Tag Archives: politics

The Legacy of political journalist & reporter Gwen Ifill

by Oyin Akande

On November 14th, Gwen Ifill passed away, aged 61. Her name may or may not be familiar to you but her path-making has certainly made a hell of a mark on the news and media representation of African-American women. She was one of the leading political journalists and analysts in the U.S., an author and the host of PBS NewsHour, alongside Judy Woodruff and Washington Week. 

joel-barbee

Courtesy: Joel Barbee

Born, in New York, the daughter of Caribbean immigrants, she grew up in America in the 60s. It was then, aged 9, she decided she wanted to be a journalist. “I was very conscious of the world being this very crazed place that demanded explanation…I didn’t see a whole lot of people who looked like me doing it on television,” she recalled of her growing up in an interview for Archive of American Television.

Ms Ifill was widely recognised as a stellar journalist- characteristically fair and a straight-talker. When, in 2008, she moderated the vice-president debates between Governor Sarah Palin and Senator Joe Biden, some were concerned that she might be biased in favour of the Democrat, as she was writing a book on his running mate, Barack Obama. She proved herself true and “reached a high standard for reason, fairness and class,” in the words of James Rainey of The Los Angeles Times. She valued journalistic objectivity highly, saying once “my job as a reporter is not to know what I think.” She later won the George Foster Peabody Award for her 2008 campaign coverage.

Obama, himself, said of Ms Ifill at a news conference on the day of her death “Gwen was a friend of ours. She was an extraordinary journalist; she always kept faith with the fundamental responsibilities of her profession: asking tough questions, holding people in power accountable, and defending a strong and free press that makes our democracy work.” Her book ‘The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama’ was published in 2009, on the day of Obama’s inauguration.

Watch the videos below to hear  Gwen Ifill put Don Imus in his place in 2007 following racial slurs on the Rutgers University women’s basketball team in which he refers to them as ‘nappy headed hoes’ and the time he said of Gwen Ifill “Isn’t The Times wonderful. It lets the cleaning lady cover the White House.” Read her response to Imus in the New York Times here.

https://youtu.be/11FgpwGNEys

https://youtu.be/vuz34bRylNU

Annual book fair and authors night, National Press Club, 17 Nov. 2009. Photo: Michael Foley

Annual book fair and authors night, National Press Club, 17 Nov. 2009. Photo: Michael Foley

As a symbol, Gwen Ifill was a critically important pioneer. In 1999, she became the first African-American woman to host a major political TV talk show, the Washington Week in Review. Coming up in a period of audacious racism and entering an industry dominated by white men, she achieved great success as a journalism vanguard despite the obstacles she did face. She once said that her proudest moment was when she found herself surrounded by civil rights luminaries as M.C. at the dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on Independence Avenue in Washington.

slide1We have yet to balance media representations of African-American women and this is particularly felt in the U.S. Alongside her amazing example of black female excellence, Ifill felt a responsibility of being a good role model both as an African-American and a woman:

“When I was a little girl watching programs like this – because that’s the kind of nerdy family we were- I would look up and not see anyone who looked like me in any way. No women. No people of colour,” she said. “I’m very keen about the fact that a little girl now, watching the news, when they see me and Judy sitting side by side, it will occur to them that that’s perfectly normal -that it won’t seem like any big breakthrough at all.”

gwen-then-and-now-logos

 

Liv Little of gal-dem talks to thandiekay

Liv Little thandiekay.comMeet Liv Little, editor-in-chief and editor of gal-dem magazine. She’s a 22 year old final year Politics and Sociology student at the University of Bristol, interested in women’s rights.

Dynamo Liv has worked on campaigns for NGOs including the Dublin Simon Community, Women for Refugee Women and Restless Development. Addicted to documentaries and clothes, she hopes to create both one day.

Welcome to thandiekay Liv! KayX

 

 

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gal-dem group shot

gal-dem is all about showcasing the work of young women of colour.

We are free to write about anything we like, it doesn’t have to be race and gender specific. It fills a gap which doesn’t currently exist, we are beating essentialist notions around what a woman of colour is or should be.

Growing up

I was born and raised in South East London. My dad was born and raised in Jamaica but came here when he married my mum. He’s literally just retired back to Jamaica! My Mum was born in Stockwell, her parents are Guyanese.

Liv Little when little

I grew up in a diverse family environment – we have people from all over the shop – Jamaica, Guyana, Scotland and Israel. But my schooling definitely didn’t reflect that. My mum didn’t get a great education when she was younger, so made it her determination to send me to good schools.Screen Shot 2016-04-24 at 17.56.53

We lived a bit out of town to start with and it was quite a white working class area but I commuted into the wealthier part of town for school.

I went to Blackheath High, which was a rather posh private girls school and continued on to a grammar school in sixth form. I wasn’t one of many but diversity wasn’t as bad as it would have been at, say, a boarding school. I had micro aggressions to deal with, but never had to face overt forms of racism. I guess these underlying forms of racism which I’ve internalised are in some ways more difficult to come to terms with because for a long time they were so deeply ingrained in my being, it’s been an interesting process recognising these and trying to counter them.

Identity and Heritage

british-jamaicanI’d say my ‘British’ identity has always been much stronger than my Jamaican identity. My mum was born here and I grew up living with her, I’m sure my schooling and the people I’ve been around have influenced that too.

But I think whether or not I feel British has a lot to do with how other people perceive me. I mean when people constantly question where you are from and people ask you to pull out your family history down the pub, you start to realise that being British isn’t just about how you feel.

Media influences

Malorie Blackman thandiekay.com

Malorie Blackman

I absolutely loved everything written by Malorie Blackman – Noughts and Crosses was a very important series of books. My favourite TV shows were definitely Sister Sister, Tia and Tamara, Smart Guy, That’s so Raven, Tracy Beaker – I actually watched quite a breadth of shows starring black characters but they were all soooo American.

My first cinema trip and favourite film growing up was Spice World the Movie – I was in love with Gerri Halliwell and girrrrl power and then next came Harry Potter. Going to see these was like a religious event right up until the last one which was released when I was 18!

Influential people

My Mum was a massive inspiration growing up. So cheesy but she’s such a go-getter and always comes out well in the face of adversity. She tells me it’s down to her Buddhist practice, something that I’ve dipped in and out of from time to time.

At the moment, of course, the magical women that make up gal-dem inspire me endlessly, they are all incredible and have such a diverse body of talents. We literally have it all, from illustrators, to film makers and DJs – the fact that everyone juggles so many things and are making things happen is a massive inspiration.

gal-dem thandiekay.com

Young goals

I actually just found my year six year book – in which I stated that I wanted to be a fashion designer, before that I loved playing Animal Hospital and wanted to be a vet. I’m at University now studying Politics and Sociology trying to figure out what I’m going to do in life! I’m just finishing my dissertation-it’s  on credibility assessments in women’s claims for asylum.

Feminism, gender, research and race are definitely my areas of interest.

gal-dem thandiekay.com

Work

Jobs which I’ve loved have included doing research at Women for Refugee Women last summer and The Simon Community in Dublin the summer before. Just before I came to uni I did the typical gap year finding myself in India on the International Citizenship Service. Growing up I had many terrible catering jobs but alongside that I’ve always done internships/ work placements throughout school.

I’m currently a nanny a few days a week too, to generate a bit of extra income alongside my studies. I really hope that post-uni someone will give me a real job, I’ve had enough of interning on little money for now!

Relaxing

I actually find it pretty hard to switch off (which is definitely the fault of social media), though there is nothing better than sitting in the bath having a soak. Add a good documentary and I’m sorted.

gal-dem talking head thandiekay.com

A talking head on gal-dem

Academia = motivation for gal-dem

Throughout university, there have been instances and specific academics (symptomatic of wider institutional issues) that have made me want to scream, and if not scream, cry. Honestly I have met some incredible female academics that have been truly inspirational – but for everyone one of them there have been about five difficulties to contend with. Whether this is the blatant exclusion of people of colour from academic texts or being targeted by tutors when race related issues come up, operating in white spaces can be so alienating. And of course, these are issues that can be translated anywhere – in politics, in the creative world, etc. I needed something that would bring me some happiness, I needed to meet some WoC who had shared some of my experiences and learn from those who hadn’t.

Finding the team

It’s crazy actually at first it was just me putting calls out on Facebook groups for contributors and as we’ve grown we get more an more people applying and sending in pitches which is a wonderful things. Not all 60 contributors are regular but we do have specific set of women on whom we can rely, they are bloody brilliant!feeling-myself

Sometimes we post in our groups asking people to pick up stories, or if we’ve seen people share interesting opinions elsewhere we recruit them. Our inspiration comes from all over but I’m sure you’ve noticed a fair amount does come from our lived experience. Once I’ve graduated I hope to expand on all of the sections and churn out even more content!

At the moment we are looking for advertisers for our website so that we can grow it into a business.

I would love to have offices which we can all work out of and build a community of talented WoC in an environment where we can share our ideas and expand the reach of gal-dem.

Dream gal-dems!

My five dream gal-dem guest contributors with no limits are: Bim Adewunmi, Shami Chakrabati, Solange Knowles, Amandla Stenberg and Adwoa Aboah

ga--dem dream gals

In the future I’d love to start making documentaries around social issues and just interesting and unusual issues that do not get the coverage they should and maybe presenting.I’d also love to design clothes – I really want to get some sketches done over summer and knock up some prototypes.

I’m both excited and nervous for what graduation will bring.

 

Web: gal-dem.com/oliviasimonelittle.com

Twitter: @galdemzine/

Instagram: @galdemzine / @oliviasimonelittle

Facebook: facebook.com/galdemzine

 

 

 

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