For years, some people have questioned the images being constantly presented to them on TV and radio, but one 2010 graduate has created a unique way to help others challenge the media.
Nuala Cabral is the cofounder of FAAN Mail, or “Fostering Activism and Alternatives Now!”
“It is a media literacy and activist project that tries to critique, create and promote media with social change in mind,” Cabral said during an interview she had with Power 99, Philadelphia’s hip hop and R&B music station.
Cabral was a graduate student who studied broadcast mass communication with a concentration in media literacy education. She came to Temple to study under a professor whose experience motivated her to launch FAAN Mail.
Cabral said the issues of gender and race in the media, as well as activism, have always interested her and were things she researched at Temple. However, it wasn’t until the end of her senior year that FAAN Mail came to life.
“I saw a music video that went viral that was problematic, with its messages that was basically promoting nonconsensual sex and promiscuous sex,” Cabral said. “I thought we should respond to this, because little girls really look up to this girl because she was a Cheetah girl.”
The video she was referring to was “Spectacular” by Kiely Williams, former 3LW member and Cheetah Girl, a Disney Channel movie and group. An open letter campaign was started and generated many responses against the video, prompting Williams’ manager to respond to some of the letters.
Williams added a disclaimer under her video, which said she was only portraying a character and “wrote ‘Spectacular’ and made the video to bring attention to a serious women’s health and safety issue.”
After this incident, Cabral took action.
“We saw this opportunity where we could do more of this,” she said. “This is how it should be; there should be dialogue about the media that we see.”
This dialogue then led to talkbacks, in which some people in the community meet at people’s houses and critique media as well as discuss alternatives they’d like to see. These discussions are recorded and posted on the FAAN Mail website.
There are also conversations with media corporations such as Clear Channel, where they discussed misogyny, and Power 99, where they discussed the mission of FAAN Mail.
Many participants in FAAN Mail challenge the media corporations as well as the artist because they tend to promote the same type of material. To these participants, the corporations care more about money than the community receiving the media, which is what FAAN Mail aims to change.
FAAN Mail has addressed issues such as the rape culture promoted by rap songs like “U.O.E.N.O.” by Rocko featuring Rick Ross, misogyny in lyrics used by rappers such as Lil’ Wayne, and his inappropriate reference to Emmet Till in the “Karate Chop” remix and street harassment of young women of color. Some of these issues were followed with petitions to correct the damage done by the media.
For a positive balance, FAAN Mail also discusses topics such ethnic studies, the youth media program for teen girls it launched and explaining media literacy. According to its website, “Media literacy is a tool we use to help us navigate a media saturated world. It helps us be more informed consumers who advocate for change.”
Its next event is on Nov. 13, where there will be a screening of “Orange is the New Black,” a comedy drama series about female prisoners. Afterward, the group will have discussions with viewers who have been affected by prison in some way.
As mentioned in one of its talkbacks, FAAN Mail aims to keep people informed about the harmful messages in the media, and not just to hear the beat but to listen to the words as well.
Sharnita Midgett can be reached at email@example.com.