What is Blackness?

To be presented in Panel: “From Black-ish to Black Lives Matter: Communicating Blackness in the 21st Century” at the National Communication Association (NCA). Dallas, TX.

Blackness is simultaneously a category, a group, a culture, a community, and an identity that varies between individuals. The current research is an exploratory investigation into definitions of “Blackness” through semi-structured interviews with employees at an African American targeted advertising agency (N = 35). Participants were asked to define Blackness in general, their individual Blackness (i.e., “my Blackness”), the future of Blackness, and the role of media in establishing and promoting Blackness. Participants’ definitions of Blackness were varied, but a few key themes emerged: Blackness involved an awareness of one’s history, a shared experience, and a comfort in one’s current skin with an idealized hope for the future. Even though this definition informed much the advertising content produced at this agency, participants expressed frustration over the conflict between their individual Blackness and the general expectations of Blackness, but were excited for new communication technologies that allowed them embrace these contradictions.

Summary of the Panel: From Black-ish to Black Lives Matter: Communicating Blackness in the 21st Century

Blackness is multifaceted; it is both local and global, lived and mediated, homogenous and heterogeneous. This panel will discuss communicating the diversity of Blackness in the 21st century through media and interpersonal communication strategies.

The first two panelists will examine how trends in media industry converge with self-concepts and interpersonal interactions to affect the development of Blackness in predominantly Black communities. Charisse L’Pree Corsbie-Massay is a social psychologist who researches media use and identity construction and will present findings from semi-structured interviews with employees at a African-American-targeted advertising agency regarding how different definitions of Blackness affect content production. Jamila A. Cupid specializes in public relations and strategic communications and will explore how diverse Blackness is fostered and represented at HBCUs through classroom activities, extracurricular events, and media discourse.

The final three panelists will focus on the representation of Blackness in American media, including film, television, and literature, to demonstrate narrative trends relating to national identity, authenticity, and intra-group diversity. As an intercultural communication scholar, Kami Jamil Anderson investigates the shifting identity of Black people across cultures and will describe how bilingual Black people are represented in literature. Omotayo Banjo Adesagba researches representation and audience responses to cultural media and will address the politics of authenticity in the visual narrative of Southside with You, a 2016 film about the Obamas’ first date. Shavonne Shorter specializes in organizational communication and will analyze how the television show Black-ish disrupts stereotypical narratives of Blackness by portraying 21st century Black life as nuanced and ever-evolving.


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Laughing With vs. Laughing At: Seeing satire through a marginalized lens

To be presented in Panel: ““Funny Feminists: Comedy and/as Resistance.” Presented at the National Communication Association (NCA). Dallas, TX.

Satire is the use of humor, irony, or exaggeration to expose and criticize social absurdities. By its very nature, satire requires an audience knowledgeable of these absurdities, but the hegemonic dominance of a White, Christian, heterosexual, middle class, male lens, inhibits the ability of marginalized satire to affect audience attitudes, despite an increase in user-generated satire via digital media (e.g., Reductress, Black Twitter). The current research provides a timeline of satire, both mainstream and marginalized, across different platforms to describe effective
satirical strategies, or content patterns that encourage audiences to better understand the experiences of others.
(96 words)

Satire is the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize absurdities, particularly in contemporary politics or other topical issues. By its very nature, satire requires audiences to come to the joke with an an awareness of reality’s absurdities, and a willingness to mock them. However, much of our satire comes from the lens of White heterosexual, Christian, middle class men, the same group that has historical defined the consensus American audience for years, making it difficult for mainstream audiences to understand and appreciate content that satirizes marginalized experiences.

The effects of asynchronous meanings between the satirist and the audience is a common refrain in the experiences of prominent comedians from marginalized
groups (e.g., Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle, Margaret Cho, Amy Shumer) and drastically inhibits the ability of satire to inspire productive conversations around issues of diversity. Interestingly, in the face of this disconnect, there is a rise in independent satire using digital media; user generated content on social media
platforms provide spaces for marginalized satire (e.g., Black Twitter, Flama, Randy Rainbow, Reductress), but the effectiveness of this satire in public discourse is not yet evident.

The current research will describe the experiences of teaching satire as a diversity class in fall 2016 and strategies of effective satire, or satire that encourages audiences to see the world through a marginalized lens in order to understand the experiences of others with a focus on representations of gender, sexuality, and race. (242 Words)

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Remix: Teaching Diversity and Promoting Inclusivity with Digital Artifacts

Although some may believe that simply learning about diversity and media representation will make our students better people and therefore better media producers, other concerns in their early career (e.g., colleague hierarchy, maintaining employment) may inhibit this new generation of media producers from affecting change. What good are diversity classes if students cannot promote awareness in the workplace?

In my Race and Gender and Media class at Newhouse, students write professional emails that describe how and why certain media artifacts are problematic or progressive. Read more about this assignment at MediaShift.org.


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Award for Teaching Excellence

The Newhouse 2017 Graduating Seniors bestowed upon me the title of Teacher of the Year! I got a giant bouquet y’all!! I felt like Rita Moreno wining the Oscar for West Side Story in 1962. Check out pictures and video below…

(Video starts at 27:00)

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Learning and Laughing: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver as Educational Entertainment

My Capstone student, Patty Terhune, a TRF major at Newhouse knocked it out the park this week with a great analysis, a hilarious presentation, and award for Best Capstone Project in the professional programs category for 2017. SO PROUD!!

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F8: Why I love the Fast and Furious Franchise

I throughly enjoyed The Fate of the Furious. Although it was not my favorite (Fast Five) or my least favorite (Furious Seven), it was fun and the references to earlier movies were just right. I went with a GF of mine who hadn’t seen 2-8 and she enjoyed it. So win-win. The movie opens with a car chase through the streets of Havana. They know what their audience wants. And they give it to us every time.

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16th Annual Conversation on Race and Entertainment Media: Donny Jackson

Check out pictures, tweets, and video at Storify. Clips coming soon!

UPDATE: Congratulations to Donny Jackson, Ph.D. and Kamau Bell for their first Emmy for Outstanding Unstructured Reality Program!


Donny Jackson, executive producer and show runner for CNN’s “United Shades of America with Kamau Bell,” will visit the Newhouse School on MONDAY April 3 for the 16th Annual Conversation on Race and Entertainment Media. Assistant professor of communications Charisse L’Pree will moderate a discussionabout the intersection of entertainment, journalism, social justice, and public discourse with Jackson at 7:30 p.m. in the Joyce Hergenhan Auditorium, Newhouse 3. Follow on Twitter at #JournalismMatters.

As a clinical psychologist with a specialty in conflict resolution, Jackson brings unique perspectives and skills to producing unscripted television. In a media environment where conflict appears invaluable, he uses media to deepen the conversation and resolve conflicts.

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