About IMWIL!

i miX What i Like” is borrowed – in phrase and philosophy – from the work of Steve Biko. The collection of Biko’s “Frank Talk” columns titled I Write What I Like is much of the inspiration for the attempt here to blend the traditions of radical broadcasting, the mixtape and Black Consciousness with what Dr. Hemant Shah has called “Emancipatory Journalism.”

This is our 2008 interview with Shah about emancipatory journalism and my particular application of his idea in FreeMix Radio: The Original Mixtape Radio Show.  I eventually attempted to write about this project and its philosophy in “I Mix What I Like! In Defense and Appreciation of the Rap Music Mixtape as ‘National’ and ‘Dissident’ Communication” and then in I Mix What I Like! A Mixtape Manifesto.


Emancipatory journalism (EJ) is for me also part of a broader and still developing Africana Media Theory (AMT) or Black Radical Media Criticism (BRMC). Emancipatory journalism is a philosophy of journalistic practice that centers the concerns of colonized or oppressed communities, particularly those of the world’s majority populations or so-called “people of color.” It fits nicely as an extension of AMT/BRMC in that EJ argues for an explicit use of journalism by activists and community-based organizations to promote the need for radical change. Essentially, emancipatory journalism:

A) Presupposes that inequality and oppression exist and that there are (neo)colonies and colonized populations requiring a form of journalism that is;

B) Bottom-up. Central to EJ’s concept of good journalism are the perspectives of those most oppressed, those of members of the communities themselves, as opposed to government or business officials and elites and;

C) That notions of “objectivity” must be critiqued if not entirely discarded in favor of clearly identified, studied, researched perspectives that advocate radical re-ordering of societies.

Emancipatory Journalism Model (first published by Shah, 2007 and here reprinted from I Mix.., p. 128).

Emancipatory Model

A Brief Overview of AMT/BRMC

In his discussion of the difference between Africana critical theory and Africana philosophy, Reiland Rabaka defines a fracture similar to that which exists today between criticism of mass media/journalism practice and what I hope to eventually define as Black Radical Media Criticism or Africana Media Criticism (BRMC/AMC). Just as Rabaka distinguishes Africana philosophy as being “concerned only with ‘identifying, reconstructing, and creating traditions and repositories for thought of continental and diasporan Africans” and Africana critical theory as “theory critical of domination and discrimination in continental and diasporan African life-worlds and lived experiences” so too does BRMC/ACM seek to draw these distinctions between itself and existing media criticism. That is, while there exists no shortage of media criticism or analysis stemming from the African or Black world and, of course, European or White media criticism – including “radical media criticism” – there exists in each tradition a tendency to either recount African/Black work in a manner reminiscent of establishing “repositories” or to simply, in the case of most Eurocentric scholarship, filter African world thought through their own lens if not omitting such perspectives altogether. BRMC/ACM attempts, in a distinct fashion, to organize various traditions of African world thought, apply them specifically to a criticism of mass media and journalistic practice, so as to have them become, as Rabaka continues of Africana critical theory, “critiques not simply {of} imperialism but the anti-imperial theory and praxis of the past… to better confront, contradict, and correct domination in the present and offer alternatives for liberation in the future.”1

BRMC/ACM is, at this point, only a suggested composite theoretical approach to the study and practice of media and journalism designed to illuminate today’s power struggles as they are related to or carried out through mass media and journalism practice so as to encourage contemporary media-based/journalistic responses to the on-going need for pan-African liberation. The omission, or minuscule Eurocentrically-mediated inclusion, of African world thought on mass media and journalism practice often distorts contemporary interpretation of a continuing global exploitation of African people, the relationship media and journalism have to that exploitation or just how those interested in overturning this relationship might theorize or practice media production or journalism.  A tradition, defined here as BRMC/ACM, already exists, in fact, has long since existed. The suggestion then, particularly for educators and political organizers, is that an officially delineated theoretical approach to the study and practice of mass media/journalism be developed as a means of: A) collecting and illuminating historical works for their application to the specific study of mass media and journalism; B) on that basis then defining BRMC/ACM as that which, similar to Afrocentric or African-centered historiography, theorizes mass media and journalism with a foundation in African world experience and culture and; C) attempts to develop mass media and journalistic practical strategies for encouraging or supporting political movements designed to revolutionize power relationships as they currently exist globally.

Note 1:

Bassey, Magnus O. (2007). “What is Africana Critical Theory or Black Existential Philosophy?” Journal of Black Studies, 37; 914, p. 916.

Note 2:

D. Berry, J. Theobald (Eds.) (2006). Radical Mass Media Criticism: A Cultural Genealogy, p. 5. (Original emphasis).