Thursday, March 29, 2007

Final post from South Africa - online from the airport. On my wrist are a South African flag bracelet that I bought in Soweto this morning and a band from the Cradle of Mankind caves (hence the bare footprint & early homnid skull images).
It has been a busy week - I'm ready to go home and. I'm happy to leave with a pocketful of cards from new friends who I feel sure I will visit again someday....
(posted from my mobile phone).

Soweto Part 2

While in Soweto, we also visited the famous Regina Mundi church, which opened its doors to shelter four thousand children and teens during the violent Soweto uprisings in the 1970s. The authorities entered the church and fired on the children; bullet holes, the statue of Christ with its hands blown off, and the marble altar defaced by a rifle butt still stand as evidence of the violence that happened in this place.

Wonderfully, though, we visited today during a lunchtime service. The altar steps were full of children singing, dancing and praying as their teacher beat an African drum. So although this place is a National Historic Site due to the tragedy that happened here, we found an oasis full of hope and joy this afternoon.


I made a trip to the Soweto Township this morning, and we walked through Motswaledi, euphamistically known as an "Informal Settlement," which was established in 1993. There are about 20,000 residents here living in corrugated iron shanty houses that have no electricity, although there is access to safe, clean water at various central points in the camp. After a week of talking with South African teens about improving their prospects for the future, it was sobering to see the conditions that these preschoolers are growing up in. There is a preschool in the settlement, but the nearest primary school is a thirty-minute walk away. Children who attend there are required to wear uniforms (which are expensive) and to purchase their own books, as well. It is late autumn here, so not terribly hot, but the heat inside the metal shanty was stifling. I can only imagine that when it is cold, it is terribly cold, as well.

A sobering finish to my stay here in Johannesburg.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

California Teen Chimzam Mbelu Blogs from Johannesburg


Chimzam was sponsored by Orange County PBS station KOCE, and she has received several hundred emails since the conference started. U.S. teens are suggesting questions for her to ask people, lines of questioning to pursue, etc.

I watched her interviewing other students - she is a very poised interviewer. I asked her mother (an attorney who is here as a chaperone for her daughter) if Chimzam wants to work in media. "No, she wants to be a dentist," her mother replied.

Go figure. Whatever she choses, I suspect this young woman will be a success!

India - Children of Nomads

(Dateline: Johannesburg. Posting from the World Summit on Media for Children)
Vinay and Meenakshi Rai presented an extraordinary project at the final session this morning. We saw excerpts from their award-winning film, “Children of Nomads,” in which nomadic and non-nomadic Indian children interview each other. The contrasts in their background knowledge and cultures were simultaneously funny, touching, and thought-provoking. Some excerpts from the dialogue:

Non-Nomadic Child (NN): How often do you take a bath?
Nomadic Child (NC): I take a bath every day.
NN: You don’t feel cold?
NC: Cold….what is cold?
NN: You know…..Brrrrrrrrrr……when we wear warm clothes.
NC: (duh) I take a bath in warm water.

And this one, about traveling by airplane:

NC: What do you get in an eagle-cart?
NN: Toffee, food, blankets.
NC: What do the clouds look like?
NN: White, very pretty.
NC: Do you get to see Rama?
NN: (puzzled silence)
NC: Rama…the God.
NN: No, but if I see him, what message should I give him?
NC: Tell him I need food, home, water, banana.

When the excerpt ended, to loud applause, Meenakshi Rai said: This film made us understand the difference between Literacy and Education. My child is literate but not educated. The nomadic children are educated, but not literate. This is the unique strength of nomadic culture. She added, It’s not really a film, it’s the beginning of a poem.

The pair have a broad vision plan for the next five years, in which they will be running government-sponsored media literacy workshops in which nomadic children will make films in their own voices, about the problems and issues they face. The Rais have also started creative writing projects, putting writing professionals together with these children to capture their oral history, stories, and songs. Here at the Summit, Radio JOJO in Germany has agreed to broadcast all the stories produced by the Indian nomadic children.

They are also using the award money from the film to start five culture schools in nomadic communities. Their goal is to discover and document lost music and lost traditions, which she described as crumbling under pressure of survival. And again here at the Summit, the Cairo Film Festival agreed to devote one day to screening these completed films.

As is the case at any conference like this, one is always looking for gems amidst many droning, bureaucratic presentations. We found a diamond here in Johannesburg with Children of Nomads.

MTV in the House

(Dateline: Johannesburg. Posting from the World Summit on Media for Children)

Having traveled the world as the Head of MTV International Programming at the birth of the global network, it was really a delight for me to see two representatives from MTV channels front and center in the AIDS/HIV panels.

Mauro Dahmer (left) is a producer with MTV Brasil who specializes in pro-social issues. We work in a developing country where young people don’t always have the right education nor even a guarantee of basic rights. Drugs, homophobia, machismo, poverty are key issues in fighting AIDS and getting results in Brasil. We have a strong connection to young people and understand our responsibility around these messages.

According to Dahmer, MTV Brasil is the most pro-social MTV, launching more issue spots and campaigns than any other territory. Their on-air commitment is impressive: 20-minutes per day on AIDS prevention programming from December through March, and 10-minutes per day the rest of the year - a huge amount of programming real estate from which to deliver these messages. In addition, all the PSAs plus their documentary “Sex-Press Yourself” (produced in Kingston, Jamaica, Mexico City, and Rio de Janeiro) are available for download online and available for free broadcast anywhere in the world. STAYING ALIVE

Dahmer added that Brasil is a liberal, sexual country. We try to approach these messages by talking about rights and the social aspects of prevention. The key is not to scare our audience, and preserve their right to a free sexuality, not a paranoia sexuality.

Presenter Sizwe Dhlomo (left) from MTV-Base (the African component of MTV’s global network) was also present, and was a huge draw for the teenagers present.
Dhlomo showed excerpts from the MTV campaign “Staying Alice,” an AIDS prevention campaign that is currently running on 50 MTV channels across the world – at least one primetime minute on every channel, every day. Dhlomo called on other broadcasters to join MTV. There is no vaccine available for AIDS; the only vaccine currently available is knowledge.

MTV’s approach to AIDS prevention came under some fire during the day, as people questioned how genuine their effort is, given the highly sexualized tone of their general programming mix. They were also questioned as to why their PSAs were so slick and fast-moving, rather than letting individual teens tell their stories in a more measured way.

I have always felt that MTV speaks to young people in a tone of voice that is unlike any other – and for that reason it is a powerful platform from which to do good. They are not a “public broadcaster,” nor a public service organization, and shouldn’t be expected to speak in a measured tone. While the forum may be imperfect, when MTV speaks to issues relevant to youth, they have a powerful impact.

As Dahmer put it, If we were to stop playing the videos that people say are “irresponsible,” the programming would be less interesting and you would go to other channels. We want to keep the audience and deliver a mix of socially responsible programming. It is all about finding a balance.

When I look back at my time at MTV (1981-1990), I have always been proudest of our work internationally. In the late 1980s the broadcast universe outside of the U.S. was still dominated by huge public broadcasters (BBC, RAI, etc) and I believed that we were the instigators of a seminal cultural revolution, in which the voices of youth were recognized and respected for the first time. I was so proud this week, seeing these two men “own” MTV’s point of view in such a powerful way. Twenty-five years later, our fledging group of MTV start-ups has turned into a legitimate global voice for youth.

Day 3 - HIV & AIDS

(Dateline: Johannesburg. Posting from the World Summit on Media for Children)
The theme of Day 3 of the World Summit on Media for Children is Health & Wellness, which means that today was largely focused on HIV/AIDS. Dr. Gilda A. Glasinovich, UN Technical Advisor on Immigrant Populations (a well as a physician and oncologist) opened this morning’s session by saying: We are heading into the third wave of HIV, and 13-25 year olds are now the highest risk group. Two-thirds of the new infections here in African will be young women.She called out to all the teenagers and asked them to move forward in the huge lecture hall – this session is for you. Your role in society is to educate yourselves and educate others. The discussion right now is going to be on H.I.V. as it pertains to you.

Everyone moved up front, and we seemed poised for a real discussion that would involve the youngest participants. They are the constant target of HIV/AIDS public service announcements….any South African teen that you speak with will spout the SABC’s message: ABSTAIN, BE FAITHFUL, CONDOMIZE. I was hopeful that today we would get into a discussion about what is working for them, what is not, and how we can be more effective in protecting young people from HIV infection.

Early on, we heard from 16-year-old Lerato Ntuli, of the Alexander Township here in South Africa, who spoke on behalf of the organization FRIENDS FOR LIFE, which has provided support for her since she lost her mother to AIDS and became, in effect, the parent for her younger brother.

I lost my mother when I was only 6 years old…I feel like a lot has been taken away from me. I am only 16, and I am doing things that older people should be doing, because I have a younger brother. He asks me questions, and I don’t even know the answers to those questions. I told my baby brother (13) just the other day that the reason our Mom’s not with us any more is because of AIDS. He cried so much and asked me “Why have you been hiding it from me for so long?” I was trying to protect him, but actually I was shutting him out.

Lerato’s strength created a palpable swell of emotion in the teenagers in the room. She has made a conscious decision to overcome her circumstances and act as an agent for social change.

I have been neglected by a lot of people when I talk about my parents’ situation, but I realize those people don’t push me down, they make me stronger. I can prove to them that I can build myself up, make other teenagers aware that this is just a trial, there are better things to come if we all learn from it.

Unfortunately, we lost the opportunity for real dialogue created by her powerful testimony as a number of other adult speakers followed her, including a delegate from Libya who was determined to talk about a tragic, controversial incident in her country, and refused to yield the mike. By the time we got to “Question Time” for the teenagers, time was very limited and they were rushed through. Although young people came to the microphone and asked questions, the reply was basically “That’s a very good question. Next question?”

Such a missed opportunity. Here are some of the questions that were asked. Despite the fact that they were not answered in the room, we, as media producers, can certainly think about how we contribute to the answers via our work going forward.

• Sonia Antonio, who has been sponsored at this conference by Angolan Television (speaking Portuguese). I have presented a program on public television Angola for the last five years, in which we have the opportunity of dealing with various issues. I am no longer a child (24), but I remain a symbol of children’s issues in my country, because I started on television when I was very young. My question is: What can we, as producers of children’s programs, do to ensure that we sensitize children to the fact that HIV-AIDS starts with each one of us? How can we help them not contract it themselves?

• Nonhlanhla Nellovu (left), age 16, from South Africa, spoke clearly and forcefully. What are we doing about child-headed families – children like Lerato forced to find a balance between education and the sustenance of their families? The media can play an imperative role in making children aware of the resources available to them so they don’t have to resort to unfortunate measures in order to get income.

• Mollie Vincent Louis, from Haiti: Parents don’t give sexual education to their children, so they undertake sexual activity and adventures under the advice of their friends. I would like to appeal to broadcasters to come up with programs that are aimed at delivering HIV information to children. Parents must not hide facts about sex from children, because from about the age of 11, when they’re trying to find an image for themselves, it’s very important to explain to them what sex is all about.

• South African boy, name unknown. We need to go back to our traditions, and if we do, AIDS will not be a problem any longer.

• Mobile Sange Kesadin, South Africa. What about the children who are being abused by their parents, children who are being raped, children who don’t have homes, children who have no one to take care of them.? She broke down, sobbing, was embraced by Dr. Mzamane and Nonhlanhla (the girl who had just spoken about child-led families), and helped from the room.

For all of us who create media that is designed to be used with kids in classrooms, afterschool centers, or youth programs, this represented a worst case scenario – opening the door to an outpouring of feelings from children, then not being prepared to deal with their outpouring. I walked outside to talk to some of the teens that I had met earlier in the week, to get their reaction.

Nonhlanhla said angrily, What a waste of time. They have been saying since day one that they wanted to hear from us. Today is the first time we have had an opportunity to speak. I had a huge list of questions. There is no time for serious discussion.

Mpho Moshweu, age 18, of the Northern Cape, Kimberley Youth Support Program, is one of the very enthusiastic group that I met on the first day (in the white shirt, above). He was outspoken today, much more pragmatic and action-oriented than many of the adults I have talked with here. I don’t see how this can be a successful conference without any resolutions. Is there someone who is going to take this forward? We should be given tasks going forward, so that we can report when we get together again in 2010.
Mpho (pronounced mmmm-PO) also questioned the lack of connection between the conferences (the 4th World Summit was held in Rio in 2004). Where are the delegates from Brasil, telling us their conclusions? Mpho’s assessment on the abbreviated “discussion” of HIV was succinct and devastating. When you are addressing issues, you must know that time is not important. We will stay as long as the matters are being solved. What is the benefit of all those experts, if nothing is solved?

I think this raises a question, going forward, as to what is the purpose of inviting children to the Summit. Do they belong at a professional conference? If so, why are they not at a table with the adults? A mature teenager who brings real insight and potential input needs to be respected. Let’s not be guilty of killing their optimism and enthusiasm.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Media as a Tool for Peace Building

(Dateline: Johannesburg. Posting from the World Summit on Media for Children)
This afternoon was the best session that I’ve attended so far, “Media as a Tool for Peace Building.” There were many powerful speakers on the program, including my friend Dr. Charlotte Cole from Sesame Street International, L. Randolph Carter from the grass roots advocacy organization Search for Common Ground, our friend and producer Beathur Baker from the SABC, who facilitated powerful documentaries produced & directed by girls who have been victims of violence, and others, equally committed to peace building.

But for me, Sarah Crowe, who is a reporter for UNICEF Television, completely nailed the topic. She is a veteran, accomplished reporter who covers her stories with an acknowledged bias – UNICEF’s advocacy on behalf of children. In her words: Our goal is to influence the media agenda to cover children’s issues, which are often forgotten in the ‘fog of war.’ In areas of conflict, media is often used as a tool of war, spreading propaganda, division, stirring up hatred. Children are often the first to pick up on these messages…they intuitively know that they need to take a side. And, how do they flourish if they are constantly forced to flee from conflict? Do they wave a copy of the Children’s Bill of Rights when they’re being recruited as child soldiers?

What I found most eye opening was her view of the obligation that she believes journalists have AFTER a conflict has ended, and ‘peace’ is declared.

For a child to flourish in a climate of peace, more than peace is needed. The average person believes that the majority of civilian casualties are a result of conflict and violence. In fact, most of the children die from neglect, not bullets and grenades, because the war has cut them off from basic services. Diarrhea, malaria, malnutrition are the primary causes of death for children in conflict zones, and this continues after peace has broken out.

Sarah Crowe feels strongly that reporters have an obligation to continue their coverage once the guns are silent. She sees it as an often neglected duty, and believes that journalists must go back and follow up, reporting the previously unseen damage that has happened as a result of the war.

Her words reminded me of AP’s Ian Stewart earlier today, lamenting that his coverage of the society’s struggles and triumphs go unreported in the West. People so often talk about feeling helpless in the face of all the troubles in the world. Yet, no one wants to read these stories that explain the nature of the challenges, as well as how they can be overcome. We are not helpless. We are ignorant.

Informal Journalism Mentoring

(Dateline: Johannesburg. Posting from the World Summit on Media for Children)
Although I am still attending panels on topics of interest and networking with my peers here in Johannesburg, my attention has really shifted to all the young journalists who are here. There are several workshops scheduled for them in digital media – basic internet skills, blogging, even a mini-animation workshop. DK (no name, just DK) the hip, young Brit who runs the hot “media for teens, by teens” site Mediasnackers is here doing workshops in digital journalism. But it quickly became apparent that there wasn’t any provision for print journalism, although there are dozens of kids walking around here with cameras, notebooks and pens. So, I’ve taken it upon myself (and I’m sure I’m not the only one) to be an informal mentor for these aspiring journalists. The enthusiasm of these talented young people is irresistable!

Tasneem Amos, Josslyn Hlenti, Alfreda Rowena Nadar, and Sthabile Dlamini (above) are all from Durban, in South Africa. They told me that being here has really opened their eyes to all the different possibilities available to them in media, and they also auditioned to be on SABC’s daily program “Kids News” (which is broadcasting live from the convention center).

Tasneem: We haven’t heard back from Kids News yet, but I think they were quite amazed at our self confidence. I was, too.

Zodidi Dano and Nosiphino Nabata (below) are part of the group of children and teens who meet every Saturday morning at Bush Radio’s studio in Cape Town to create programs that reflect and represent themselves. The C.R.E.W. (Children’s Radio Education Workshop), which has been existence for eleven years, was born out of the South African bush radio movement, in which community activists and alternative media producers came together to utilize grassroots media to incite social change. These two young women are only part of the team that I met in Johannesburg. Every one of them is poised, well-spoken and well-versed in writing, interviewing, and technical radio production skills. As Nosiphino told me “Our job is to feed the children information that they need, that their parents don’t feel comfortable giving to them.”

The group above is from the Kimberley Youth Support Program, in Northern Cape, South Africa. As you can see by the energy of Mpho Moshweu, Stephen Hams and the others, they have brought a large helping of energy and enthusiasm to the Summit!

Cultural Exchange is Breaking Out All Over!

(Dateline: Johannesburg. Posting from the World Summit on Media for Children)
The excitement of kids talking to other kids is creating an energetic buzz that we can all feel. Everyone’s first instinct seems to be to talk to other kids about who they are…..two South African girls interviewing their counterparts from Al Jazeerah Children about their Arab cultural experience for a story to run on Radio JoJo, a community radio station here in South Africa….a Japanese girl interviewing her Ethiopian peer about their different cultural experiences….young radio journalists from Bush C.R.E.W. in Capetown (English speaking) and Kid Waves in Burkina Faso (French speaking) collaborating, with the help of translators, in amending the Children’s Radio Manifesto to incorporate themes of Democracy and Peace.

Most interesting to me is a project being undertaken by IPTV Ireland, who are creating a channel totally devoted to programming created by young people. This non-profit group, based in Kildaire, have brought together two groups of kids from Ireland and Tanzania who will each be shooting a video program about their initial impressions of the other group during the week. These two groups will continue to collaborate over the next six months, via the internet, to produce video programming together. It is a global, video version of the “community radio” phenomenon that is so prevalent and empowering for youth here in Africa. And, it will be available to all teens on IPTV.

Orsil, from Palestine

(Dateline: Johannesburg. Posting from the World Summit on Media for Children)
This morning we also heard from a teenager from the Palestinian Territories (whose name, Orsil, means “genuine”).

From the children of Palestine I bring a very short message about the suffering of the Palestinian children on a daily basis. Some of the children are still trapped in prisons or hospital beds, waiting for medication. I would like all of you to call for the end of occupation, and return of the displaced children. She started to weep as she said: We would like build bridges of peace between all the children in order to build a better future for each of us. Orsil concluded by placing her Keffiyeh (the traditional Palestinian headdress) over the shoulders of conference chairwoman Firdoze Bulbulia, who enveloped her in an embrace.

The teens who are speaking to us and reporting from this Summit are full of optimism, passion, and hope. They believe in the power of media to make a difference in the world. As the keepers of the current distribution channels, we need to nurture these young leaders, and ensure that their optimism, talent and energy are not lost.

Peace is more than the absence of war.....

...(peace) is about tolerance and understanding." These words were spoken by a teen, addressing a room full of journalists here in Johannesburg.

We have begun Day 2 of the 5th World Summit on Media for Children. Today's theme is PEACE BUILDING (Policy & Politics), and first up this morning was Prince Collins, a Liberian journalist. He introduced an ex-child soldier named Tipi Tappia, which whom he has been working. Liberia, a small country on West Coast of Africa, has endured fourteen years of bloody civil war, with more than 250,000 people killed. In Tipi Tappia’s own words:
I was 12-years-old when I joined the rebel force. I was taught how to shoot and kill; I was a very desperate kid during the war in my country. A volatile mix of cocaine and gunpowder is given to children to make them fear less in battle.

Because child soldiers witness death, killing and sexual violence, they suffer serious long-term psychological consequences, and often drug dependency. Re-integration is a complex process of atonement and rebuilding of communities. Tappia was accepted into a media program in which 50 former soldiers are working in radio, learning how to be journalists.

Tappia says this has saved his life. Right now we are good boys and girls, we don’t kill any more, we are free of the influence of harmful drugs. We are now doing positive things in our community, and we ask forgiveness of those we hurt during the war. Before I close, I want to appeal to all warlords to stop using us children to accomplish their inner motives. Please stop making us kill.

He was followed by American AP war correspondent Ian Stewart, who read gripping excerpts from his book "Ambushed," about being injured in Sierra Leone by child soldiers. He has reported extensively about conflict across the African continent, and also about the consequences for civilians who are tortured and children who are forcibly taken into the armies. He concluded by saying: The sad part for me is that I couldn’t get those stories into the newspapers in the West. Despite all the conflict and tragedy, there is a lot of hope in Africa. The world needs to see it.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Voice from Haiti

(Dateline: Johannesburg. Posting from the World Summit on Media for Children)

Caroline Zevai, a confident, dynamic 15-year-old from Haiti, is part of a “media club,” and a radio presenter with her own program on Saturday mornings from 9:00 – 9:30. The 22 members of her club are learning computers, photography, and journalistic writing, as well as creating and performing plays for the community. Caroline appealed directly to the other children in the audience, saying:
Don’t lose heart. Take an interest in these activities so that you can influence the authorities. Tell the media: Give more room and space to children to say what they want and what they feel.”

Meet Richmond Moses

This 16-year-old approached me and asked if he could interview me. I said, “You can interview me if I can interview you.” His response: “Of course, you can write about me. I am an interesting person!” Richmond is from North West Mafikeng, and journalism is his passion. “Not my talent – my talent is music – but my passion is to be a journalist.” He sings rap and hip hop music, and was delighted to meet someone “from another continent,” especially from New York. Richmond’s computer is currently broken, but we have exchanged email addresses so that he can eventually share his writing. He is, indeed, an interesting person.

(Dateline: Johannesburg. Posting from the World Summit on Media for Children)

South Africa: Oh, the music!

(Dateline: Johannesburg. Posting from the World Summit on Media for Children)
We have been treated to entertainment at all the breaks, and have seen some amazing youth performance groups. These dancers were an all-male ensemble called Maganagobu'sca.

Child Speakers at the World Media Summit

(Dateline: Johannesburg. Posting from the World Summit on Media for Children)
Along with the dignitaries and media experts, three teenagers also spoke at the opening session. An 18-year-old Swedish woman named Ida told of her participation in a study in which they analyzed the portrayal of youth in four daily newspapers. Their findings:

1. Children and their views are seriously under-represented in the media.
2. When they are represented, adults are often speaking for them, denying children their own voices.
3. Teens are often portrayed stereotypically, specifically as violent, superficial, and depressed.
4. Teens are most typically presented either as victims, or as perpetrators of crimes.

Ida said that she is concerned because people who are not connected to youth are forming their opinions based on what they read. When I read about myself as part of a group that is violent, depressed and ignorant, I get very angry.

She had three recommendations for the media present in the room.
• Include our opinions in general issues affecting the community, not just youth issues.
• Avoid stereotypes of both youth and gender.
• Make sure we speak for ourselves, and are allowed to express ourselves in our own way.

This last point, that “we express ourselves in our own way” has been a recurring motif as I have talked to teenagers throughout the day.

A Study in Contrasts

(Dateline: Johannesburg. Posting from the World Summit on Media for Children)
The King of the Pedi People made a grand entrance, with entourage, and was seated at the head table just in time to hear Roy Disney’s keynote.

Opening of the 5th World Summit on Media for Children

Sunday in Johannesburg, and the opening session is underway. The theme of this year’s Summit is “Media as a Tool for Global Peace and Democracy.” As always, the conference is built around the idea that children are entitled to high quality media that is made specifically for them, that provides room for their opinions, and that promotes and protects children’s rights.

It was hard not to feel a little cynical, given the lofty goals, to find that our hosts were all aflutter at the magnitude of the keynote speaker – Roy Disney. How ironic that this conference would revere the Disney company, which has hardly been a champion of diversity and authentic, local experience. Rather, Disney’s “It’s a Small World” approach to global culture epitomizes the touristic, isn’t that quaint?! American view of developing countries as markets to be acquired and exploited. It is hard to imagine why that is relevant here, and it felt very sad that it was seen as a huge coup to have him. (Early on in his presentation, he actually said I believe it can be legitimately said that Mickey Mouse has been a force for Global Peace and Democracy. Adolf Hitler denounced Mickey Mouse as an enemy of the state.).

Yet, the irony of his position was not lost on Roy Disney, and he ultimately rose to the challenge. His framed his address as an appeal for improving the quality of media designated for children. I would add an adjective to your theme – “quality.” That is, quality media as a tool for global peace and democracy. Without that qualifier, media can be a repressive force or even a tool for propoganda. When held to high standards, media can be a powerful force for good.

And in closing, Disney said:
There’s tremendous opportunity for progress today. For the first time ever, we have instant, worldwide communication….Many adults are simply incapable of conquering their fears and prejudices, but the children can. If they are exposed to responsible, quality media, this can at last become the Century of Peace. This is just not another Disney fairy tale. It is up to us, one by one, to make this a reality.

Grudgingly, I must say that he was more relevant than I ever could have imagined under the circumstances.

There are 300 teenagers between the ages of 13 and 16 present here. They were addressed directly and powerfully by Dr. Mbulelo Mzamane, the South African author of "The Children of Soweto" and "The Children of the Diaspora and Other Stories of Exile" (and former Vice Chancellor of the University of Fort Hare). Dr. Mzamane appointed himself the “Children’s Ombudsman” for the duration of the Summit.

You hear that children? From now on, I am your spirit medium. If anything is not going right, come to me. It’s a revolution! Make use of this opportunity.

My children, you are as helpless as you allow yourself to be. You have to remember, it is all inside you. There is a legacy in this country of child activism. In fact, in rewriting our history, as we are doing now, it is quite clear that it was at the point that children and women got involved in our revolution that decisive and qualitative changes came about. There is no such thing as “I am too young.”

The central issue for you is going to be how do you make your participation in this conference meaningful? How do you make sure that grownups have not just brought you here simply to make themselves feel good?

Are you going to let someone like Roy Disney be a ventriloquist for you? How do you participate as children in the creative process? Why don’t they ask you what you want?

We know what the problems are, children. What we want are solutions.

And finally, do not try and cleave to one another because you are from the same village, or from the same country. Mix as much as possible with other children from other countries. It is only through interaction that you grow.

Inspiring words from Dr. Mzamane.

Teen Voices from Africa

I am carved from the branch of the Baobab
And refreshed from the waters of the Nile
And it is below the equator where my ancestors
Chose to settle, where they chose to be African
God meant for me to be an African
Why else would my heart sound like an African drum
And my skin be kissed with the colour of her soil
Or my feet move like a stampede of wildebeest
And my voice sing like the majestic Serengeti Rains?
- Keenan Harduth, 17

I am an African because I owe my being to the blacks and the whites. I owe my being to the Zulus, Xhosas, Vendas, Tsongasan and the Pedis. I am an African because I was born in Africa. I am proud to be a child of the Dhlamini family. I am proud to be black and I am proud to be a girl.

I sing our song, I read our books and I speak our languages. I was born to be African. I was born in Johannesburg - kwa nyama ayipheli ku phela a mazinyo e ndoda (at the place where meat does not finish, but only men's teeth). Africa is a beauty of nature and a beauty of the land.
- Precious Dhlamini, 13

(Dateline: Johannesburg. Excerpted from the programme booklet for the World Summit on Media for Children)

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Patti Smith :: Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame Inductee

I never thought that punk poet/rebel Patti Smith would make it through the lingering misogyny of the music establishment to be honored by the Hall. Last night, at age 60, she accepted with grace and humility, performing with power and passion.

Smith's raw, angry style, seemingly in-your-face lyrics with their surprising subtlety of meaning, and refusal to doll herself up in the "girl group" tradition of were so inspiring to me when I was a young woman coming of age at the height of the Feminist Movement. I even went through one summer - thankfully only one - with unshaven armpits, inspired by her Easter album cover. I'm frankly glad that she lived to see the day that she was inducted into the Hall. I remember rushing from my secretarial job at CBS Records to the the Wollman Rink in NY in the summer of 1977, arriving breathless, just in time to see her carried out, unconscious, before the show ever began. She lived life her way, all the way, in those days.

And then she retired to be a mom, raising two children with MC5 guitarist Fred "Sonic" Smith (their son played rhythm guitar with his mom onstage last night).

Fifteen years ago, in the weeks while we were waiting for our own daughter to be born, Chris and I made a complilation of the best, most accessible rock songs we could think of, titled "Songs to Sing with Julia." It was to be our baby's introduction to rock 'n' roll, and it was our way of declaring that we weren't going inflict insipid "kiddie music" on our child. Rather, we would respect her intelligence and introduce to her to quality music right from the outset. The playlist began with John Lennon's "Julia" (of course) and ended with Patti Smith's "People Have the Power."

It is not her best composition, but I have always loved "People Have the Power" as an anthem for how I aspire to live my own life. And, I was always intrigued that from this dark, often angry writer came lyrics which were inspired by The Beatitudes (....Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven....blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.....etc ). Thinking about it again today, I shouldn't have been surprised at the reference. The Beatitudes, which were the opening lines from Christ's powerful "Sermon on the Mount," were designed to shock. He got his audience's attention by going completely against the prevailing belief system, describing the "citizens of heaven" as the poor, the weak, and the helpless. That instinct, to push the envelope in pursuit of social commentary, is Patti Smith's MO. Who else could have come up with the title "Rock and Roll Nigger" as a way of expressing the isolation of the visionary?

Although it is nineteen years old, "People Have the Power" holds up both as a song and as a call to action. Its timeless relevance speaks to why this fierce yet fragile artist was inducted into the Hall of Fame last night.

I was dreaming in my dreaming
of an aspect bright and fair
and my sleeping it was broken
but my dream it lingered near
in the form of shining valleys
where the pure air recognized
and my senses newly opened
I awakened to the cry
that the people / have the power
to redeem / the work of fools
upon the meek / the graces show
it's decreed / the people rule.

The people have the power
The people have the power
The people have the power
The people have the power

Vengeful aspects became suspect
and bending low as if to hear
and the armies ceased advancing
because the people had their ear
and the shepherds and the soldiers
lay beneath the stars
exchanging visions
and laying arms
to waste / in the dust
in the form of / shining valleys
where the pure air / recognized
and my senses / newly opened
I awakened to the cry


Where there were deserts
I saw fountains
like cream the waters rise
and we strolled there together
with none to laugh or criticize
and the leopard
and the lamb
lay together truly bound
I was hoping in my hoping
to recall what I had found
I was dreaming in my dreaming
god knows / a purer view
as I surrender to my sleeping
I commit my dream to you


The power to dream / to rule
to wrestle the world from fools
it's decreed the people rule
it's decreed the people rule
I believe everything we dream
can come to pass thru our union
we can turn the world around
we can turn the earth's revolution
we have the power
People have the power......

Lyrics © 1988 Druse Music/Stratium Music, Inc.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

The Vanguard of Citizen Journalism

In a week when it is being reported here in the U.S. that an item on a blog (The Drudge Report) had enough impact to trigger a sell-off and resulting 400-point drop in the Dow Jones Industrial Average, it is interesting to see this story coming out of the U.K.

Citizen journalists are gaining broader exposure every day. It remains to be seen how that will affect the depth and quality of the information we are receiving, but it certainly is an exciting time for information junkies like myself!

Opie unveils user-generated vision for Five News
By Jules Grant
7 Mar 2007
© C21 Media 2007

The new content chief at UK terrestrial Five has outlined her future strategy for the channel, including a major overhaul of Five News, saying she wants it to be in "the vanguard of citizen journalism." Speaking at a Royal Television Society event last night, the RTL-owned channel's new MD of content Lisa Opie said that its news service would be "radically relaunched," putting user-generated service Your News at its heart. The service, which already allows viewers to send in their own filmed reports and suggestions for stories, will now "sit at the heart of what we do," she said.

Referring to news anchor Kirsty Young perching on the edge of her desk – a gimmick that prompted a raft of copycats in the 1990s – Opie said: "In the same way Five News redefined news when it launched 10 years ago I want it now to be in the vanguard of citizen journalism with more direct input from viewers. "We will integrate our news and talk programming across the day and we will be passionate and campaigning on viewers' behalf."

Other new highlights included the creation of MySpace pages for all of the commissioning team, where viewers will be able to pitch ideas and engage in a "direct dialogue" with the channel. "These pages will be promoted on air and on our website, giving viewers, for the first time, a direct line of communication with the people who make the decisions about the programmes they see," she said.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Reading Your Brain: The future of gaming? �

Check out this device, called Project Epoc. It is an electroencephalograph cap designed as an input device for video games, and will be introduced at next week's Game Developer's Conference. The manufacturer, Emotiv, claims that the sensors which come in contact with the user's scalp will allow machines to take both conscious and non-conscious inputs directly from your mind. So, for example, your avatar might look startled and recoil before you even realize that is what you are feeling. Pretty intriguing when you think about the impact in an environment like Second Life. Also a little eerie.

I have been reading the book "What Video Games Have to Teach us About Learning and Literacy" by the pre-eminent researcher Jim Gee, Paul Gee in which he argues that the designers of the most challenging and engaging video games should be recognized as modern masters of learning theory, since they create experiences that although deeply frustrating, are also intensely engaging and fulfilling for the player. He also suggests that learning and literacy do not happen in the abstract, but are deeply grounded in human social experience. I'd have to think that he is going to be first in line to try out this technology!
More details at Mind control: The future of gaming? � Neurophilosophy

Birds Plan for the future �

Love this post from the Neurophilosophy blog, on a recent article in Nature reporting that although we would like to believe that only human beings can think ahead, Western Scrub Jays appear to have the same ability. Having sat on a deck in the Big Sur last week, watching this Steller's Jay sidle in and size up his food snatching opportunities, I can't say I'm surprised!

Birds plan for the future � Neurophilosophy

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Josep Cisquella - Barcelonian Painter

I wandered into the Trajan Gallery in Carmel and found two captivating, mixed media paintings by Spanish painter Josep Cisquella. Odd as it may sound, he works with shadows - giving presence to 3D objects with just a suggestion. Absolutely wonderful. This link is to his online cataglogue - you'll see what I mean.
Josep Cisquella | Trajan Gallery | Carmel