made via one’s reporting or the profitability of one’s institution – instead I aim to reiterate mine and the company’s commitment to social justice, remind the public of the meaningful work Techbook Online has already done, particularly in 2016, and manage expectations for the year ahead.
The announcement of my participation in the forthcoming podcast, which counts among its guest Mrs. Leslie Mac, the co-creator of the Safety Pin Box, is the biggest news I have to share thus far in 2017, but I anticipate that title will soon be given to another context, especially if 2016 is to be considered a foreshadow.
Last year, I – and by proxy, Techbook Online – organized on behalf of the Mayor of Philadelphia a meeting between he and his administration and key members of the racial justice advocacy community, including Black Lives Matter activists. Months later, the mayor, Mr. Jim Kenney and his police commissioner, Mr. Richard Ross, agreed to participate in a town hall co-organized by Techbook Online on the subject of stop-and-frisk, a policing tactic that has been widely misused in the city.
Later in the year, despite the controversial nature that the town hall took on, Mayor Kenney appointed me and more than two dozen other black males to a commission meant to advise him on policies that would increase the quality of life for African-American men in the City; and Commissioner Ross – though we spoke briefly after the raucous town hall about Black Lives Matter and politics – and I remained somewhat at odds due to his reluctance to both raise the standards of stop-and-frisk to probable cause and host a public hearing regarding the policies governing body camera technology.
Despite resistance from the Philadelphia Police Department, a body camera hearing is more than likely going to occur during the month of February – the Philadelphia City Council, months after I, a member of local government and activists held a press conference demanding a forum to express concerns, in early December unanimously agreed to it – and many (social justice) organizations in the City, including mine, will be involved.
Also last year, I penned my first article for Philadelphia Magazine, which outlined the challenges in getting a miracle HIV prevention drug into the hands of those who need it most; and I moderated, on behalf of the presidential campaign to elect Mrs. Hillary Clinton, a conversation with the mothers of the late Mr. Eric Garner and Mr. Dontre Hamilton, a discussion meant to encourage mass voter turnout and lift up the need for serious change in American policing. Techbook Online in 2017 will continue to pursue change in local policing via traditional and unconventional measures – Philly Mag in 2015 recognized me as a source on police reform and the Black Lives Matter movement.
While I respect the sitting police commissioner, he has neither met nor exceeded my expectations; he has remained largely hidden and protected behind bureaucracy and subpar journalism. This year, Philadelphians can expect Techbook Online to pick up the fight around the racial disparities in marijuana arrest: Mr. Kenney, as a City Councilman, decriminalized marijuana due to the fact that blacks were four times more likely than whites to be arrested for possession, despite the usage among racial groups being identical; and though the number of arrests have decreased, the racial disparities continue largely unmitigated.
Additionally, Techbook Online this year plans to reignite the conversation around stop-and-frisk: Mayor Kenney in 2016 declared Philadelphia a Fourth Amendment City, yet the PPD refuses to do its pedestrian stops on the Fourth Amendment standard of probable cause; the inconsistency is troubling, to say the least. This year, the company’s internal mantra is “agitate to advance,” and that will be reflected in everything produced, in terms of both news and events. For those involved with Techbook Online, the concept of social justice, and the act of pursuing it, goes beyond a podcast, article or event, and extends into our daily lives.
No matter how far up the proverbial social ladder I ascend, pursuing social justice in Philadelphia and beyond will remain a top priority… you have my words on that.
Thanks for reading. Until next time, I’m Flood the Drummer® & I’m Drumming for JUSTICE!™
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Photo courtesy of the author.