Detroit Future Media graduates first class of community educators, entrepreneurs and activists

August 18, 2011

DETROIT – Over 30 Detroit residents became the first class of graduates from the Detroit Future Media Workshops last Saturday in the Allied Media Projects Theatre. In all, 34 community members completed a total of 22 weeks in advanced specialized media training followed workshops in entrepreneurship, education or community organizing with the overall goal of building a community media economy in the city.

Three-hour classes twice a week in video production, audio engineering, web and graphic design made up the first part of the coursework. Students then completed the second half of the coursework designed to compliment their current occupations or career goals related to education, entrepreneurship or community organizing. Graduates are now charged to pass on those skills in the various communities of Detroit to create jobs, foster cooperative economics and support community based media organizing.

“There were so many challenges setting up this program at such an accelerated pace and not having a precedence in setting up a program like this – especially with the class structure that we decided on,” said DFM Program Coordinator Joe Namy. “We knew we wanted to make the classes as diverse as possible – intergenerational and inclusive of a variety of skillsets and backgrounds. It’s very hard to keep such a diverse group engaged and committed, but in the end I feel like this was our biggest success. This is what made the program so rich. We allowed for a space where our elders and youth and everyone in between could interact and engage each other all around media.”

Completing the education track were Isaac Miller, Joseph Rodriguez Tanner, Martha Obringer, Matthew Cross, Jason Graves, Triana Kazaleh-Sirdenis, Michael Polk, Renee Newman, Jason Graves, Dr. Conja Wright, Sanaa Green and Vanden Spady. Completing the entrepreneurial track were Amos White, Dr. Angela D. Allen, Barry Thomas, Dr. Charles Simmons, Craig Peterson, Deleana Hill, Eddi Gonzales, Fernando Parraz, Jon Blount, Karen Gates, Lydia Debnar, Matthew Love, Nathaniel Mullen III, Piper Carter, Sean Thomas, Stanley Kirk, Tiwana Carmichael and Tonya Warren.

Graduates of the social justice track were Corey McCord, Paul Abowd, Moudu Boqui, Rhonda Anderson, Sarah Coffey and Patrick Ali. Of the 34 participants, some only completed the media portion of the training.
Instructors in the various courses were Janel Yamashiro (web/education), Imad Hassan (video/education), Ron Watters (graphics/entrepreneur), Darren Vaugh (audio), Marisol Teachworth (education), Diana Nucera (entrepreneur) and Jenny Lee (social justice).

“It takes a special kind of instructor to be able to facilitate this,” Namy said."Our instructors have all said they learned as much as the students throughout this process."

Local activist, Rich Feldman attended both the opening ceremony for DFM and the graduation. He reflected on the accomplishments of the program, saying, “As I watched people's faces (graduates, family and friends) and felt their enthusiasm, I remember the filled room in February or March when we were just inaugurating this historic initiative. The sense of pride, the sense of accomplishment, the commitment to each other, the critical connections, relationship born and nurtured, the visioning of community and a responsibility to define our collective future was all present. It was special hearing the words, the clapping, the energy while seeing the graduation scarfs as a symbol of birthing of another dream moving hopes into reality." 

Detroit Future Media is a program under the Detroit Digital Justice Coalition. The DDJC is comprised of people and organizations in Detroit who believe that communication is a fundamental human right and works to secure those rights through activities grounded in the digital justice principles of: access, participation, common ownership, and healthy communities.

Namy added that the DFM’s first graduating class is only the first step in the program’s work to build a better future rooted in the idea of uplifting the citizens of Detroit’s inner city communities.

"We're currently working on our in-school program, placing some of the DFM participants as teaching artists working with 12 teachers in Detroit, Hamtramck, and Highland Park. After this we will focus on our next round of workshops, which we expect to start around October/November. In the meantime we'll be having some additional community events, if people are interested in finding more about our programing they can email me and I can put them on our mailing list,

"We're also developing a web platform through which graduates of Detroit Future Media will have profiles and can market their curricula, trainings, goods and services to the wider Detroit community.  Keep checking to stay in touch with us."