In the Summer of 2010, while coordinating a meditation based empowerment seminar at an African American school in Houston, Texas, I had a key moment of truth when a 6th grader shared with us that "He has been looking for this peace ALL his life and that the program has been life changing". I truly understood what the young man was saying as I had experienced the same peace, focus and transformation after learning the same meditation technique a decade ago!
I soon got very attached to the students, teachers and the school. During my interactions with them it became clear to me that if we truly want to empower these youth then merely teaching them stress management and character education in the school system was not enough -- their life is being shaped and impacted by the many sources of information they have access to e.g. magazines, video games, movies, internet, social media, texting, music -- i.e. the media.
My friend Prof. Srividya Ramasubramanian, an accomplished media literacy scholar educated me based on the work of Kaiser Family Foundation that on an average American youth are consuming greater than 10 hours of media content every day (this included all of the above types of media)! At first I couldn't believe it but then I observed that as an adult even I am spending a lot of time with media -- accessing content via emails, internet, Twitter/Facebook, smart phone apps and tablets. It dawned on me that these tools (internet, smart phones, tablets) that provide us access to information are all essential. They have truly connected the whole world into a global village, enhanced communication, understanding, productivity, enabled greater access to health and education, etc.
However, I wondered, are we becoming slaves of media & technology? Are we mindful in how we consume media content? Are those who create media doing it with responsibility?
Media plays a big role in shaping our views, our thinking, our behaviors and our actions. It is therefore very important to have access to "meaningful" media that is inspirational, more positive and broadens our perspective of life. Storytelling is an art -- through its various expressions e.g. news, print, photos, blogs, dance, movies we can refine our feelings, transform our understanding and inspire purposeful action. What is needed today is -- more responsible storytellers who are mindful of the impact of their work on millions and the power and potential of the medium and skills they possess (storytelling). We need to inspire storytellers to play a bigger role in shaping society and transform global consciousness -- to create more stories (media) that matter and instill hope, courage, peace, harmony and nourish universal human values -- love, friendliness, compassion, mutual respect, etc.
There is so much "good" happening in the world but many of those good stories do not get mainstream attention. The "do-gooders" often themselves are not good at communicating their stories and hence struggle to get funding, volunteers and scale up the impact of their work! Storytellers (journalists, painters, artists, movie makers) have the talent, power and reach to bring these stories to life and scale up "social good".
Who are these storytellers -- who are the media of today? Why should you be interested?
In today's age of social media -- we are all impacted by media and WE are the media -- yes, it includes me, you, our children and youth -= isn't everyone with a cell phone today a media producer!
Let us inspire each other, educate ourselves about media literacy and take responsibility to tell stories that matter and play a positive role to transform our planet!
I have taken responsibility and together with my co-founders have created Media Rise Festival to bring storytellers, NGO's, media educators, parents and youth to have a dialogue on the creation and consumption of meaningful media.
Join me -- Rise with us! We can together make a difference to our children and youth.